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chief interview -2-send to alex for web

Mon, 18 Jul 2011|



[MUSIC] We're here at the Joplin Fire Department and we're talking about the events of May 22nd, when a F5 tornado. Tour through the city of Joplin. Virtually destroying some of the city a mile wide path, 14 miles per hour. We can, tremendous devastation and we [UNKNOWN] we talked about the men and women of the Joplin fire department and what an exemplary job they did managing this event. And responding and and the [UNKNOWN] of fire service with the highest. Levels of dedication, passion and integrity, they innovated, they were able to overcome, unbelievable obstacles and perform their tasks admirably. Setting a bar for the rest of the nation in terms of performance of duty and, and dedication, and we're very fortunate to have some time to spend with the Deputy Chief of Operations, James Perkins, whose. Been on the job for 20 years now. >> 22 years. >> And Deputy Chief of Ops. And how many men and women report into the operation's division? >> There are 84 of us on the department total, 82, 84. So 76 are under me. >> Oh, wow. Now if you don't mind, I know it's painful, and if it's too painful dont. >> [LAUGH] >> You don't have to go there, but. Can you walk us through what you were doing, where you were, Sunday evening and, and how it all unfolded for you? >> Yeah, we had been advised that we had the potential of some weather. I knew that, that Chief Reynolds was gonna be attending his son's, son's graduation so I was trying to keep an an eye on the, the weather in coordination with our emergency management director. To try to figure out so that if I needed to interrupt him I would. Watched this one little cell, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger then it started to track East. And it just kept looking more and more ominous as it got close to us. And eventually, I decided to call him, call Chief Randals and tell him you know y-you need to start about getting someplace safe. Because I wasn't sure what it was going to do, but I didn't like the looks of it. I was also listening to a VHF radio to try to pick up any chatter that was going on in the area. I started to hear some chatter, and, then you know, basically all hell broke loose. When we started to hear a lot of chatter, one of the local news stations actually turned their tower cam and pointed due west. I remember distinctly looking at my wife and saying: That's a tornado, and I'll see you next week. And then I just took off. Got my stuff out, and. Headed in. Drove right in, into the heart of this thing. And luckily, we,-, I was on the north side of the storm. But went through hail, rain, The, the wind was incredible. It started to move my car around. And I thought, "Well, this, this isn't good." Then I notice my windshield crack. Then I thought, Well, that's not good.". But eventually we got there when the storm finally let up and I was able to et in here. Then it was just trying to get my head around what had happened. I could hear Chief Reynolds out, he had already gone out to try and do some, surveying. And I could hear him constantly calling: we have viable victims here, we have viable victims there. And it just didn't stop. I literally couldn't get my head around how big this thing was. It was about 45 minutes after I had gotten here when we finally got somewhat of a handle on what we needed to do. And I had understood that I had lost two stations. So that the response capability was gonna be restricted. And then it was just trying to figure out how to best use the resources that we had left. And then from that point, Chief Reynolds and I talked and he said you've gotta get out and go south. And that was the only marching orders I had was get south. I went as far south as I could go on Main street, figuring that it's a tornado, and I've seen tornado damage before, I expected to see roofs down, trees down, and things along those lines. When I got to 20th and Main street, and I came across the 1st building that was collapsed, that's when I thought this is a little bit different. And then the farther south I went, I only went another 4 blocks. But it went from just moderate damage to destruction there, just simply erased. They're no longer there. That's when I realized that, that something significant had happened and, again, I think my original on scene report stated that I was where I was as far south as I could go. And that I needed help. The most miniscule feeling in the world is to get out of your car with your radio and your turnout gear on and realize you have no help. And you have people walking up to you, and they want to know what to do. And that was, that was tough. I was trying to figure out how to. Best serve the folks that had, been paying my salary for 22 years, where at the same time not even knowing if all of my guys had gotten out yet, so you know that, that was kind of tough. >> Wow. Wow. So, you're out at, the heart of the tornado just about where your Main Street, kind of, kind of middle of that 7 mile, or 14 mile stretch it kind of cuts it right in half. So you're standing there by yourself. >> Mm-hm. >> Deploying your troops. What were some of your biggest concerns? I know you had several fires. >> Well, that, yeah, that was the, my major concern was I kept seeing smoke. And it just kept coming from different spots. I wasn't sure how many buildings. [inaudible] Or debris piles, or whatever you wanted to call them, we had burning. But as I started calling for help there, you know, obviously, you could hear, and smell, gas. And you could hear the lines going. And then ultimately, one of the things that, that was a problem was, you know, the water. You know, we had talked earlier about the fact that. You, you don't expect a tornado to cause water shortages but when you have taken out 8,000 structures and all of them are leaking water, it, it drains all your tanks though. So the challenge was we had limited water