September 12, 2017 10:31:59 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
Specialized crews from The Golden Triangle have arrived in storm-battered Florida and more help is on the way.
Columbus Fire and Rescue dispatched a three-man crew to Lake City in north central Florida on Sunday morning while two crews from 4-County Electric Power Association are scheduled to leave for the north central Florida cities of Gainesville and Jacksonville area Wednesday morning.
Hurricane Irma, which plowed through the state over the weekend, has left an estimated 6.2 million people without electricity.
CFR sent Battalion Chief Scott Swain, Capt. Wes Mims and Engineer Marco Rodriguez.
"They are members of the Task Force 2, which covers central Mississippi," CFR spokesman Anthony Colom said. "Columbus has been the lead department in the task force for some time now so they're ready when needed."
The three CFR firefighters will be part of up to 25 firefighters, Colom said.
"Usually what they do are overland search and rescues, help evacuate people, things of that nature," Colom said. "Really, they can do anything that requires technical rescues, such as swift water rescues."
Meanwhile, the two 4-County crews will begin working on herculean task restoring electricity.
"As of right now, we have a group of 15 ready to go," said 4-County spokesman Jon Turner. "They are two seven-man crews with one floater. These are heavy construct crews, so they'll be taking four bucket trucks and two derrick digger trucks along with a couple of fleet trucks. Their main duties will be building power lines."
Turner said so far, the list of those who will leave for Florida on Wednesday includes Eric Yarbrough, Kyle Elam, Jason Sellers, Jimmy Stewart, Curtis Collier, Rowdy Rigdon, Justin Marlow, Brian Glusenkamp, Chance Ingram, Derrick Brumfield, Wesley Champion, Dedrick Stevenson, Justin White, Justin Murphy and Jonathan Edwards.
"They'll stay probably about a week," Turner said. "They usually rotate out with other crews from other areas. Depending on what is needed, there's a possibility we could send more crews later as needed."
Anthony Miller, the 4-County manager of operations, said his company, along with other electric co-ops in the area, are waiting for the remnants of Hurricane Irma to leave move through the Golden Triangle before sending crews to Florida.
"There's a chance that Irma may cause some issues here late Monday through Tuesday," Miller said. "As much as we are ready to help the people in Florida, we need to make sure that our members are taken care of before we send men and equipment hundreds of miles away."
When 4-County crews deploy, they are expected to be assigned to Clay Electric Cooperative. Clay Electric is located in North-central Florida, headquartered in Keystone Heights just east of Gainesville. The co-op has about 170,000 meters and reports say that more than 150,000 of them are without power as of mid-Monday morning.
Todd Gale, general manager of Columbus Light and Water, said his department does not have any immediate plans but is available to help if requested.
"The way it works is co-ops work with co-ops and municipalities work with other municipalities," Gale said. "We have a network that we work through, usually through the American Public Power Association or the Tennessee Valley Power Association. Right now, we're waiting to see what we might need to respond to locally as the weather moves through our area, but we're certainly open to responding if anyone makes a request."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]