Firefighter aids in hurricane recovery


A Philadelphia firefighter recently spent six days in Louisiana with Mississippi’s Urban Search and Rescue team in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura witnessing “catastrophic” devastation but no loss of life.

Philadelphia Fire Department Capt. Jeff Franks deployed with the Mississippi Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. Chief Pierce Clark and other firefighters have been on missions with the task force in the past and Clark was reporting their Louisiana actives on social media.

The state team was staging this week in anticipation of Hurricane Sally’s landfall on or near the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Franks said they had 27 participants in Louisiana in late August when Laura hit, largely firefighters and EMTs, working with similar task forces from Florida and Louisiana.

Franks said that they were gone six days from Aug. 26 to Sep. 1. They spent the first night in Baton Rouge and spent the rest of their stay in quaint Iowa, Louisiana — locally pronounced “eye'-oh-way” heading south into Cameron Parish each day.

Cameron Parish, “the Gateway to the Gulf,” is in southwest Louisiana bordering Texas. Cameron Parish is the largest parish by landmass but has one of the smallest populations at around 7,000.

Franks said that the area is mostly fishing camps and structures used by the fishing and oil industries. He said that his team encountered no dead bodies or serious injuries but that the damage done to structures was still severe.

“It is pretty sparsely-populated and had largely been evacuated,” Franks said. “We encountered no loss of life but the damage was still catastrophic.”

He said they largely worked doing reconnaissance in areas that had not been searched around some small communities called Grand Chenier and Holly Beach. Franks said there is still work to be done and he hopes that their mission contributed to making these communities whole in the future.

“Thankfully, we did not encounter any death or serious injuries but we were rezoning some of the hardest-hit areas,” Franks said.

The task force released a statement shortly after their return.

“We are thankful for the opportunity we had to serve the state of Louisiana with their response to Hurricane Laura,” A task force leader wrote on their Facebook page. “It was an honor to serve alongside the men and women of FLTF4, SCTF1, and LATF2. All Mississippi Task Force Members have returned safely to their home base. The residents of Louisiana are in our thoughts and prayers as they recover.”

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