to fight the buildings that were on fire. Since they were scattered out everywhere, you know, literally the debris piles were only 2 or 3, 5 feet tall at the most. My concern was how far does this go, and if I lose it, how far is it going to go before I can get in front of it. Because the debris was all interconnected, almost like. It's almost like a giant lumber yard on the ground. If people think back to the pictures we've seen, we probably put some pictures into the interview so people can get an idea what you're talking about. So your concern is that a fire can really become a conflagration. >> I was concerned about whether I was going to have the ability to stop this thing. I've got people, I know I've got people in these buildings. Am I going to be able to get to him? You know, are, are the guys going to be able to get there and do what is necessary before the fire gets him? You know, that, that, that was horrifying to me. Was the fact that they had survived the tornado and we're going to lose them in a fire. >> Right. >> Didn't want that to happen, so I was trying to marshal whatever resources I could get. to start gridding it off. >> And I think that's a really important point to get across to people and I never though about it in all the emergency preparedness classes I've taken for earthquakes and floods and tornadoes. You know we've all been to EMI and the other schools. I never recall hearing anyone about the fact if you eliminate a significant amount of structures. Those small water lines, all those small water lines end up being a significant drain on the system so you had basically what you had in your tank to fight. >> Right. >> These fires. >> Yeah. >> Because your hydrogen system is depleted. >> Yeah. >> It's down. >> Trying to fight the fires off of tank water, the major challenge was to try to keep it into the pile that it started it. Or, you know, what's left of the residence, and then trying to be able to get additional trucks in, to, to nurse 'em. That was a problem because of the, all the trees down and the limbs and the debris everywhere, was how many trucks could we actually get in there. Then obviously then you start looking for heavy equipment and, and how are you going to get the heavy equipment in? You know, I know that there were times when, you know, when I would yell for, for heavy equipment and somebody would show up in a Skid Steer. Skid Steers aren't very big, but the guys that were using them that night,. They were some wizards when it came to having the ability to clear streets. It got to a point where we had, I would assign out units to go and then try to get some heavy equipment with them to help clear the way in. >> Right. So you could get past. >> So they could get past. It wasn't just the trees and the houses. It was the car. that, that were just picked up. We had cars on top of buildings. We had cars on top of cars. We had people in the cars. And then trying to best utilize what resources you've got. How many sets of jaws? How many different teams have we got? That was an issue all by itself was trying to coordinate all the. All the folks said they'd come in. >> Right. So you, you had a really great relationship with your surrounding communities. You, years ago you guys, formed major communities that come together and divided up, you called it kinda a super plan. Can you explain that a little bit? >> Well back you know in the post 9/11 world when the state of Missouri got into the homeland security. Response team business. There were four major players in region D. The city of Joplin, the city of Springfield, Branson and Taney county and then Logan Rogers, the whole fire protection district and each one of us had decided that well we all had the same base capacity for hazmat. Each one of us wanted to develop a specialty. [INAUDIBLE] county wanted to go after the, the mass casualty, response capability which we wound up using them up here, in, in that capacity. Rogersville [INAUDIBLE] Rogersville wanted to go after the pure hazmat aspect of it. Springfield wanted to develop their EOD, capabilities. And then what we wanted to focus on was heavy rescue. Having the ability and, and ironically enough we had all planned on you know, we were going to have to go to Branson at some point in time, that's what we thought. Didn't work out that way. They wound up coming to us. But what we did was we didn't fight over the money. We each simply went ahead and picked an area that we thought we could specialize in. That wouldn't interfere with the other ones. And the idea was we'd all come together, if, if the need ever arose. >> So when you were sitting in your car that evening you knew that your friends from Branson were coming. >> Oh, yeah. >> And they were gonna be able to help you with- >> Mm-hm. >> And, and earlier in our conversation we should probably, Let folks know that you and the chief were out and your crews were out recovering a lot of deceased. >> Mm-hm. >> And basically was identifying where they were, leaving them there. So the Branson team's job was probably to come and then start setting up the temporary morgues and tagging them. >> Well, they, yeah, they came rolling in with the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, the DMAT. They are a large component of Missouri's de-map, we wound up using them for that. They were probably more in tune with the EMS folks, and again, I knew Springfield would come in, they've got heavy rescue equipment aswell. I knew they were coming. The guys from Northwest Arkansas, and then Northeast Oklahoma. Were absolutely wonderful to deal with. They, they came running at a minutes notice. >> Folks out of Bentonville >> Yeah >> and then Rogers and >> Yeah, yeah. >> Jeff Rogers and his guys. >> We've had a little border communication with them. Because part of the Wal-Mart enterprise is on the Missouri side so from a homeland security standpoint we had some responsibility for it. But they, they were wonderful to work with came in