Firefighters headed to Alabama | Community Spirit
Twenty-five firefighters from the Baton Rouge area, including 13 from the Baton Rouge Fire Department, are headed to Alabama today to help scour storm-ravaged areas of Tuscaloosa, Ala. in search of people still missing from last week’s deadly tornadoes.
The twelve other local firefighters traveling to Alabama are from Central, Zachary, Gonzales, Prairieville, West Feliciana, and Port Allen. Barry Mounce, assistant to Baton Rouge Fire Chief Ed Smith, said the Baton Rouge area contingent left this morning at 7 a.m. for a seven-day deployment in Alabama.
The local team is taking special vehicles and equipment to help with the search-and-rescue efforts in the Tuscaloosa area. The equipment, purchased in part by grants from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, includes special saws for cutting into the rubble, special equipment to shore up damaged building for the search, and trucks and other vehicles.
According to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama’s official death toll from last week’s twisters has already exceeded 250. But Mounce said there are still a number of people missing in the path of destruction that the tornadoes cut through the Tuscaloosa area last week.
Mounce said two-thirds of the Baton Rouge Fire Department’s search-and-rescue team are still in Baton Rouge with a cache of equipment in case storms or other emergencies occur here.
In addition to the Baton Rouge area, the New Orleans and Shreveport areas are also sending firefighters to Alabama as part of the search-and-rescue effort. Louisiana officials said they received a request from Alabama officials for the assistance Sunday, even though they had offered assistance to their counterparts immediately after the storms last week.
Mounce noted that when Hurricane Gustav hit the Louisiana in 2008, a team of firefighters from Alabama was the first to arrive in storm-torn Baton Rouge.
“A team of firefighters from Mobile, Ala. was the first to get here – they arrived the night after Gustav hit our area with generators, water, MREs and other supplies,” Mounce said. “So I guess it’s only fitting that we now have a chance to repay the favor.”
Firefighters from the Baton Rouge area also played a key role in search-and-rescue efforts in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.