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Firefighter saves young girl during Hurricane Ian: 'She'll have a little piece of my heart forever'

The little girl he rescued is the same age as his youngest son. He said her face will stay with him for a long time.

Firefighter saves young girl during Hurricane Ian: 'She'll have a little piece of my heart forever'
Image Source: First Coast News/Youtube

Hurricane Ian has bought devastation, loss of life and heartbreaking stories from people stranded in the East Coast and island regions it affected. However, there have been some heroic stories of people helping out those in need. St. Augustine in Florida was a badly hit region and now, since the storm has passed, firefighters are returning to their families. During Hurricane Ian, the St. Augustine Fire Chief reported 26 rescues and many difficult missions, reports WBNS.



Firefighter Hardus Oberholzer was part of many of those missions and there is one rescue that was especially personal to him. On Thursday afternoon, amid the highest tide, Oberholzer saved a child the same age as his youngest son. He said that witnessing her face will stay with him for a long time. "She’ll have a little piece of my heart forever. It’s something in their eyes," he said. 

Another firefighter captured a stunning image of Oberholzer wading through waist-deep water to save the little girl on the island side of the Bridge of Lions. Oberholzer says that the child's family assumed they'd be able to hunker down, but after watching the water come within inches of their home, they asked for help before the second high tide hit in the middle of the night. He said, "They were all kind of the same. People, they got caught, they didn’t think it was going to be as bad, then at the end of the day, they realized they needed to get out."



Oberholzer said they had a large highwater truck to deal with. Though he wasn't in danger and felt safe driving through up to six feet of water, it was still scary and nerve-wracking. He was part of many rescues and does not have a specific count. He said, "I knew they were just kind of racking up. They were almost on a waiting list. We finished one, we dropped them off, turned around, and went off." He added, "The more you risk, the more you save." Speaking about his experience he said, "When they truly are at their worst, we show up and have to be at our best every time. Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I hope they do too."



More than 4,000 individuals have been evacuated from flooded areas along Florida's southwestern coast alone as of Saturday, according to USA TODAY. The death toll rose to 68 as of October 1 and the authorities are still searching for survivors. Out of 68 people, 61 people who died are from Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba. 

More than 1 million people in Florida are still without power as officials surveyed the damage and conducted search and rescue attempts. The hurricane wreaked havoc on the state, flooding sections on both coastlines, ripping houses from their foundations, and destroying coastal businesses. Governor Ron DeSantis said, "There are more urban search and rescue teams in Florida now than in any one place in American history since Sept. 11." 

Joe Conforti, a resident said, "The water just kept pounding the house and we watched boats, houses – we watched everything just go flying by. When the water’s at your door, and it’s splashing on the door and you’re seeing how fast it’s moving, there’s no way you’re going to survive that." 

This is a developing story, and we’ll update you as we learn more. Information about Hurricane Ian is swiftly changing, and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication. You can get official alerts and updates on Hurricane Ian from the National Hurricane Center.

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