Two Belleville firefighters are heading to South Carolina for at least a week in what is expected to be hurricane-affected areas.
South Carolina has requested help ahead of Hurricane Irma, but the Belleville firefighters could end up anywhere.
Chief Tom Pour said the two — Engineer Tony Higgins and Firefighter Gary Frost — are also trained in technical rescue, but are going as part of the team on a hazardous materials decontamination vehicle.
“Conditions will be primitive, take their own food, no bathrooms. They’re going on a survival camping trip, basically,” Pour said. He said the pair packed rations to last at least seven days, although the deployment may be for two weeks.
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Pour said hurricanes and the tornadoes that sometimes result from the storms can cause all manner of hazardous situations that require special training.
Higgins has been on such a deployment once before, after a tornado in Roanoke, Va., in 2008. For this one, he will be missing his own birthday party that his wife had planned for him.
“He asked the boss before he asked the boss,” Pour said, referring to Higgins’ wife and then himself.
It is the first such deployment for Frost, who has been on several training missions and is certified in hazardous materials. The two are among 34 firefighters from throughout the state who are being deployed, Pour said.
They are “prepared for everything,” Higgins said while loading the truck on Friday afternoon with cans of water, dehydrated food, medical supplies and rescue and water gear.
The decontamination truck is used for showering after someone is exposed to hazardous materials, and they expect to use it for other first-responders. There are six inside showers that can be divided into men’s and women’s areas, and an outdoor area that can be tented and used by injured people before they are loaded into ambulances.
Pour said the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid for the gear and the firefighters’ time, even the overtime that the department will incur while covering for Higgins and Frost.
“This is stuff FEMA originally bought, and they would replace” anything lost or damaged, Pour said. “The goal is to always have these teams ready to go.”
Donations from St. Clair
St. Clair Township officials are collecting non-perishable food items through Sept. 29 to assist people affected by Hurricane Irma.
Stock Transport then plans to bring the supplies to Florida, at its own cost, said Jim Hursey, the St. Clair Township highway commissioner.
“We thought it was a good idea to do something,” Hursey said.
The township garage, at 107 Service St. in Swansea, is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, is collecting non-perishable food, diapers, cleaning supplies, and toys, among other things, for people affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Hoffman’s office at 312 S. High St. in Belleville, will accept donations until Fri., Sept. 29. The office is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.