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Upper Pine fire sends assistance to Hurricane Harvey victims

Two crew members make 1,000-mile trip in ambulance to Texas

As thousands of relief workers descend on Texas for what’s being called the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, a small unit from Southwest Colorado will be among the ranks.

On Friday, two crew members from the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District set out in an ambulance to help aid the more than 6 million people hit by Hurricane Harvey, which has brought devastating amounts of rain along the Gulf Coast.

“This is going to be 10 times worse than (Hurricane Katrina),” Upper Pine Fire Chief Bruce Evans said.

According to Evans, the fire district is part of American Medical Response, a private, national ambulance company that provides strike teams to natural disasters around the country.

American Medical Response has a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief workers and ambulances in times of critical disasters when more resources are needed.

Evans said the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District signed up with the service in March, and ever since has been preparing for what was expected to be a more-active-than-normal hurricane season.

Upper Pine got the call late Thursday night. The next morning, Wil Shoesmith and Pete Stockwell were on the road to make the nearly 1,000-mile journey.

Evans said the pair first arrived at a staging area in San Antonio and were immediately named strike team leaders, which put them in charge of a team of five other ambulances.

The crew was moved to a staging area Saturday closer to Houston, about 20 miles west.

But the situation quickly deteriorated and they had to pull back to the town of Katy, about 30 miles from the heart of Houston.

“They got 60 patients dropped on them right away” Evans said Tuesday night. “They pretty much spent all night last night (Monday night) ferrying those patients out of the flood zone.”

Evans said Shoesmith is a medical unit leader and Stockwell is a wildland engine boss for Upper Pine River Fire Protection District.

Both brought personal floatation devices and ropes.

Rain is expected to continue for days in the Houston area, the nation’s fourth largest city. The city has already received 50 inches of rain.

“This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced,” the National Weather Service said in a tweet on Sunday.

Nineteen deaths have been reported since Harvey made landfall Friday. On Monday, Texas Gov.

Greg Abbott activated the state’s entire National Guard, which has about 12,000 service members.

Evans said FEMA and AMR pay the district for its services.



Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams urged residents who want to donate to relief efforts to avoid scams by using www.CheckTheCharity.com before donating.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner set up the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which can be accessed at www.ghcf.org

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