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Volunteer recovery

Local residents help those in need during, after storms

September 18, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

Since Tropical Storm Irene hit the area in late August, volunteers have responded to the call for help.

No one has to tell Fort Johnson Volunteer Fire Company Chief Alden Miller how bad the recent flooding was.

Miller said the company got about 40 calls for service in the three days after Irene hit. While they mostly had to pump out basements, they spent a great deal of time immediately after Irene came through taking care of fallen trees and branches.

Article Photos

Mohawk Volunteer Fire Department
firefighter Chuck McSpirit operates the controls on a firetruck at the Fonda Fair during clean-up efforts Aug. 30. The fair only missed a couple days due to flooding from?Tropical?Storm?Irene. Jeff Dufel, the fair’s general manager, said volunteers provided a lot of help cleaning up the fairgrounds. He noted the fair would not have been able to open as soon as it did if not for the Mohawk Volunteer?Fire Department. The department supplied a tanker truck to help wash out the grounds.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

"I've been here 49 years and I've never seen so many calls," he said.

Not even the fire company escaped unscathed from the flooding. The company's fire station #1 flooded, with 3 and 1/2 feet of water infiltrating the building. It was so bad, Miller said, the company will have to replace the truck room floor.

However, he noted that compared to the damage homeowners and even people in other parts of Montgomery County suffered, what they dealt with was not so bad.

Miller said the Fort Johnson Village Board and the residents were very understanding about the amount of what the volunteers faced. Some people even brought the firefighters food to eat during their shifts.

"We are very appreciative," he said.

Traffic control

Chief Jd Downing of the Glen Volunteer Fire Department said his volunteers had to do a lot of traffic control after Irene, when the Thruway had to be closed and some travelers were rerouted through the town of Glen.

While they were able to set up a rotation for the volunteers, he said, the hours got to be pretty long. Sometimes they would be out there for hours just to deal with one driver from out-of-state who was looking to get to Buffalo or Boston or some point in between.

"[Traffic control] was very overwhelming," he said.

The historic level of flooding on the Schoharie Creek damaged four houses in the town and destroyed one, Downing said. The level of flooding meant the volunteers assisted people with a voluntary evacuation. That was a new experience for the department, he said, but things went according to a plan developed well ahead of time.

Downing said the volunteers did an excellent job. He noted some of the volunteers not only worked the Sunday Irene hit, they also worked Monday and Tuesday. Some of them even took time off from work to help out.

"They spent time away from their own families, their jobs, to help out," he said.


Life Christian Center Church in Johnstown and River of Jubilee Church in Sprakers have provided assistance to residents of the Schoharie Valley that were devastated by the flooding from Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

Both churches have been training volunteers and collecting donations of cleanup supplies for flood victims.

William Emmons, the pastor at Life Christian Center Church, said the church always has tried to help in ways that benefit more than just church members. It all goes back to acting and following the example set by Jesus Christ, he said.

The training involves telling volunteers how to handle certain situations they may encounter, Emmons said. The work can involve situations many people may not be used to, he said, such as dealing with dead animals or seeing black mold in a home.

The volunteers also are given a list of supplies to bring, such as hand sanitizer and a face mask. If the volunteers don't stay healthy, he noted, they will not be in a position to help others.

The 30 to 35 volunteers who have done work so far did tasks ranging from helping flood victims find their personal belongings to tearing out walls that were ruined by the flooding.

While the work has focused on cleanup so far, it will likely shift to construction at some point.

"[The work] will go on for months," he said.

The churches also have helped coordinate the distribution of supplies to flood victims, including canned goods, garbage bags, sweeper brooms and bleach.

To make a donation of money or supplies or to sign up as a volunteer, call Life Christian Center Church at 762-1674 or River of Jubilee at 332-1427. For more information, see the River of Jubilee page on Facebook.



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