(KSCJ photo)

The 13 members of Sioux City’s fire-rescue unit who serve on Iowa Task Force One are home from their emergency mission in Davenport, where a six-story apartment building partially collapsed over Memorial Day weekend.

The Sioux City team joined members from Cedar Rapids on the disaster scene, where Lieutenant Joe Rodriquez says they were there to help Davenport agencies search for victims.  Rodriquez says, “Our objective was to find and locate three known members that were in the building and they’re believed to be in the rubble of the apartment collapse area.” All three bodies were found this past weekend.

The task force brought a full cache of rescue equipment and worked in 12-hour shifts around the clock. Rodriquez says the Cedar Rapids group arrived a day before his Sioux City squad and stabilized the building so it was safe to search the debris-filled basement. “We had hazards above us that we had to mitigate, we had heavy-duty equipment there to assist us to make sure everything obviously we were as safe as possible,” he says. “We were wearing our proper PPE and respirators in there. Our engineers were constantly monitoring the building for any movement shifting on those areas.”

Rodriquez says members of the task force wanted to bring closure to the families of the three people who were missing. “We knew that we had three known people in it, but we wanted to ensure that no one else was in the building,” Rodriquez says. “You know, we’ve all lived in an apartment complex sometime in our lives. Sometimes visitors come with us or family comes over. We just wanted to make sure everybody was completely out of the basement, so there’s a lot of emotions.”

Iowa Task Force One trains year-round for emergency situations, focusing on things like structural collapse and swift water rescues, with experts on the team who specialize in structural engineering, medicine and dog handling.

(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)