KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knoxville Fire Department is heading south to help with emergency operations in Houston, Texas. They are sending a swift water rescue team and equipment. The firefighters are joining other first responders from across the state in an effort to save lives.
On Wednesday morning, they were loading up supplies for the long drive to Texas.
Mark Wilbanks, the assistant chief of the Knoxville Fire Department said, “They’ve got life jackets, they’ve got helmets, they’ve got paddles, they have paddle boats. They have just about everything you need to go in and extract someone out of a bad situation.”
Six members of KFD will be aiding in the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts after receiving activation orders from FEMA.
“Anytime you can go help anyone else, it’s a great thing. We’re very very excited to be going down and help in any little way that we can,” said Capt. Matt Beavers, with the Knoxville Fire Department.
The team is bringing specialized boats, vehicles and other equipment to the gulf coast, where relentless rain and catastrophic flooding has devastated several communities. They are trained for dangerous situations like this, but Tropical Storm Harvey will likely present some challenges.
“It’s an extremely dangerous place that they’re going to. There’s everything from hazmat in the water, all the way down to dangerous animals to domesticated animals that are scared. Plus you still have a lot of folks that need rescuing. You may have live power lines, there’s all kinds of situations that they could face,” said Wilbanks.
Beavers adds, “Everything is displaced. We won’t really know what we’ll get into until we get there.”
The only thing they know for certain is the reason why they’re willing to go into the flood water.
“My hope, first of all, is that we all stay safe and that we can make just a little bit of a difference. I know it’s a small team and there’s a great need there. So any difference that we can make, will be well worth our time,” said Beavers.
The water rescue team will eventually end up in Houston. They will be staging in College Station, Texas with other Tennessee teams. Their deployment is an eight day mission that could be extended.
A total of 91 search and rescue members represent 19 city, county and state emergency and medical agencies.
Meanwhile, nine Rural/Metro Fire Department personnel are being deployed to the Houston area to help with rescue efforts. They were already at the operations center in Arlington, Texas. Almost 800 EMS crew members from Texas AMR operations and operations across the country have come to Texas to help, including the Arizona Rescue Boat.
AMR and their partners, including Rural/Metro in Knox County, have mobilized over 300 ambulances, 29 airplanes and 25 helicopters to help. They have evacuated hundreds of patients at hospitals and have responded to hundreds of emergency calls.