just folded right into the management system that we had established and didn't have a single issue with em. >> So how does a guy you're the officer chief, you, your family was okay? >> Oh, yeah. >> And, and, and your property was? >> Yeah I live up north so didn't have a single issue. >> So you knew your family was safe. So now you've got you're, you're towns been. Torn in half and you've got members affected. >> Mm-hm. >> At least their property's been affected. And you've got all your, all hands working. >> Mm-hm. >> And people coming in. What did you do? How did you, how did you manage that influx? Cuz when we got here Monday morning it was, it was just what we would say, the expression is it was **** and elbows. Everybody. >> Mm-hm. >> Everybody was working. There's nobody standing around looking for what to do, everybody was working, so how did you. . how do you eat that elephant? >> Well, again, you eat the elephant one bite at a time. And it probably took us between four and six hours to get a real good handle on what was going on. That's the one thing they leave out in any incident management class is the time line and, and, how it's gonna play out. You know, you're taught in ICS 400 how to deal with volunteers. Well, okay, on day 2. This was happening day one, actually day zero plus 45 minutes we had them coming in. It took us about four to six hours to get the USC up, established, to where we could start capturing the resources, setting up staging areas. While we were doing that as quickly as we could, it didn't make a lot of sense to stage, because everybody was needed, so it wasn't until four to six hours later that we started to get the staging area set up, where we could catch them, tell, you know, anybody that was on their way in. This is where we need you to go. And then from the EOC we'll go ahead and, and task you out from there. That is, once we got to that point, everything kind of settled down and it worked a whole lot smoother. We were able to keep track of folks. We knew where they were. We had a rough idea of how many we had. I know that on the second day. We push 750 people through our checking and send them out into the field. The second night, you know, we were doing round the clock operations and the second night, we had a pretty big influx and we had some, some strong storms coming in. We had then some issues with lightning. Some of the folks getting struck. We lost a police officer from Riverside because of that. So obviously at that point, you know, everything has to stop. That is a hard decision to make is to look at 200 plus people who want to get out there and help and tell them no I can't send you out there because you're. More valuable to me alive than, you know, if you're dead then you're part of the problem not part of the solution. So we, I had to stop them, and I had to wait until the weather cleared. When the weather cleared I had made a phone call down to Springfield. My counterpart down in Springfield Fire Department, Dave Pennington, was an absolute gem of a guy to work with, because I called him up and said David this is what I've got. I need some help. And drop what he was doing and drove up here. When he got here, came walking in and I said I got 197 people for you. This is the task and he said can I have them all. I said yep and he said okay. Three hours later he was back in my USC setting down tires about 3:00 in the morning. Said we got that cleared. He said my suggestion is that we wait until morning and then we'll re-group. And then they just, at that point it gave us enough of a breather that we'd gotten the initial tasks done. But we had gotten as many of the surface, folks as we could. And then we could develop a more through plan. >> Well and a lot of folks that came in early helped with that surface. I think that the, the chief made a great comment over lunch, he said that. Your wife asked you, were you trained for this? >> Mm-hm. >> And, and your response was? >> Yeah. I, I, I had, you know, received training, but the funny part about it is I don't think I used anything more than ICS 200 in the, in the initial responses. It's all single company operations. That's all it is. >> And it's everything we learned from day one >> Yep, mm-hm. It's everything from day one, you know, the bigger the incident, I think the more simplistic the, the planning has to be, because you know you can make a really great plan that is, is not executable, or you can make a pretty good plan that you can execute and then tweak on the fly and that's what we had to do. We were making this up as we went along >> . So you would, like every city, you would identify your target hazards and your areas of concern and, unfortunately for you, several of them, the, the nursing home and the hospital were, were hit. >> Mhm. >> So, talk a little bit about how you prioritized, cuz at some point you started to. Weigh resources more heavily than one point or another. >> My plan, and I always one of, of four different operational posts that was out there. When I got to where I was at, as far as how I was gonna, to try to develop and deploy the resources,. the, the first captain that came up to me, I'll never forget this, he said what do you, what do you want done, I said, and I pointed west and I said go that way. And he said what do you want me do do and I said you'll figure it out. I said go, just start scouting, and the whole point was I wanted to get some, some recon out there >> Right >> Cuz I still didn't have any idea how big this thing was. I got to get them out there to start telling me where I'm gonna need resources. Unfortunately, my scout team got stuck when they ran into the nursing home. They had multiple deceased, we also had lots of folks in there that we could get out. That wound up becoming one of the resource sponges as I was calling them, they were a resource sponge, because any time I got resources available I'd ask them, do you need any more help? And they would always say yeah, so I