WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Wichita firefighter in Louisiana to help after Hurricane Ida says he and the other Kansas firefighters are being met with open arms.
“They’re very grateful we’re here,” Chad Winton, Kansas Stike Team leader, said. “We can’t go very far without getting stopped and thanked.”
Seven Wichita Fire Department firefighters and two engines deployed to Louisiana Saturday. They met up with firefighters and four engines from Johnson County to form an engine strike team.
Winton said they are in Houma, Louisiana, a town of about 36,000 people.
“They were one of the hardest-hit areas when the hurricane hit landfall,” he said.
The Kansas firefighters are helping at the fire stations in that area so that the local firefighters can finally check on their homes and families and get some rest.
“They’ve had people here for 14 to 15 straight days working, haven’t been home, haven’t seen their homes,” Winton said. “So we provided relief for their crews. They’re able to get out, take a break and see their families and, right now, we’re just running alarms and covering their area.”
He said Houma still does not have electricity or cell service, and stores are closed. The Kansas firefighters are staying in tents.
“The amount of destruction these folks are, are going through right now, it’s hard to put into words,” Winton said.
One of the local firefighters, Capt. Jordan Collins, Houma Fire Department, said it is overwhelming, but so is how people in the community and from across the nation are helping.
“You got neighborhoods getting together, just going through their own fridges and freezers making sure they have, you know, each and every one of them is fed, people with generators stretching cords to their neighbors to make sure that they can run a window unit, or something along those lines, just to make sure that they’re kind of cared for,” Collins said. “That sense of community has just come out strong.”
He says help has come from Kansas and Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, California, and New York. He appreciates what the Kansas firefighters are doing.
“Just the people to help, to take our spots so our guys can get home and tighten up their stuff and fix their houses up,” Collins said.
“It’s always good to get out and help other communities going through something like this,” Winton said. “The team is in high spirits.”
The Wichita firefighters are expected to be gone for around 14 days.
Louisiana requested the help through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, and the Kansas Department of Emergency Management organized the Kansas response.