Local Red Cross volunteers and firefighters heading to aid in Hurricane Michael relief

Krystal Day, of Homosassa, Fla., left, leads a sandbag assembly line at the Old Port Cove restaurant Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in Ozello, Fla. Employees were hoping to protect the restaurant from floodwaters as Hurricane Michael continues to churn in the Gulf of Mexico heading for the Florida panhandle. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Oregon is sending volunteers and professionals to aid in the response to Hurricane Michael, which is threatening the Florida Panhandle.

Red Cross volunteers from Portland are already on the ground in Florida.

They will help with everything from basic food and water to medical help in shelters to handing out comfort kits with basic supplies for evacuees.

"It's a little intimidating, I'll admit, but I have a lot of faith in the Red Cross and their safety plans," said Russel Wolfram as he waited for his flight at Portland International on Tuesday morning. "I meet so many fantastic people at probably some of their darkest times, and it's been a real pleasure, been a privilege.”

This is his fifth major disaster deployment.

He says it’s crucial for the volunteers themselves to pay attention to alerts and evacuation zones, so they don’t have to be rescued themselves.

So far, the local Red Cross has sent five people to help in Florida and Alabama.

A team from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office is headed to Florida on Wednesday.

Les Hallman, an assistant chief with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and fire marshal incident commander, is leading the team. He’s a native Floridian.

“It’s a unique opportunity for me, and I’m excited to be able to go back to my home state in a time of need,” he said via Skype Tuesday. “It’s exciting, but I’m also concerned about my friends there.”

He said the team consists of 19 people. Once on the ground, officials in Florida will give them their mission assignment, which will depend on where the storm makes landfall and its impact.

“The hard part for first responders is we have to put that emotional, personal part aside and focus on the mission,” Hallman said about having family in the storm’s path.

The team plans to work for 14 days and return to Oregon Oct. 25.

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