Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel, who were part of FEMA's Maryland Task Force 1 (MD-TF1), returned from their wildfire search and rescue efforts in Hawaii on Tuesday morning. Credit: Pete Piringer

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) personnel traveled over 4,000 miles to search for missing persons and recover dead bodies in Maui, Hawaii after raging wildfires killed over 100 people.

More than 70 MCFRS members returned to BWI airport around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. After a debrief, they were released to go home around 4:30 a.m., said MCFRS Assistant Fire Chief David Pazos.

They are being given a “well-deserved mandatory 72-hour rest period,” Pazos said. “We just want to congratulate them on their hard work and give them the rest they deserve.”

The returning personnel included members of FEMA’s Maryland Task Force 1, who were deployed on Aug. 16, Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for MCFRS said in a social media post.

Others, who were deployed earlier, returned as well. Two K-9 teams, Alan Rossi with his dog, Phirst, and John Gilkey with his dog, Piper, were deployed on Aug. 13, and a communications specialist was deployed on Aug. 11, Pazos said.

Montgomery County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, known as Maryland Task Force 1, is one of 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in the United States. The task force has personnel who can be deployed at any time for emergency relief, according to MCFRS’ website.

The Hawaii wildfires began in Maui a few weeks ago, the largest of which was in the historic town of Lahaina. As of Tuesday, the death toll stands at 115, with 99% of the Lahaina disaster area searched, according to a news release from the County of Maui.

Pazos told MoCo360 Tuesday that the first responders sent from Montgomery County performed extremely difficult work in Maui, including a lot of manual labor and searching for remains.


Piringer said that personnel from the task force’s allied agencies in D.C. and Prince George’s and Howard counties returned to BWI Tuesday morning as well.