Friday, 21 September 2018 20:41

New Hampshire Firefighters Aid in Hurricane Florence Rescue Efforts

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Members of a New Hampshire swiftwater rescue team check a submerged car on Blewett Falls Road to make sure no one is inside. Members of a New Hampshire swiftwater rescue team check a submerged car on Blewett Falls Road to make sure no one is inside. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

CORDOVA — Although separated by 800 miles, two groups of firefighters formed a camaraderie in the midst of Hurricane Florence.

A FEMA-credentialed swiftwater task force comprised of firefighters from several departments in New Hampshire made the drive to Richmond County last week to work with Cordova Fire and Rescue.

“People have come up to help us in the past, so we’re just returning the favor,” said Patrick Laforge of the Goffstown Fire Department said Monday while waiting to try Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue at the East Rockingham Fire Department.

Joining Laforge from Goffstown was Chris Couturier as well as: Keith Folsom, Jon Strong and Capt. Ben Selleck from the Bedford Fire Department; Jeff Chickering, Dustin Holmes and Brad Keay from the Keene Fire Department; Tom Defina and Mike Meehan from the Manchester Fire Department; Cal Weichert and Darren Schriever from the Amherst Fire Department; and Garrett Meador and Chad McCarthy from the Conway and North Conway Fire Departments, respectively.

Although they weren’t needed much in Richmond County, last Sunday night they rescued more than 30 people from homes and cars in Laurinburg as the parts of the city began to flood.

Jeremy Chance, deputy chief of the Cordova department said they were on their way to the Emergency Operations Command when they received their mission.

“The only 911 call they had on that street was one person, but we ended up pulling (34 altogether to safety),” Chance said. 

They were on their way to help evacuate a church, but Chance said a tree had fallen over and knocked power lines in the water, “so we stopped there and another team came in from the back side and got all those people out of there.”

Just before they were cleared at 2:30 a.m., they checked two submerged vehicles but found no occupants.

“Overall, they’ve got a mess down there,” he said Tuesday afternoon, after the New Hampshire team tested their equipment on Hitchcock Creek by the von Drehle plant.

There were also several water rescues in Richmond County, including one a home on Poole Road, a rescue in Mangum and one on Blewett Falls Road where a man from out of town was going fishing and got caught in the rising waters on his way back home, according to Chance.

He added that they were all successful and no one was injured.

Fortunately, Emergency Services Director Donna Wright said, none of them were in swift water.

Wright had the opportunity to ride with one of the New Hampshire crew’s two boats while testing them for readiness in case of another rescue.

“I’m ready to do it again,” she said after climbing out of the boat. “It was a nice break from being in the office for (many) days preparing for everything.”

Not long after leaving the creek, a call came in about a submerged vehicle on Blewett Falls Road.

Four members of the New Hampshire crew waded out into the chest-deep water to see if anyone was inside. After finding it was clear, they pulled the license plate off the car and Chance called it in. He said it was from the rescue on Sunday night.

The task force returned home late Thursday night.