Searching the Gaps: Rescue Crews Crawl Where Few Can - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Searching the Gaps: Rescue Crews Crawl Where Few Can

STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Most of the search of the blast area in Port Wentworth went to a unique team of firefighters from across southeast Georgia who have undergone special rescue training.

Putting water hoses aside, they climb and crawl through wreckage to look for victims and survivors.

It took until Monday for Statesboro firefighter Bobby Duggar to get his gear clean and dry. The images of what he saw inside the rubble at Imperial Sugar won't rinse away as easily.

"Seeing it on TV, it just didn't measure to seeing it even in person, seeing where floors collapsed," he explained.

"The magnitude continued to increase. As you get in and see what's happening," added firefighter Chris Whitehead, also of Statesboro.

They are two of the four Statesboro firefighters on the Coastal Georgia Search and Rescue Squad or GSARS. Sunday, the team crawled through the rubble, checking for those still missing. In some spots, they crawled under collapsed floors of debris through gaps that would make most people nervous.

"It got down to 18 inches, 12 inches in some places," noted Lt. Jason Baker.

For some of these professionals, this fire was personal. Duggar's grandfather retired from the sugar mill. Weston Williams' father is an iron worker there.

"He had been there just five hours before in the area where they had the blast, so yes it hit home," he said.

The men say their job is no more or less dangerous or important than those who've fought the fire since Thursday night.

"The guys from Hinesville, from Savannah, from Camden, all the guys in GSARS, we do this because we've had the training and we want to help people," said Duggar.

"From the guys that worked the initial call to everyone else, different tasks, but everyone's there to help," Baker added.

They say they'll go anywhere and into anything to do just that.

Search teams were called off last night because the remaining buildings are so unstable.

Only 150 firefighters in Georgia are certified for this kind of search and rescue.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com 

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