Colorado firefighters head to Houston, turned away in Amarillo

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WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- Members of a swift-water rescue team from Colorado, on their way to Houston to help in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, traveled as far as the Texas Panhandle before being told to turn around and go back home.

“We’re definitely anxious,” chief Barry Schaefer of the Platte Valley Fire Protection District said.

Schaefer said it was hard to turn his crew back after traveling as far as Amarillo, Texas, on their way to Houston.

A miscommunication between the Platte Valley Fire Protection District and the state of Colorado is to blame, according to Schaefer.

“We were a little aggressive jumping the gun … before we had actual contracts signed,” Schaefer said.

The four-member dive team was comprised of firefighters from Platte Valley, Evans and Loveland. The crew was anticipating a request from the state of Texas to the state of Colorado for additional help.

Conflicting reports gave firefighters the impression such a request was made, but it never happened.

Instead, first responders from elsewhere in Colorado were sent to Houston as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency-controlled Colorado Task Force One.

More than 50 members are helping with water rescues -- something the dedicated divers in Platte Valley said they are ready for when called.

“They just want to go and do what they’re trained to do,” Schaefer said. “It was hard to keep a leash on them a little bit.”

Northern Colorado firefighters have experience with water rescues. They learned valuable lessons from the 2013 Colorado floods.

Federal rules dictating who is allowed to respond to disasters are in place to foster an organized response, according to task force leaders.

The federal government is in charge of bringing in teams outside of Texas.