Firefighters on search: 'We can't lose hope'

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by KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 9:32 PM

DARRINGTON, Wash. -- For the first time since Saturday, some of the firefighters and volunteers involved in the search and recovery effort took a break Wednesday. Some just wanted to rest; others took the time to share stories.

As one of the first people to respond to Saturday’s landslide, three Darrington firefighters - Jeff McClelland, Jan McClelland and Eric Finzimer -  were able to talk about what happened in the first few minutes of the tragedy and how they’ve been able to go on days later.

As first responders, they've seen more than most.

"It got called out as a single engine response to a possible mudslide with a barn roof in the highway," recalled Jeff McClelland.

What they saw was far more than they had prepared themselves to see.

"Everywhere around us was debris," said Jan McClelland. "Everywhere around us was clay, big rocks, huge timber like you see around here."

"We heard screams of people down this road," said Jeff. "Almost everybody we ran into that was in the accident had their clothes ripped off from the force of the accident. They were naked."

The three firefighters have been on the job since day 1, and despite long odds, they aren't giving up hope of some rescues.

"You look at the debris is and there can be pockets," said Jan. "We live for that hope."

"We want everybody to come out, but you have the reality of it, but at the same time we can't lose hope," emphasized Finzimer. "That's not what we're here for. We're here to find those people."

While they took a break Wednesday, all three plan to be back on the search and rescue effort Thursday.

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