Firefighters from Jackson and Cape Girardeau return from Harvey relief efforts

(Source: Cape Girardeau Fire Battalion Chief Brad Dillow)
(Source: Cape Girardeau Fire Battalion Chief Brad Dillow)
(Source: Cape Girardeau Fire Battalion Chief Brad Dillow)
(Source: Cape Girardeau Fire Battalion Chief Brad Dillow)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The Swift Water Rescue team, made up of 10 fire fighters from Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Missouri, has made it back to the Heartland from Texas where they aided in hurricane relief.

The firefighters went door to door in flooded areas with boats checking on people and rescuing people who need out.

The team was made of water rescue technicians and trained rescue boat operators. While working as a 27-person strike team with personnel from the Kansas City Fire Department and Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, the team searched 450 homes and rescued 19 civilians and two pets.

They were expected to be in Texas for a total of eight days.

The tactical squad gathered their gear together on Wednesday night August 30 at the Cape Fire Department.

Eight of the fire fighters are from the Cape Girardeau Fire Department and two are from Jackson.

"It was a very humbling experience. Pretty devastating as far as the amount of disaster that we've seen down there in the flooding," Jackson Fire Captain Sean Mitchell said. "And the generosity that we got from the people of Texas as we were down there trying to assist them."

The group made it to College Station Thursday morning. They checked into the staging area for their assignment and then assisted with rescues in both Fort Bend County and Houston near the Interstate 10 corridor and the Buffalo Bayou.

Equipment from all four departments on the strike team included five zodiac inflatable rescue boats, three rigid hull boats, and two air-powered boats. The area in which crews were working will likely remain flooded for 20-30 days as reservoirs are still releasing high volumes of water.

According to Battalion Chief Brad Dillow, the crew has been told to be prepared to be deployed for eight days.

Around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning they got the call to begin preparing. But Dillow said they have been getting ready for this moment since the Hurricane developed and they were asked to be on standby.

The team was released on Sept. 4 by the Houston Fire Department and Texas State Emergency Management, as rescue operations were contained.

When the crew returned to the Cape Girardeau Fire Station, they were welcomed back from several other fire fighters. 

Cape Girardeau Fire Battalion Chief Brad Dillow said this was a trip he will never forget. 

"It just shows that our country can come together in a time of need. A lot of times it's not only about the city here or the State of Missouri but it's our country. I think it's like a family. We all pulled together in rough times and that's what I take away from this the most," Dillow said. 

The crew got the word that they were released to come home on Monday. On their way back home, they were able to stay at a hotel to sleep. A luxury they didn't have there in Houston. 

"We've been outside on cots and under fairground pavilions for the last several days," Dillow added. 

After they're arrival back to the station, fire crews immediately started unpacking boats, gear and other miscellaneous items. As soon as they got those items out, other fire fighters were on hand to clean up the boats and trucks to be ready for their next call out. 

Crews said they always try to keep their equipment ready to go at a moments notice.

While Dillow and his crew unload and take a quick breather, they also are of the mindset to go out on a call or where they're needed at a moments notice.  

This includes preparing for the possibility to deploy for Hurricane Irma's aftermath. 

"It's very preliminary right now but there is some talk," Dillow said. "We're going to kind of leave everything geared up right now until we get the final word on what they're requesting and if they're wanting us to redeploy. So we're not going to tear everything down right now but it will be in service for here if it needs to move."

Crews said they are thankful they could help out in Houston and also appreciate all the help from other crews as well while they were down there, including fire fighters from Kansas that were on their strike team. 

"I think we did make a difference down there," Dillow added. "The thing that comes to mind is all the people behind us that made this happen. So it's not just about the 10 guys here that went down there, it's about all the people that helped it happen from our families, the people here at this department, our mechanic, the people down there in Texas, the citizens there feeding us and doing our laundry. It was just phenomenal on that part of it."

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