Small Town Volunteer Fire Department Takes on Hurricane Rita

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In times of crisis, the best and worst of mankind is brought out, but in the case of the Buna Volunteer Fire Department the best is what the town of Buna, Texas got.

In the wake of Hurricane Rita, the small Texas town of Buna, located 36 miles north of Beaumont, was not going to sit idly by and wait for the likes of FEMA, Red Cross or the Salvation Army to come to their aid. The Buna Volunteer Fire Department has been working day and night since Rita made landfall making sure that people in the area who need help get help.

Their work began early Sat morning as the hurricane was blowing in. They were involved in a tremendously dangerous and heroic rescue. Fire Chief Steve Litton and his men responded to a call at a church activity center where 14 people were trapped. With winds blowing in excess of 120 mph, they loaded up their fire trucks and a front-end load tractor and made their way to the church. The tractor was brought along to clear trees, light poles and traffic lights from the road so that the trucks could make it through. When they arrived at the church activity center, two of the walls had been blown off by the Category 3 hurricane force winds and all of the people were huddled together in corner. In order to ensure the safety of the people in the building, the firefighters had to position the tractor against one of the walls to prevent the structure from caving in. Once secured, the people were loaded onto the truck and taken to safety. This would be just the start of their tremendous efforts.

Later in the morning, once the worst of the storm had passed and all of their communication lines had been severed, the fire department began working on clearing all of the trees and debris from the city streets so that rescue groups would be able to make it into the city and people could be rescued. After spending the day clearing the streets with out any contact from outside of the town, county workers made their way into town and took over the clean-up process.

The Buna Volunteer Fire Department then switched their main focus on survival since the town was without utilities. They immediately assembled all of the gas powered barbeque grills they could and started cooking food for the people who could not make it out of the area. They received food donations from citizens, schools, grocery stores and restaurants, whose refrigerated foods would go to waste unless they were cooked, and have been cooking around the clock in order to feed the 5000 people a day who cannot feed themselves.

In addition to providing food to the people, the fire department also initiated the set-up of a triage in order for the people of Buna and the surrounding area to receive the medical attention they needed until the proper facilities could get up and running, which the fire department also had a hand in. Fire Chief Steve Litton spearheaded the effort to get generators into the town so that the medical facilities could have power to further treat sick or injured citizens that were sleeping on the ground and on top of ambulances and cars.

The town has not been completely on it’s own. It has received aid from FEMA in the form of water and ice, but aside from FEMA, the Fire Department has been the sole driving force for disaster relief in Buna.

The town of Buna is not the only small town devastated by the hurricanes that is struggling to recover, but an example of how the American Spirit can prevail in times of crisis. It is a true-life testament to the fact that when men and women pull together miraculous things can happen.

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Casey Coke