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Fairfax County first responders return home after Sandy

Saturday - 11/10/2012, 4:58pm  ET

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About 80 members of Virginia Task Force 1 were welcomed home on Tuesday after spending nine days helping to evacuate and rescue victims of superstom Sandy. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
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Local search and rescue teams return from Sandy relief efforts

WTOP's Kathy Stewart reports from Chantilly, Va.

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Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Though the cleanup continues in the New York area after superstorm Sandy, several local search and rescue teams helping with relief efforts came home this week.

On Election Day, 80 Virginia Task Force 1 members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department were warmly welcomed home by loved ones and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair Sharon Bulova at VTF-1 headquarters in Chantilly, Va.

The team and four canines spent nine days in northern New Jersey and New York helping with storm recovery efforts.

VATF-1 headed to Fort Dix, N.J. before the storm. Task Force leader Paul Ruwe, a battalion chief with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, says the team conducted water rescues and went door-to-door evacuating residents once the storm passed.

Ruwe says neighborhoods in Bergen County, N.J. were heavily flooded, and officials estimated between 8,000 to 10,000 families were affected in that area.

"People were basically stranded. No power, no heat. We would bring them out, and they would get transitioned to an evacuation center," Ruwe says.

After a few days, the search and rescue turned into humanitarian efforts such as delivering food and water to residents.

"It's always rewarding to help people especially when they're truly in need (and) their houses have been devastated," Ruwe says.

Ruwe says his team was happy to return home to see their families and vote in time.

Maryland Task Force One, also deployed to help with relief efforts on the East Coast, returned home on Tuesday as well.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)