Thursday, February 08, 2007

West Hancock Fire and Rescue

From a volunteer out of AZ who toured the FD because of another volunteer who is very partial to WHFR. She is sending this letter out to everyone she can think of. Please help her. This isn't the only fire department in need down there. They are all in similar situations. This will also be the Letter of The Week coming soon for you to send to your local church groups, FDs, county emergency services coordinators.

I just became aware of this situation and wanted to share it with you, as it is critical. I also find it astonishing as we are a year and a half post-Katrina. I am hoping that you can help me rally assistance for these firefighters so that this vital community component can stabilize and rebuild. Please share this with any firefighters, churches, first responder & medical personnel, foundations or individuals you know who may be willing to reach out to this community. They have already lost so much. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any additional questions that you may have:

The West Hancock Fire Rescue is the first responder to 18 miles of US Interstate-10 and is responsible for the emergency response to an industrial port - Port Bienville, in Mississippi – in addition to handling the wide range of emergency calls that come in to assist the residents of both Pearlington and West Hancock County. Pearlington was Ground Zero for Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. The town and its residents lost 100% of their buildings. The neighboring cities in Hancock County were also virtually wiped out, so they cannot help remedy this situation.

West Hancock Fire Rescue is a 100% volunteer department. The doors that they used to knock on for donations are all now gone, although many of the residents remain as they try to rebuild. The fire department is ineligible for grant monies because they do not have the 10% match of funds required to receive grants. It will be two more years before their tax base is rebuilt and they’re eligible for distribution of any local county funds. Meanwhile they have several complex situations they must be prepared for and respond to so that they can be there for their community.

As of today the West Hancock Fire Rescue Department has about a three week supply of fuel left. They have been donated several fire trucks from mid to small sized fire departments throughout the country. They will need assistance in sustaining a fuel supply in order to continue to be able to respond to emergency calls.

These firefighters are also in need of everything from basic response equipment and supplies on up to things such as an extraction tool, Haz Mat suits, a ram and VHF radios. They unfortunately do not have the funds to fix anything that needs even “just a little fixing”. As they stabilize and rebuild they are in need of their firefighter brothers and sisters, paramedics and EMT’s to come to the area and support them in responding to calls, as they have lost more than 60% of their department. They need help with funds to rebuild at least one of their two fire stations which were completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Every department member has lost their own home and struggles to juggle their paying jobs, rebuilding their own home and responding to the needs of a community that has already lost so much.

I know that the men and women of West Hancock Fire Rescue are so grateful for the outreach they have received in the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina. They are determined to move themselves and their community past this situation. The reality is that they are in great need of physical and financial support in order to stabilize and rebuild - in what has now become an extraordinary situation, on top of an extraordinary situation. Today they deploy to their calls out of a trailer with the limited firefighting and rescue equipment that they have.

The immediate priorities of the West Hancock Fire Rescue are as follows. (Any and all support that you are able to provide in remedying this critical situation will be greatly appreciated.)
1- Fuel (gasoline and diesel) – $1,900 at per month x 24 months
2- EMT and Medic Supplies – The needs are various and ongoing until the community & department are stabilized
3- Grant Match Support of $11,000 - Currently they have been approved for a Fire Grant and will remain eligible for only a short while longer unless they are able to provide the “match”. The $11,000 would be the required match to then receive a $110,000 Fire Grant that would be provided to them by the government to buy much needed Fire Safety and Prevention equipment.
4- Firefighting & Personal Safety Equipment – All of there equipment/assets were destroyed and need to be replaced. (Today this Fire Department does not even have one Jaws of Life. As you know this tool is critical to saving lives on Interstate-10 and in places that other serious auto accidents occur Delayed removal of victims from an automobile in a serious accident can literally be the difference between life and death. It will also greatly raise the moral of the department, so that they are not in a situation where they leave scene thinking “If only I’d had a Jaws…”)
5- Fire House Funds – The cost to rebuild the West Hancock Fire Station is $345,000
6- Firefighter, Paramedic & EMT Support – West Hancock Fire Rescue is in need of trained professionals to volunteer come to the area to help them respond to calls, they are currently down to 9 department members who are providing round-the-clock response to all of their calls. This is a Call to Action to all First Responder brothers and sisters everywhere who would be willing to spend a day, a weekend or more down in Pearlington at the West Hancock Fire Rescue. Your presence would be of great physical and emotional help to this department. (Please contact the Department directly via the information on their website - hyperlinked at the top of this page)
Donations can be made directly to the Department. They are a non-profit. Anyone that you know who is interested in helping out, can also contact me via email or phone as indicated below with questions, to request a list of needed supplies or to coordinate support to this department. I have gotten FedEx to agree to assist with free shipping to Pearlington for those willing to donate supplies or equipment to WHFR. Anyone needing help with shipping should contact me directly to facilitate this.

Suzanne Stahl

Cell 602-791-7799
Office Direct 602-787-5356

Pictures of the FD
Articles re: WHFR

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