would just keep sending them out. The more resources that would show up, the more I would send over there. We had 35 or 40 people digging throughout the course of the night, just trying to recover. >> Can't imagine, I saw the building, and you can't imagine that anybody survived in that building. It's just amazing. You know, there's often the question that we ask in the fire service, you know, is that survivable? You know, now what do they call it? The rescue profiling, right? >> Yeah, rescue profile. >> And you've pulled dozens of folks out of that nursing home. >> Mm-hm. >> Alive. >> Mm-hm. >> But, from the hill top, where Mark and I went. >> and looking down at it from St. John's Church >> St. Marys. >> from St. Mary's Church, you wouldn't think anybody would come out of that building. >> No. No. >> It's just a miracle that anyone came out of that building. And it was - - your crews were still on it 10 o'clock the next morning. Still going through it. >> Yup. >> Because the. The, the descriptions that you gave from you and your men, it's not a collapse, it's not a collapse in the traditional sense of a collapse is it? >> No, you know, collapse rescue, you learn to do void searches and things like that and you understand well maybe we're gonna have a lean to or a, this wasn't a pancake, this, this was. This was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I mean it was just smeared is the way it looked. That was the best way to describe it was everything was just smeared. The debris was just scattered and smeared out. So there weren't tradition voids. I mean we were looking - - the guys were looking in between. In around, you know, beds and bed frames and cars just trying to, to figure out where, you know, where folks could be, you know, [INAUDIBLE] >> And, and your construction was, it ran the gambit. >> Oh, yeah. >> You had type one, >> Mm-hm. >> The hospital right there all the way down to masonry homes that were built in the 30s and 40s. >> Right. >> And everything in between, fast food restaurants. You, you had everything under the sun to deal with. >> Yep. You know you, you talked about, you know, as far as target hazards, you know you can deal with one target hazard, but when you're in an area where all of your target hazards have been hit, how do you prioritize that? You know, it realistically wound up becoming a first come, first serve kind of thing and it wasn't that that's what we planned to do. that's just how it worked out. As the crews would walk out they would go until they ran into something and they would stop. From a management standpoint, you've got to keep pushing beyond that. I've got to keep pushing resources out past them cause there's a lot of area that needs to be done. But it was simply there was nothing more technical than a grid search. And it's just starting and drawing squares and trying to tell people how to get to where they're going. >> So, you had your, all your folks obviously were working from the minute it hit until, until basically they couldn't work any longer. What were your operational periods like? How did you break it up chief? >> Well, yeah. The fi-, probably the first three days it was, that was on operational period. I mean. From the incident management standpoint, we were going in 12 hour operational sections But realistically you know, the folks had, that were out there, were out there. We would try to bring them back at about 7 o'clock and then trade them out. And the biggest mistake I made out of the whole event was not trying to get into some type of a rotation. >> with our folks. I waited probably a day or so longer than I should have to put them on a 36 hour rotation to where I could get some sense of normalcy back, but you know, >> That's hindsight though. >> Yeah. >> One of the things that's important is that your folks. Know the town and they know which houses have basements, they know what school. They knew and that insider knowledge is almost invaluable. I mean you can bring in all the well intentioned folks you want from around the area but no one, Chief Grant said during lunch said you know I would have told someone that's on the corner near the Arby's. The Arby's was gone. >> Mm-hm >> Now you only know that if you're, you're a Joplinite, or Joplonian or, whatever you, whatever the word is. >> Joplinite is what they use. >> Joplinite? You're a Joplinite. So that's understandable, you know, and everybody. It, it was the right decision at the time, and it worked out well. So, I would, I would, I would say that I don't think think it was a mistake. It, it may seem like you pushed them a little hard, but I don't think you could have gotten them to leave. >> Well, they, yeah that was the issue. Was, was that you would 'em to go lay down and, and they would all look at you, you know, to a person and say no, I've got things to do. The most striking thing is that the. I remember trying to get one of the station two crews. They were the first station that go destroyed just geographically. They got hit before four did. But they wouldn't leave until they had dug their truck out. >> Wow. >> They refused to leave until the got the Engine out of the bay. >> Wow. >> And. >> Part of the team. It's a crew member. >> Yep. Absolutely. We're not gonna leave anybody behind. Right. >> And they, they wouldn't lay down. You know, I just trying to get them to lay down but you couldn't. And it wasn't just, you know, it wasn't just our guys. It, it was everybody that came in. You would try to get them to, to take a rest break, and they just wouldn't do it. They had things to do. >> Now I know, there was a lot of this, this regional teams, your, your, your, your four. Primary partners all showed up fairly quickly and a lot of the regional fire departments came in and you had Missouri task force 1. >> Yep. >> 'Cause they're fairly close by. >> Yep. >> And they were here within about 16 hours or so and set up so you had some, some good support >> Uh-huh. >> Tell us about how it