HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – When a hurricane is on the way, supplies run low.
But if Tampa Bay takes a major hit from Hurricane Irma, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is making sure it has deputies trained to use chainsaws to help.
"We have a lot of trees in Hillsborough County, so when we have weather events that cause downed trees, they can go out and respond and take care of clearing roadways," said Lt. O'Neal Jackson.
But beyond clearing to the roads to help deputies get to the call, Jackson says the benefit go both ways.
"If we were to get a call that a tree's down on my house, we would try to help in any way we possibly could," he said.
The county started training deputies to use chainsaws about five years ago, Jackson said, by having them practice clearing brush and branches from trails at county nature preserves and learning how to do it from the preserve's land managers.
Currently, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is the only area law enforcement agency to offer such training, Jackson said.
But with a potentially deadly hurricane barreling toward Florida, Jackson says the practice has served as good preparation for real life rescues where timing can be the difference between life and death.
"Depending on how big Irma gets... if it was to hit the Bay area we could see downed trees all over the place, but we still have residents we need to get to," he said, "So it will be very crucial that we have this type of equipment available to us."
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