Central Texas first responders serve flood victims

The Lake Travis Fire Department said they were happy to step up during Hurricane Harvey.

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, hundreds of first responders jumped into action rushing down to help flooded areas.

Many of those came from Central Texas departments.

"We did as many as we could, and ran as many calls as we could,” said Lake Travis Firefighter Ryan Dowling.

"We searched a few hundred homes and apartments to ensure everyone had made it out,” said Lake Travis Lieutenant Adam Griggs.

Both men went to help flood victims in areas from Port Arthur to Orange, Texas, wherever they were needed.

Dowling was part of their 4-man boat team.

"So many people, so many families were impacted by it, you know just seeing the displacement and damages and the devastation it caused,” said Dowling.

Griggs just got back from Port Arthur where his team battled several structure fires.

"You could feel the tension, you could feel the worry, the devastation, you could see it, as the water receded, the calls just started coming in,” said Griggs. "The roads were blocked with water, we were driving through 2, 3 foot of water.”

He said they ran on almost 10 structure fires in a 24-hour period.

"We ran a refinery fire, shortly after we got back from that a shrimp boat fire,” said Griggs. "That's substantial for one station."

Lake Travis Battalion chief Jeremy Petersma said they feel honored to be able to help.

"It's part of the helping our brothers and sisters out, we feel honored to have the opportunity and have the resources available, to be part of that system," said Petersma.

With less than 100 firefighters in the department, sending too many firefighters away from Lake Travis could be a problem.

But Petersma said it hasn’t affected their service locally.

"It didn't really affect us too much, of course, we do feel a little bit, but there is not at one point at any time that the community was in danger or hampered with any kind of response time,” said Petersma.

It’s that community that he said has allowed them to be able to jump in and help.

“I just want to say thank you to our community, you know it's been an honor to proudly represent Lake Travis and the community and the mission we just got done and we still have members out there,” said Petersma. “We couldn’t serve the needs of greater Texas without the support of our community, so I just want to say thank you to the Lake Travis Community for supplying us with the great equipment, the great training.”

According to Petersma, so far they've sent 12 people but just got another request to extend the time they're there.

"All that is being reimbursed to the department,” said Petersma.

That's because the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, run by the Texas A&M Forest Service, asked them to help.

So far the agency has deployed 110 fire engines, and 48 rescue boats from departments around the state.

They said on average, they pay about $70 an hour for a fire truck and about $40 an hour for each firefighter, plus additional money to cover overtime for those who are back at their home departments.

Since the Forest Service is a state agency, all that money essentially comes from the state.

According to these Lake Travis first responders, it's worth every penny.

"I'm glad I got to go down and help and do my part,” said Dowling.

"I'm honored that I was able to assist," said Griggs. "I have mixed emotions, I'm honored and I feel for everyone's loss."

"I know each and every one of them is honored to be down there, be a Texan and just be part of the community down there,” said Petersma.

Other departments, like the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, also sent crews to help rescue those in need.

They said they had to pay the initial cost up front out of their own budget, then they say they'll apply to FEMA, to get reimbursed.

 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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