progressed from there, in other words. Now you know you've got a 14 mile swath >> Hm-mm. >> It's a half mile wide. How, how'd go from there? What was, what was, what was the things that you were, you proud of stuff, and, there's an exemplary deployment, it really was? >> Probably the thing you know, that we're most proud of was the fact that we were able to get a handle. On, you know, just what was going on and being able to bring in resources and I know there were a couple of time that I apologized to Task Force One and, and the St. Louis County folks when they came in and when they called me and said they were an hour out and that they had 120 folks in 60 some vehicles. Okay, form a staging standpoint, where do you put 64 vehicles you know, in a town that's already half destroyed? That, that was comical, actually. You know it's like 2:00 in the morning and I'm like, I'm way too tired for this. >> [LAUGH] >> But you know, being able to bring these guys in, and I again, I apologize, because I felt like I was tasking them underneath of what their capabilities were especially task force one. You know, they're, you know, this is the big FEMA team that goes to these big heavy buildings that are destroyed. Well. We didn't have any heavy buildings that were destroyed. What we were, other than, you know, Home Depot and Wal-Mart. But the destruction out there was so catastrophic that, you know, really I wasn't sure they were going to be able to be used to the, the ability they felt they were, you know, capable of. But the ability to bring in all these different resources from all across the country because it just kept getting further and further out especially when we were using dog teams. But the transition from, you know, hear-scent dogs that are designed to find live folks instead of cadaver dogs. We were bringing in dogs from Tennessee, Indiana. Texas, you know, there are all part of the [UNKNOWN] forces to bring them in. We were bringing them in for, you know, over a week. We managed to get, when you look at the damage path we were capable of going back and forth seven times, clearing the grids. We went from one end to the other turn around started and came back the other way. That was a huge huge accomplishment. And we had been through every inch of the damage path at least six times. At least six times. >> Wow. >> Over the course of the, the days following. >> Wow. >> And threw a presidential visit in there and every other visiting **** and Terry that wanted to come by and take a look. That was what we're most proud of. >> Now, what would you recommend, I know you're doing it here but what would you recommend other cities. Midwestern cities that are prone to floods, fires, tornadoes, [UNKNOWN] >> Acknowledge the fact that it can happen, since 2003 we've had. Three tornadoes come through the area. 2003 we had one in Carl's Junction, it was an F3, then the F4 that went through Pitcher and then to the middle of Newton county, and then this one. You have to acknowledge the fact that it can happen here and that, you know, the planning process. You actually have to pay attention. Make contacts, get past, you know, the, the petty arguments as far as territorialism, and understand that everybody's gonna be committed, and everybody's gonna be working. You have one common goal, and that is to provide the service to the folks that pay your paycheck. You have to understand and plan for that and know that it can happen. >> Now would you recommend one of the things that I was talking to some of the, my, friends that came up here and they said they brought their packs with them. >> Mm-hm >> And I said. You know. That's a great piece of tradition, that's a midwestern tradition. Is that Midwestern firefighters always have a pack and in that pack, you've got water, snickers bars, peanut butter, whatever you would need to keep you going for 72 hours. And it's just your pack and you take it with you everywhere you go. It's, it's a camper's thing. It's a hunter's thing. It's you know, you could get a blowout in the middle of the woods, have to hike out, but you're fine, you've got three days worth of water and food. Do you recommend that for? >> Oh, yeah. The funny part about that is knowing that the task courses that were coming in would be operating with that, you know, that, mindset, I didn't really think about where I was going to bunk them down. I figured that they would basically make camp and that they would be fine and I had a couple of days to worry about that. I was more concerned about all the volunteers that were coming in. All the, the folks that >> well intentioned >> yeah, that showed up in flip flops and had a chainsaw and there were some spooky folks that showed up by the way. [LAUGH] >> I'm picturing a guy in flip flops with a chainsaw. That's a good, that's a good visual right there. >> Go back and look at the footage, you'll find 'em. They were out there. But I, I wasn't worried about them. So that when somebody else had, had made arrangements to, to bed down all the responders. And it was a good thing was Missouri Southern had just, the classes were over. The dorms were, were standing empty. Southern opened their, their doors and, and brought them all in. We bunked them all down in there. Which was, you know, completely ahead of my timeline. I was just completely floored when they had actually thought that through, and I thought woah, and you know, because I knew that the folks coming in would be self sustained. They would be able to take of themselves for a couple of days and I, I you know, I had a little bit of time to figure out where to put them. >> When you think of the experience that you went through, using skid loaders. really, you know, we were out and we saw the fellows from. They're with the orange truck, the Aslab guys, the As, >> Oh, >> Asflob, their the tree service, or. >> hm. >> The nationwide tree service. >> hm. >> And then you realize how critical those guys are. >> Yeah. Absolutely. >> Cause who else