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Friday, October 7, 2011

~Texan Volunteerism @ it's Best~~

The last post I wrote about was the massive fireballs that were devouring my great state. I was primarily writing about the Bastrop and surrounding area fires. To the north, the Metro-plex has been battling their own menaces all Summer long. This post is concerning an almost equalling challenging crisis to the north of Houston. One of the main differences is that the Houston fires were able to facilitate the very powerful DC10 jet that helped cut the fire off quickly.

On a sidenote: I commend the incredible volunteer efforts that each geographical location has had in bringing much needed supplies and drives together. Earlier this Summer, I read while friends were donating homecooked meals, bottled water and any other much needed item was provided to the volunteer firemen and women battling their fires. Other friends were on the ground running w/massive donations and handing out of goods to the effected people in the Bastrop crisis. I don't know if Texas hjas the largest volunteer firefighting organizations nationwide, but I would beg to think they are up there at the top. Most communities I have ever lived in depended on their help at all times. And the state funding cuts have deeply hindered the depts. efforts. I pray that this will be a wake up call to the state and reallocate much needed funding for these efforts. Texas does need FEMA. But the State of Texas needs to also fund them as well.

The following was received in an email that I thought was just too good not to share. And another reason why Federal Govt. Agencies need to stop being dumbasses and learn from the sources that can and do prove that common sense and the idea that our great country is made up of each individual citizen to help out in time of need. The backassword policies, back patting and stupid superficial efforts need to change.

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Here’s some stories you won’t hear about the Tri-county fire in Montgomery, Grimes, and Waller County the weeks following Labor Day, 2011. Although Kenna promises to write a book.
My neighbor across the road has a sister named Kenna. Labor Day, when she saw the huge column of smoke over our homes, she left a birthday party at my neighbor’s house to meet with her friend Tara at the Baseball complex in Magnolia. She called the owner of the complex and got permission to use the warehouse there as a staging area for donations for the fire fighting effort.
They put a notice out on facebook that they were going to be taking donations on their facebook pages. That night as they were setting up tables and organizing, News 2 Houston came by and saw the activity, investigated and left with the phone numbers and a list of suggested donations. The facebook notice propagated faster than the fire. By dawn they had 20 volunteers, bins, forklifts, and donations were pouring in. I stopped by with my pitiful little bags of nasal wash and eye wash, and was amazed.
There must have been 20 trucks in the lot, offloading cases of water, pallets of Gatorade , and people lined up out the door with sacks of beef jerky, baby wipes, underwear, socks, and you name it. School buses and trailers from many counties around were there offloading supplies, students forming living chains to pass stuff into the bins for transport to the command center and staging areas. If the firefighters had requested it, it was there. What do you give the guy out there fighting the fire that might engulf your home? Anything he or she wants. Including chewing tobacco and cigarettes.
Kenna moved on to the Unified Command Post at Magnolia West High school . She looked at what the fire fighters needed, and she made calls and set it up.
Mattress Mac donated 150 beds. Two class rooms turned into barracks kept quiet and dark for rest.
The CEO of HEB donated 2 semi trailers full of supplies, and sent a mobile commercial kitchen at no charge to feed all the workers, but especially our firefighters, 3 hot meals a
An impromptu commissary was set up, anything the firefighters had requested available at no charge. As exhausted firefighters (most of them from local VFDs with no training or experience battling wildfires) and workers came into the school after long hours of hard labor, dehydrated, hungry, covered with soot and ash, they got what they needed. They were directed through the commissary, where they got soap, eye wash and nasal spray,
candy, clean socks and underwear, and then were sent off to the school locker rooms for a shower. HEB then fed them a hot meal and they got 8 hours sleep in a barracks, then another hot meal, another pass through the commissary for supplies to carry with them out to lines, including gloves, safety glasses, dust masks and snacks, and back they went.
One of the imported crew from California came into Unified Command and asked where the FEMA Powerbars and water were. He was escorted to the commissary and started through the system. He was flabbergasted. He said FEMA never did it like this. Kenna replied, ”Well, this is the way we do it in Texas .”
Fire fighting equipment needed repair? The auto shop at the High School ran 24/7 with local mechanics volunteering, students, and the firefighters fixing the equipment. Down one side of the school, the water tankers lined up at the fire hydrants and filled with water. Down the other side there was a steady parade of gasoline tankers filling trucks, dozers, tankers, cans, chain saws, and vehicles.
Mind you, all of this was set up by 2 Moms, Kenna and Tara, with a staff of 20 simple volunteers, most of them women who had sons, daughters, husbands, and friends on the fire lines. Someone always knew someone who could get what they needed- beds, mechanics, food, space. Local people using local connections to mobilize local resources made this happen. No government aid. No Trained Expert.
At one point the fire was less than a mile from the school, and everyone but hose volunteers were evacuated. The fire was turned. The Red Cross came in, looked at what they were doing, and quietly went away to set up a fire victim relief center nearby. They said they
couldn’t do it any better.
Then FEMA came in and told those volunteers and Kenna that they had to leave, FEMA was here now. Kenna told them she worked for the firefighters, not them. They were obnoxious, bossy, got in the way, and criticized everything. The volunteers refused to back down and
kept doing their job, and doing it well. Next FEMA said the HEB supplies and kitchen had to go, that was blatant commercialism. Kenna said they stayed. They stayed. FEMA threw a wall eyed fit about chewing tobacco and cigarettes being available in the commissary area.

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