Firefighters took on many roles after Ivan
Published 11:30 pm Monday, October 18, 2004
By By Arthur McLean
Hurricane Ivan made its impact on the Atmore Fire Department in much the same way it did the rest of the city departments.
Long hours in dangerous conditions marked the working days for the firefighters as the fire department became one of the city's logistics hubs moving supplies throughout the city and distributing them to citizens.
They took on that role in addition to working fires and responding to emergency situations.
"Like other departments, we extended our shifts, and most of our people worked until they couldn't go anymore," said Chief Gerry McGhee.
The night of the storm, fire crews delivered ice to the hurricane shelter and worked until winds became too dangerous for the firefighters.
The day after, with tree littered streets making it difficult for the large fire trucks to make their way around, the fire department began the process of searching for any possible rescuees and cutting trees from the roadways, working with the city's road crews.
"We had everyone on alert and most of us rode out the storm here," McGhee said, speaking the fire department's section of city hall.
Once supplies like ice, water and MREs began to come into the town to help the thousands without power, the fire department shifted gears.
Firefighters would work at the ice and water distribution points passing out the supplies to grateful, shell-shocked residents. They help transport mass quantities of the goods to distribution points.
As crews began working on the streets in the arduous task of clearing the debris from amongst the traffic and fallen power lines, the fire department's pickups would run throughout the day delivering water and food to the workers and officers working traffic.
With their tall ladders, the department began putting tarps over the damaged roofs of city buildings, they put out stop signs where the traffic signals weren't working.
And yes, the fire department responded to emergency calls and fires.
There were two structure fires in the immediate days after the storm. "Those were very difficult because of the downed power lines and the trees and debris," McGhee said. "It was difficult just getting to the homes."
Firefighters were able to work their hoses around the massive pine and oak tree trunks work the fire. One home on Tatum Avenue was gutted, but with all the wood debris around the house, other homes that were also in danger were saved.
In all, the fire department made more than 82 runs in the days and weeks after Ivan, responding to numerous calls. Today, they still help deliver meals to crews working to clear the city of storm debris.
"I'm very proud of all my men," McGhee said. "There's no better group. They performed outstanding. I'm also proud of the way the city as a whole responded. Every city employee and the mayor and council worked extremely well together."