can do that as, as quickly and as effectively as those fellows cause that's what they do. >> Mm-hm. >> That's the, the. That's their. >> Yeah >> Primary mission. You know, we fight fire and. >> Mm-hm. >> With these guys and, and they were all over the place. I mean, they were here. And >> Yep. >> Just, when you think about the relationships that you need to establish today. Not. Not on Monday morning you need to >> Right >> You, they, they were all, and you could tell they were all in place here in Joplin Sunday night before this ever happened. >> I think the one first response agency that gets overlooked, because I had this conversation with our public works director, when he pointed it out to me that they were every bit as much a part of the first response as anybody else was. And it wasn't until we had that conversation. I thought about when you know, you are absolutely right. You know, wi, without the [UNKNOWN] loaders, without the backos and, and without the other heavy equipment, we can't do anything. >> You weren't going anywhere. >> You know, I, you know, that's, that is an invaluable relationship to have is to, you know, have. The ability to sit and talk to, you know, your public works folks. And talk to 'em intelligently and in with the respect that's, you know, that's due them. Because without them there's not much you can do, you know, a big shiny fire truck will only go so far until you. You know, meet a 200 year oak, old oak tree that's not gonna give. And you can't push it you know. The chrome and the gold leaf isn't gonna make it go. It's not intimidated. >> And, and our roof saws and our K-12s are >> Yeah. >> just interesting. >> Yes, just very interesting. >> Because they don't have that gut through cut that >> Mm-hm. >> the, and the fellow who gets out and he's got that three foot blade on that >> Mm-hm. >> real tree rig >> Yep. >> and knows how to use it is gonna get through that thing. >> Mm-hm. >> We were watching him. Mark and I were just >> Mm-hm. Thoroughly impressed, you know that? Guys were moving trees out of the way as fast as you or I would hook up a car and, and drag it out of the way. >> Yeah, they were, they were going great guns and they got the, we had the streets open and our public works crew and all the help they had were phenomenal. We had the streets virtually open to where we could pass through almost all of em inside of two days. To where we can actually get up and down the streets. >> [LAUGH] >> And that's the side streets included. >> Now, you have an opportunity now to rebuild two stations. I know you were planning on building station six also >> Mhm. >> So, how does this devastation affect your, mindset going into that. Cuz that, that's gonna all. That, that landscape is gonna look somewhat different. >> Yeah >> It's gonna come back, but it's gonna look different. >> Right. It's gonna be significantly different. I get, the first question that we have to ask ourselves is that station two was built in, in 1982, ironically twenty [INAUDIBLE]. Twenty-seven years. No, 81 or 82, but it was open, it opened on May 23rd of 1982. It was open, you know, that many years and odd day. The problem is is that, what is the demographics of this city look like. >> Right. >> Are the stations in the right place. Is this an opportunity for us to go back to the drawing board and say okay, do we want to put em here, we have a singularly unique opportunity, with the landscape being redrawn to maybe correct some of the mistakes, of the past, you know, not anything that was overtly done, it's just that, you know, you can only look in a crystal ball and pretend you know where things are gonna go. But neither you nor I know what's gonna happen- >> Right. >> in 20 years. You do the best you can and this is, you know, using your best educated guess Do we have the ability to go back and maybe move the stations to some place perhaps where perhaps we can get better coverage. I ideally would like to put the stations where that they don't line up with each other. >> ttt >> [LAUGH] In case a tornado comes through and I don't lose them both. You know, you can deal with one station down. I know that, that Chief Reynolds and I had this conversation. I can deal with losing one from a response capability, response plan stand point, but losing two absolutely threw a huge wrinkle into what we were doing. >> Wow. And, and it's fascinating cause right now you have a moratorium on building. Yep >> So you're just getting things cleared up. Do you foresee them rezoning or creating, doing something creative with hat big >> No. >> And I don't know how this works, if you get your house destroyed and your mortgage company pays you off, do you still own the land or is. Yeah, they still, they still own the land. Yeah. >> So the homeowner still owns the land. >> Mm-hm. Mm-hm. Yeah, I know that, that, yeah. >> Now are they required to rebuild there, or I guess they could go anywhere they want. >> I don't know. I know that with, with Mitch's house when it was destroyed, you know, he's already looked to go elsewhere. He's gonna move. But he still owns that plot, still owns his land. It's a matter of what he wants to do with it. I mean there are some folks that are in town that are, you know, you've got the rumors that there are speculators in town, you know, buying up pieces. >> Buying up the land. >> Buying up the land. You know, is it going to look different? Yeah. It's going to look significantly different. From a zoning standpoint, I can't really see them doing anything different. It was the majority of it was zoned is is. Residential and what was residential probably stay that way. What was commercial will stay that way. Obviously everything on Range Line, all the you know, stuff up around HOme Depot and, and Wal-Mart those things will remain commercial. And hopefully we can get them back. You know, this, this department lives and dies based on the sales tax. So when you lose a Wal-Mart that puts out the volume that that stores