MOREHEAD CITY- “Upbeat but tired”, “Same people there every day”, “Putting in long hours” and “Very appreciative” are some of the phrases used to describe the multitude of firefighters from different departments scattered across Carteret County responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
The county was hit directly by Hurricane Florence, causing a great deal of widespread flooding and wind damage, including to many roofs. At North River Volunteer Fire Department in Beaufort, Fire Chief Alton Davis and his crew are working to help get their community back on their feet.
“It’s all about family and giving support to the community,” Chief Davis said. “We are all working together and everything is connected. We pull together and help our neighbors; that’s just what we do.”
Lieutenant John Smith, a 26 year veteran of North River Volunteer Fire Department, said “We’ve got a job to do, Chief Davis and Assistant Chief (Anna M. Wilson) have been staying at the fire department every night and working every day. The Forest Service has been right here with us, helping and asking ‘what else do you need’ every time they visit. We really feel loved, and the community is very grateful for all the help.”
At a recent visit to North River Fire Department, Division Supervisor Trent Duncan and his distribution crew delivered an 18-wheeler truck full of bagged ice. Per usual, they stopped in to the station and asked what else they needed. Assistant Fire Chief Wilson put the guys to work organizing and sweeping.
“If it wasn’t for you all, we would have to spend all day working on supplies and cleaning,” Wilson said.
A pickup with a cooker pulls up, John and Annie Jefferies from Washington D.C. who have come to provide the station and the community with 600 chicken and collard dinners. John Jefferies, a former Coast Guard culinary specialist, has a house in Carteret County that was affected by the storm. He figured when he and his wife came down to check on the house that they could also do something for the community.
“When we got to the house it was much worse than we expected, but we still wanted to help out the community. Before we left DC, we did some fundraising and got some supplies together. A buddy stationed here in the Coast Guard is gathering more supplies and my brother is on the way,” Jeffries said.
Being in the military, Jeffries knows what brotherhood is all about, “it’s everyone coming together all the time, but especially in a time of need.” Community members were honking their horns in gratitude as they were driving by.
Tyler Myers, Assistant County Ranger in Buncombe County knows all too well about first responders banding together to help those in need. “This assignment has really been eye-opening for me. I’ve never been on a hurricane incident before, and this dispatch has become a very personal experience. We’ll go to the local fire departments and folks will give us hugs every time we go. Many of these folks came to help us in the mountains during the fall fires of 2016, so to be able to return the favor is the least I can do.”
In 2016, scores of fire department crews from all across North Carolina flocked to the western part of the state to aid in fighting a multitude of wildfires spanning several counties, including Buncombe. The call to serve is no different for Hurricane Florence recovery. According to Myers, “no matter what brings us all together, we’ll be there lending a helping hand. That’s just what we do.”