Dexter Area Firefighter lends a hand in Hurricane Ida response
Hurricane Ida, which caused devastating damage to parts of the U.S late last month, especially in Louisiana, was the fourth hurricane deployment with Michigan Task Force 1 for Dexter Area Firefighter Tim Andrews.
He, during his time serving with the Task Force, has been to Florida for Irma, North Carolina for Florence, and then back to Florida, again, and Georgia for Dorian, and now Ida.
He said, “Ida was by far the worst destruction.”
Dexter Area Fire Department Chief Robert Smith describes Michigan Task Force 1 (Mi TF-1) as a separate entity from the DAFD that is capable of providing many types of emergency services to any municipality that needs them. He said the process for activation is between state governments.
Andrews is a member of the team, and as such, Smith said he trains with them and deploys as needed.
Andrews said Mi TF-1 put out a page on Aug. 29 at about 5 p.m. looking for available members to possibly respond to Louisiana for 14 days. He said he responded available, before 7 p.m. that evening. He was on shift as a Technician/ Paramedic in St. Joseph Chelsea ER when he received a second page saying he had been rostered and they were deploying at 5 a.m. the next morning from Holly, where their base of operations is.
With an important mission ahead and need for quickness, Andrews said looking back to that evening, “I'm lucky to have a supportive team at St Joes Chelsea. They let me leave immediately that night to go home and do final repacking to leave.”
In its newsletter this month the Mi TF-1 said they were answering the request for assistance.
“Once there, work was plentiful - perhaps not the kind of work we expected, but definitely days of property assessment, talking to residents and doing our best to make a difference,” the newsletter said. “The devastation from the hurricane was immense, but for the most part the people were optimistic and so incredibly appreciative of our efforts.”
Responding to emergencies is Andrews’ profession and he’s had a lot of experience. He’s a volunteer with DAFD and has been with the department for about 12 years now and in the fire service for over 35 years with 14 years as a fulltime fire Officer with the Scio Township Fire Department.
He's also served as Team Leader/ Hazmat Specialist with the Washtenaw County Hazmat Team for 22 years, which is what led him to the state team in Hazmat. He’s been with them since January 2010 and his primary job is Hazmat Specialist and he’s also certified in Swift and Flood water and as a rescue boat operator.
He does water rescue here in Washtenaw for the County Technical Rescue Team as well.
Andrews joined the Mi TF-1 team independently. The DAFD sponsors him while deployed, but their costs are eventually paid back by the states they respond to through federal disaster grants. All his training time with the Task Force is his own time, but he said the Dexter community benefits from it through every call he goes on here in the community when he uses the things he has learned and done on deployment.
Like when the tornado hit the Dexter area, he said.
When Mi TF-1 left the morning of Aug. 30, for Louisiana, Andrews said 44 members departed with 12 vehicles, including boats, generators, pickups, vans, heavy rescue, box truck and the Incident command truck, which he drove down. They drove over 3,000 miles round trip and returned late on the evening of Labor Day.
Their area of operation was west of New Orleans in the West Baton Rouge and Homer area. Andrews was sent down as a Communication Specialist this time around and was working in their Command post with leadership, planning and tech information gathering as well as spending several days in the field.
He said they surveyed some 9,000 buildings, homes, and businesses for damage assessment. He said this might not be the rescue work they all want to do, “but just as important this time.”
They met and worked with a lot of local and other out-of-state agencies, including teams from Illinois, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
The newsletter said “MI-TF1 personnel conducted recon, hasty and primary searches in several Louisiana Parishes, assessing over 9,000 structures and making contact with over 800 affected individuals. Of the properties assessed, over 600 had minor damage, 242 had moderate damage and 72 were completely destroyed. TF members identified 43 HazMat hazards (air quality, poor generator placement, etc.) and 58 'other' hazards (roads blocked, etc.) and 16 animal issues. Additionally TF members were able to provide assistance to 170 local residents (help with roof tarping, food, water). Through all of this including brutal heat indexes over 100 degrees, every single Task Force member remained upbeat and focused on the job at hand. We have an exceptional group of people on this team!”
Chief Smith echoed the support.
“The Dexter Area Fire Department is proud to support Michigan Task Force 1 and their mission,” said Smith.
And they can always use some extra help.
Andrews said the Task Force team is always looking for additional members. He said many are retired public safety, but not all. They have physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment operators and EMS and fire personnel.