on 15th Street did. That's a huge hit to the local economy. So, when >> The Chief was telling us it's like the fifth largest producing Wal-mart. >> Yes. It's huge. It's always in their top ten. Always. >> Wow. >> so, you know. That's, that's a lot of revenue that we're losing. the, the plan. Or the problem there is is that if we're based off the sales tax. Looking worst case scenario, how long can we sustain the level of, of capability that we have? And hopefully, when everything comes back, and the, the Walmart folks, God love them, have decided that they want to be open by November. And I firmly believe that they will be open by November. Marion ingenuity. They'll get, they'll get her done. >> Yeah. Well, Walgreens, we lost a Walgreens at 20th and Rangeland, right in the heart of the, you know, right in front of, of Home Depot. They came in, salvaged what they could, cleared it off, and it's almost redone. >> Really? >> And they're almost, they're almost done. Yeah. >> The Home Depot? >> Not the Home Depot. Walgreens. >> Walgreens. >> Right in front of it. >> Right, right, right. We saw that. >> And it's, it's all but rebuilt. So, they came in and they cleared that lot off and just started to throw the blocks down. >> So, from an operation stand point, you are the man. What, what are you gonna build into this system going forward? In other words, you, you, you gave two warnings to everybody, you had your crew's [UNKNOWN] down. >> Uh-huh. >> What are you gonna do operationally? Just based upon tornado preparedness for our fellow. And I guess it's no longer Tornado Alley, cuz while I was in Boston two or three weeks ago two towns got leveled by an F4. >> Yeah, I know. We watched it. >> That was, I just felt. I couldn't believe it. Yeah. And they blamed me. They said you're the guy from Oklahoma who just flew in and it's following you. But, you know when I heard tornado, I thought, you know, maybe small twister. >> Really, yeah. Mm-hm. >> It, it devastated two towns. >> Yeah, yes. >> So what would you build into your plans now that you learned from this experience? >> Well obviously, the first thing we're gonna do is put safe rooms in everything. That was one of the challenges. [UNKNOWN] Where do we put 'em? You know, obviously try to find the interior room and all that. And while it worked some of the guys have brought pictures back, were taking pictures looking straight up through the roof. That was disquieting, to realize that we got that close. So we're gonna put safe rooms and everything. Try to, you know. Fortify the buildings as best we can and I know that we had some FEMA engineers come in to look at the disaster area and look at the collapses to try to figure out->> No, no. What are you, what are you going to build? >> Well, if we could put a storm shelter that is capable of surviving an F5. You know, that, that's gonna be a plus. >> Now I was always told, and, we built one in my home and we slide, that if you're, the closer you can get to grade, the better. >> Right. >> So we put ours in ground, in our garage. >> Mm-hm. >> So we go, you know, that's where our safe room is in our home. And that's what we were told. I don't know that could be, >> One of the challenges that we, we came across, and this is one of those things that you think about about three o'clock in the morning when you're sittin' in EOC, is all the folks that had those below grade storm shelters that are now underneath all that debris. >> Debris, right. >> How do they get out? >> Right. >> And have we done a good enough job. And will the dogs pick up on the fact. >> Because you are eight feet below the gro-, ground. >> Yeah, and you've got all the house that's sitting on top of it. Luckily we didn't find anybody in a subterranean vault. So that, that was a plus. But as far as trying to make the stations as safe as we can >> Well, they tell you, you bring your little porta potty down there and >> Yeah. >> My, my wife and I have two boxes of wine. >> There you go. >> There you go. Candle light, there you go. >> [LAUGH]. [LAUGH] >> You know it's a romantic thing. >> It's, it's working for us. [LAUGH] >> I can find a better way to do it, but well ok. >> Well I mean you put some dry goods down there, so you can, you know, crackers and such but, why, you know, to not have one is almost crazy. >> Well the, the guys that, that were at station four, I know for a fact that after the tornado had passed, and they stood and watched as much as the destruction as they could. When they realized that all the trucks were, were destroyed, they literally were tunnelling underneath the debris to get to the trucks, to be able to get hand tools, because they knew they needed hand tools. They got as many hand tools as they could get. And then they ran outside and got in whoever's vehicle wasn't damaged or destroyed. And then they responded out in, in PLB.s. You know they have the same thing in the [UNKNOWN] too. Because there was nothing that they could use. They couldn't physically get out of the stations. You know, that's something not everybody realizes is that we spent probably the first hour of the response with only two of the stations in the mix. Because of the huge influx of calls that were coming into the 911 center, our dispatchers were totally overwhelmed. We utilized some of the guys from station one to go down there, try to help sort through so we could try to get ahead of it, so instead of chasing our tail and reacting, we could, you know, intelligently point ourselves in a direction, so, we had. You know that the first, you know, 45 minutes to an hour until the guys at two and four could get dug out. Only about eight people out there you know, with the trucks that we had available. And then working started to you know, trickle in and we are able to, to formulate a better response plan. >> I tell you, some of the stuff that was heartening, to hear you talk about, it was some of the lessons that. People say that, and I hate this expression when they