Search for firefighters who vanished while fishing intensifies, next 24 hours critical

Authorities say they are ramping up the search for two missing firefighters who set out by boat last week from the Florida coast and asked personal boat owners as far away as Savanah, Ga., to assist in the search.

Jacksonville Interim Fire Chief Keith Powers said the agency was calling for as "many boats" as could be mustered Tuesday in the ongoing search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker. The firefighters departed last Friday on their outing aboard a 24-foot vessel from Port Canaveral.

“We are absolutely in a race against time,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun told News4Jax.com. Officials said that this is still “very much a rescue effort.”

The captain said 12,600 square miles were covered on Tuesday and a total of 69,000 square miles were covered. He called the next 24 hours “critical.”

“We’re going to continue to throw everything we have at this until we reach a point where we know we can’t be successful,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have been searching a wide expanse of ocean between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville off Florida's east coast. On Monday, crews found McCluney's fishing tackle bag some 50 miles off St. Augustine in north Florida.

McCluney works for the Jacksonville department while Walker is a master technician with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, just outside the nation's capital.

McCluney's wife said Tuesday the discovery of her husband's tackle bag has given her hope that the men will be found. In a Facebook post, Stephanie McCluney added that she believed the bag was thrown overboard by the men to help those who are searching for them.

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"I am standing firm on my face in prayer and that this be our Lord and savior guiding our path," she posted on Facebook.