Rescuers Texas bound

BCFR sends two to sites worst hit

Posted 8/31/17

By ALLEN MINCEY

Staff Writer

Two members of Bradley County Fire-Rescue will be in Texas for the next eight days, helping those in that area following this week’s hurricane and tropical …

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Rescuers Texas bound

BCFR sends two to sites worst hit

Posted

By ALLEN MINCEY

Staff Writer

Two members of Bradley County Fire-Rescue will be in Texas for the next eight days, helping those in that area following this week’s hurricane and tropical storm that has devastated Houston and other areas of the state.

Battalion Commander Ronnie Goss and Lt. Donovan Dicola left Cleveland Wednesday to join with other emergency personnel from across Tennessee who will all be traveling to Texas to provide this assistance. Both Goss and Dicola were selected mainly because of their knowledge in swiftwater rescue.

“I was requested around 5 p.m. (Tuesday) by TEMA and Fire Mutual Aid requested to use our boats to go to Texas and deploy, and we are sending two people from our department down there also,” said Chief Shawn Fairbanks, who leads the BCFR. “We were picked because we have the boats. Most of the counties around the area do not have water, and we have the Hiwassee, as well as we help Polk County with Ocoee River rescue, and Hamilton and McMinn counties along the Tennessee River.”

Fairbanks said he feels that while many at the BCFR are skilled in swiftwater rescue, both Goss and Dicola are some of the best at the service.

“Both are very well-versed in swiftwater,” Fairbanks said, with both Goss and Dicola having been involved in local rescues in flooded areas. The BCFR responded to the flooding in South Carolina nearly two years ago, so they are skilled in utilizing the two boats that are traveling with them to Texas.

Fairbanks said that initially, the two BCFR personnel will be deployed to College Station, which is north of the heaviest hit areas of Texas. They will be available to travel closer to the Houston area, should they be needed there.

“What we have been told is that they will be doing secondary checks, such as checking buildings, looking for animals and looking for people and get them to higher ground,” he said.

“I have been following what is going on down there,” said Goss. “Anytime there is a disaster going on, when you are in this kind of business, it gets your attention. I didn’t think we would get deployed to it, but were and we will help everyone we can,” he added.

Fairbanks said the hardest issue for him was selecting two people to go, “because we have so many who have swiftwater rescue skills and they have been following the storms down there and they all want to go and help. That’s their job — that’s what they do.”

Two other local emergency services groups will be helping in Texas. They include the East Ridge Fire Department and Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department.

“It would be hard to send six people from one department because you still have situations locally that you will have occur,” Fairbanks said. “So this is a combined effort to send a few people and pieces of equipment.”

He said that both Goss, with 15 years of service to the county fire and rescue department, and Dicola, with 10 years’ experience, will be in the flooded areas for eight days, according to TEMA.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he was honored to be asked, as a state, to provide help to Texas residents, and knows that those traveling to the Lone Star State will do their best to save lives and property, and do anything else they can to help.

“Tennessee and Texas have a long and storied connection, and we are proud to help in any way we can. I am proud of these first responders for stepping up to help those affected during their time of need,” Haslam said. “We know all too well the damage and destruction from floods and other natural disasters, and just as other states supported us in trying times, I know all Tennesseans want to do whatever we can to help Texas in this time of need."

There will be eight search and rescue teams deployed, in addition to the BCFR, East Ridge and Dallas Bay. TEMA said that a total of near 91 personnel will travel to Texas.

East Tennessee agencies traveling to Texas include the Knox County Fire Department, Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad, and the Sevierville Fire Department.

The Tennessee teams will conduct search, rescue, and recovery missions to aid survivors and animals trapped in swiftwater and flooded areas of Southeast Texas. The teams are equipped to provide basic life support, medical care and transportation of survivors and animals to safety.

Troy Spence, Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency director, said that he was not only proud that Goss and Dicola were called by TEMA to help out, “but I am proud that they were called to lead the team that goes. They definitely have the experience and they work at training (in swiftwater rescue) for most of the state.”

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis agreed with Spence is his praise of the two men traveling to Texas, and the BCFR in general.

“We are proud of the guys keeping up their training, and being asked to go,” Davis said. “This is a well-trained department, and has been for many, many years.”

(Editor’s note: Goss and Dicola will be staying in touch with the Cleveland Daily Banner on their trip to Texas.)

allen.mincey@clevelandbanner.com

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