say, you know, 200 years of tradition and [UNKNOWN], I, I think it's, I think it's 200 years of progress enhanced by tradition. Cuz if you looked at what you were doing with the street markings, that's what they did at Hurricane Andrew. They, they, you, the signs are gone, but you still have to know, especially if you're giving directions to the folks from out of town. Where the corner of walk and don't walk is. >> Right. >> So you make it on the corner. >> Right. >> This is twenty third street. This is, you know, Indiana street. So you know, people can look at a standard map and say this is where we are. >> Right. >> It's all great to do the longitude, latitude, but not everybody's carrying a GPS. >> No. >> But you know, you can send people to a corner of, if they know you're on twenty third street and they keep going and you tell them. Half mile down you'll find Indiana St., start there, you gotta go out and mark the streets, that was really...>> Yeah. >> because we saw it when you were there, less than 16 hours after it, 14 hours after it, it's already done. Now look at what your men and women accomplished in the two short hours of daylight you had. And over that first evening, it was phenomenal. I mean, you searched the 14 mile long trail of devastation. Did finally search and search is rescue, with basically 120, 130 people you had. From the community. >> Right. >> And, and that's amazing. >> It, it was a herculean effort, >> Right. >> Is, is what it amounted to. the, the folks that, that were, you know, I, I can't say enough about the it speaks volumes about the character of the. All the people that work here. that, you know, we never turn around, we never ran away, you know? We had a job to do. >> Right. [CROSSTALK] And not one complaint. >> No. >> I haven't heard one, I haven't heard one person say, you know, and we're the fire service, so you know. is, is he in the room? >> [LAUGH] >> I hate him, you know? >> [LAUGH] >> It's a, he's gone? Oh, he's, you know? None of that. I mean there's, there's a, the, the work ethic, the, the amount of work you got done, and the way you handled it unbelievable. >> No, it, it, it, you know, all the credit goes to the, to the folks that work here and, you know, the guys that are here. That responded to it, and come back everyday. We haven't had anybody walk away and say okay, I can't deal with this. >> Well I think [CROSSTALK] I would, I would credit the leadership here too. I mean, I think there's been, and you know, and, and I don't mean just mention yourself and the other guys with the, what's he call them, Swiss Army >> Them, Swiss Admiral Office >> Swiss Admiral Office >> [LAUGH]. N, not just the, the the upper echelon, but the, the leadership at the company officer level, and the, and the leadership in the, in the community that, that you know, the, the church leaders, the, the city manager. I mean, there was a real sense of- >> Mm-hm. >> Public service here. >> Yeah. >> And, and you could see it. It was- >> I've lived here long enough to, to know that. That these folks aren't going to be taken out by this, an and, you know, the, the funny part is we, you know, we had people come in from all over. There were two guys that were retired from FDNY, that were working for the Red Cross, and they said they couldn't give anything away. That they would drive down the street, and they couldn't give anything away. >> They said everybody would look at them going, I"m fine go talk to him. >> Go to the next guy, he needs it more. >> Um-hm. You know. So what do you, as the ops guy, what does Joplin need right now? What would be the best thing that firefighters who are listening right now, well what do you, what do you guys need that your fellow firefighters could do for you. >> I, I think, you know, the biggest thing, I, we've had such an outpouring of support. We're good on tools, we're good on, on gear. You know, we're doing okay there. the, the biggest challenge is that I've got to get these guys out of- we've got station two and station four in RVs that don't work when, when it gets really hot. I've got to get them in the temporary stations and then move forward and get permanent stations. but, you know, as far as equipment and, and, and things like that, we're, we're doing okay. I think we're gonna be fine. because you know everybody wants to do something. Everybody wants to make sure that you're okay. >> Just say your prayer and make sure that, you know, you keep us in your thoughts and in your prayers, because it's a long road. >> I mean fire engineering, if you need anything, we'll put it out. >> I appreciate that. Helping any way we can, and again thank you for taking time to spend with us, I know you've got much better things to do, trying to get your men relocated and take care of your city, for you to take the time this afternoon and speak with us, we really wanted to get your story out so people could hear what a tremendous job you did, and yourself and all the men... When we were there. Joplin Fire Dept and police Dept too, and public works dept, and the city manager. >> It was a team effort. >> The whole community man. just an amazing deal. While we were out there we saw folks walking up with their gloves in their hands and, how can I help, you know? From their heart, and there weren't. Fooling around, they want to come to work. >> Right. >> They want to help and. >> Yep. >> We just, we couldn't be, as Americans, we couldn't be prouder. The fact that Joplin, the heartland of America, is still the heartland. And, and, and you're the primary example of that, just that big, broad shoulder, we'll get her done. Check on the next guy kind of deal, so. Chief Jim Burkins >> Thanks. >> On behalf of everybody in America all the other firefighters. We're proud of you and. Thanks. >> Thank you for what you did and if there's anything that we can do for you, please let us know. >> Will do. >> Thank you, brother. >> Thanks. [MUSIC]

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