Lumberton Fire Chief Jeff McNeel and the entire department has been working non-stop since Harvey hit southeast Texas. Instead of going home, many of them have slept on cots inside the fire station.
They were relentless in their mission to make sure they evacuated every person who wanted and needed to be evacuated from the rising flood waters.
The search and rescue portion of their mission is coming to a close as they are finishing clearing flooded homes to ensure no one was left inside. Now they are ramping up their damage assessment efforts for the unincorporated areas.
Inside the fire station, next to the sleeping cots, is an operations center set up to manage their many missions. Lumberton was fortunate to have numerous resources from other cities and states that quickly came in to help in a variety of ways. Fort Worth Fire Department helped run responses such as medical calls, fire calls, and motor vehicle accidents; freeing LFD to focus on flood-related missions and, at times, get some much needed rest.
“They are a class act,” said McNeel of the Fort Worth Fire Department. “They partnered with us to protect our community.”
Grand Prairie showed up to take up some of the work as well as Game Wardens, Coast Guard, a task force from Florida, and marine amphibious units. It was truly a team effort.
Ms. Joyce, the office manager at Lumberton Fire and EMS, and several others, have made sure the hard-working crews did not go without good food. When the responders have been out all day and then they come in and smell the comfort food made for them, “their faces change,” said Ms. Joyce.
Even during all of the emergency situations and evacuations they were faced with, they still managed to provide invaluable assistance to a Lumberton boy and his mom.
Buck Hernandez, with the fire department, became aware of a boy who needed a special formula that would normally have been shipped to them. With roads being closed and postal services halted, there was no way for them to receive any shipments.
Seven-year-old Gracen has had a feeding tube since he was seven weeks old. The formula he needs is called Peptimin Jr. 1.5, which is a specialty formula not available in stores or pharmacies, according to his mother, Tammy Leger. If he uses any other kind of formula, his mom says he gets very sick. So it was vital that they get that formula for Gracen’s health.
According to Arrow Health Solutions, VP Jon Mark McMullen was contacted by Tammy’s insurance company Superior Health Plan to devise a plan for getting the formula to Tammy.
McMullen determined that after making several calls, the best decision was to drive the formula in from Austin. He made it to Beaumont but was unable to make it all the way to Lumberton due to flooding. Tammy says he spoke with DPS troopers and coordinated with them and the Lumberton Fire and EMS to get a DPS helicopter to deliver the formula to the station.
Gracen and Tammy arrived at the fire station to wait for helicopter and were able to enjoy some time with the department. He was “sworn in” as a chief and was excited to watch the helicopter land. “That’s my helicopter,” Gracen said pointing to sky.
McNeel said as the boy was looking up, watching the helicopter fly in, he proclaimed, “This is the best night of my life ever.”
Hernandez said moments like that, “that’s what it’s all about.”