The girl in the photo is one of 26 rescued by the St. Augustine Fire Department during Hurricane Ian.

St. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Many first responders in St. Augustine are back home with their families after a very busy week. St. Augustine’s fire chief says they rescued 26 people during Hurricane Ian.

One firefighter from St. Augustine, Hardus Oberholzer, participated in many of these dangerous missions.

He says there’s a saying in the department: “The more you risk, the more you save.”

He said he’s been involved in a lot of rescues, but he didn’t count exactly, but at least 10 to 15.

“I knew they were just recruiting,” Oberholzer said. – They were almost on the waiting list. We finished one, dropped them off, turned around and left.”

The calls came during Thursday’s high tide, when water rose up driveways and into homes.

“They were all the same,” Oberholzer said. “People, they were caught, they didn’t think that everything would be so bad, but in the end they realized that they had to leave.”

One particular rescue happened near the home of a father of two.

A second firefighter took a powerful picture of Oberholzer during the storm saving the little girl on the side of the island from the Lion Bridge.

The rescue was during the strongest tide, on Thursday afternoon. Oberholzer waded through waist-deep water to get the young girl to safety.

Oberholzer says the family thought they would be able to sit down, but after seeing the water seeping just a few inches inside the house, they called for help before the next high tide in the middle of the night.

The girl is the same age as his youngest son. He says seeing her face is an experience that will stay with him for a while.

“She will always have a piece of my heart. It’s something in their eyes,” he said. “When they’re really at their worst, we show up and have to be at our best every time. Something I will remember for the rest of my life and I hope they will too.’

Oberholzer says they had a huge high-water truck where he felt comfortable driving through up to six feet of water, so he never felt completely in danger, but he was nervous nonetheless.

He certainly earned a day off with his family – trading rescues for destroying all the pillow forts scattered around the house.