September 26, 2017

‘We are excited to help’

Observer courtesy photos Senior Firefighter Dave Auriemma (left) and Capt. Tim Gerry were deployed to Texas last week as part of FEMA's response to Hurricane Harvey.

Observer courtesy photos
Senior Firefighter Dave Auriemma (left) and Capt. Tim Gerry were deployed to Texas last week as part of FEMA’s response to Hurricane Harvey.

Williston firefighters arrive in Texas for flood relief

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Two Williston firefighters trained in swiftwater rescue arrived in Orange County, Texas, Tuesday to help find and evacuate residents there from the floodwaters left by Hurricane Harvey.

Capt. Tim Gerry and Senior Firefighter Dave Auriemma were called on by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of a contingent of 16 Vermont Urban Search and Rescue team members. The Vermonters drove to Texas last Thursday and joined rescuers from Alabama, Ohio and Virginia for training and orientation before operations in Orange County.

The hurricane stalled over southeastern Texas last week, dumping as much as 50 inches of rain in some locations.

Armed with rescue boats and the supplies needed to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours, Gerry and Auriemma are going door-to-door checking on residents, offering supplies and evacuating those who want to leave flooded homes.

“We are excited to help,” Auriemma said. “We are excited to do what we are trained to do.”

Williston Fire Department Spokesman Prescott Nadeau estimated the two firefighters will return within two weeks. But a firm date is unknown.

For a nine-member staff of full-timers, the deployment is stretching the fire department thin, Nadeau said.

“Our department has stepped up to cover shifts and look after their families,” he said. “There has been an outpouring of support from our department to ensure that the two who are deployed have to worry only about their mission.”

Nadeau was in touch with Gerry and Auriemma during their orientation and said rescuers are most concerned about the potential for chemicals and dangerous animals like alligators in the water.

“Nobody knows what is in the water,” he said.

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