By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief
From sunup to well after sundown, NW fire service training adjuncts were putting the lessons they teach in the classroom to work, following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
NW special operations adjunct instructor Bill VerSteeg deployed to Kingwood, Texas, Aug. 28 with Texas Task Force 2, he said.
“I got the call, and we headed out at about seven o’clock at night,” VerSteeg said.
In Kingwood, VerSteeg and his team helped with rescues for the first few days and then spent the rest of their deployment traveling and assisting other departments in impacted areas to answer the backlog of 911 calls, he said.
“We’ve been maybe getting a couple of hours of sleep a night,” VerSteeg said. “We’re having to move from one location to another.”
The team started working when the sun came up, and they worked all day until well after dark. Then they changed and headed to the next location where they’re needed, he said.
VerSteeg’s deployment was for seven days, and at the end of it his task force had to leave, he said.
NW boat operator and squad officer Joe Short deployed with Texas Task Force 1 Aug. 24 before Harvey made landfall, he said.
“We’ve been doing water rescues,” Short said. “We started in Corpus and then made our way to Houston.”
While the adjuncts are down south helping with the relief effort, their classes were being covered by other instructors who weren’t deployed.
“Classes don’t get suspended. They call Mike Noyes and tell him they’re deployed, and he’ll cover it,” NW boat operator and squad officer Joe Short said.
Noyes, a NW special operations adjunct instructor, ensured all of the adjuncts deployed had their classes covered while they’re gone.
“All of our instructors are full-time firefighters,” Noyes said. “Teaching is a part-time job for their off days.”
Most firefighters on the task forces from North Texas did their swift water training and structural collapse training on NW Campus, he said.
“Our swift water program, because of the simulator we have, there’s not another one like it in the country,” he said. “We draw people from all over for that class.”
In addition to the NW adjunct instructors, NW alumnus Elisa Marquis deployed last week with the Coast Guard to Port Aransas. Unlike the adjunct instructors serving on Texas task forces, Marquis doesn’t know how long she’ll be helping out with the relief effort in Southeast Texas.
“We’re doing POD work— it’s point of distribution,” she said. “We’re getting everybody ice, water, wipes, diapers, things that they need until they get everything fixed up.”
The most impactful thing for Marquis has been how positive people are, she said.
“The fact that everybody’s been so positive, even the people that have lost everything, they’re keeping a smile on their face and just trying to push through life,” she said.