U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responds to Sandy in West Virginia
“This is more snow than I’ve seen in my entire life!” said Greg Titus while on assignment in West Virginia to respond to Superstorm Sandy.
Titus, a division fire management officer from St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, was one of several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees deployed to snowbound West Virginia as members of the interagency Southern Area Red Type 1 Team.
Their direction from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was to help clear roads blocked by fallen trees and to work at National Guard airports in Martinsburg and Charleston, W.Va., where tractor trailers brought food, water and generators for storm victims.
Josh O’Connor, a fire management specialist at the Service’s Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga., was a division supervisor helping manage and track relief supplies at Yeager airport in Charleston. He worked side by side with workers from FEMA and the West Virginia Air National Guard.
“It’s not the most glamorous job,” O’Connor said, “but it’s helping people out.”
The team also helped residents of Randolph, Tucker and Preston counties, where more than two feet of snow fell in blizzard conditions.
Within 30 minutes of Greg Titus’ arrival to snow he had only seen in movies and postcards, the division supervisor and his chainsaw crew began working with the National Guard to clear a road to a water tower in Tunnelton, a West Virginia town of 300 residents.
“They restored water supply, helped get electric crews access, and were overall great help,” said Captain Donnie Weaver of the West Virginia National Guard at Camp Dawson, where Titus’ crew was based. “Without their help, we’d still have only 40 to 50 percent of our secondary roads open.“
Crews in all three counties cleared more than 200 miles of road.
It’s that type of work that attracted Tony Farmer from the Service’s Southeast Regional Office to the Red Team, a “type 1” overhead team that manages people and equipment for the most complex incidents.
An information technology specialist at home and on the team, Farmer said, “I enjoy working with people and being a part of the service of what we do in this country.”
Although the Red Team was one of two teams established in 1985 in the Southern Area fire management geographic area, members are from local, state and federal agencies from other parts of the country, including the Northeast. Catherine Hibbard, an employee of the Service’s Northeast Regional Office in Hadley, Mass., is a Red Team public information officer.
The team is led by Tony Wilder, incident commander and fire management officer at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.
“I’m proud of what my team has accomplished,” Wilder said. “I’m also proud that my agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, supports team members who step up to help fellow Americans when they need it most.“
Submitted by Catherine J. Hibbard, wildlife refuge and public affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.