Star City VFD’s Disaster Response Team deploys


Ron Rittenhouse/The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Members of the Star City Volunteer Fire Department’s Disaster Response Team are in Panama City, Florida, but not for vacation.

That part of Florida was devastated by Hurricane Michael earlier this month and the team is deployed to the area to help with recovery efforts, John Hitchens, team leader, said.

The team, consisting of an ambulance, a support vehicle and three volunteers, left Thursday afternoon and arrived in Pensacola, Florida, about 6 a.m. Friday, Hitchens said. He said the crew made the roughly 14-hour drive in one shot by rotating drivers.

Once in Pensacola, the team moved to Tallahassee for a day before being assigned to Panama City where they are partnered with an urban search and rescue team (USAR), Hitchens said. He said the response from the community in Florida has been really amazing and deploying to help is an honor. “It’s really, for all of us, why we got into public safety,” Hitchens said. The team shadows the USAR team so that anyone who is found has immediate medical care, he said. They’ve also responded to several calls and have taken some people to the hospital.

It can be hard to navigate the city because power lines are still down and there are still trees in the road, Hitchens said. He said there are “literally hundreds of power crews” working to restore the power and in the meantime, generators are being used. The disaster response team had only been back from helping victims of Hurricane Florence for about two weeks when the call to assist in Florida came.

Hitchens said the team is working under the American Medical Response, a contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He expects the deployment to last a week or two but said the team is willing to stay as long as they’re needed. “It’s an honor be down here and helping the people that are absolutely devastated by this hurricane,” Hitchens said.

He said the crew has received a lot of thanks for their help. “That’s really all we need.”

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