MT. HOPE, WV (WOAY) – As members of American Medical Response through FEMA, being sent out on deployments is nothing new for Mt. Hope Fire and EMS. However, helping out in New York City at the epicenter of a global pandemic was new for everyone involved.
Four members of their team just returned home last night after spending 33 days in New York City.
Assistant Chief Jeff Johnson says there wasn’t much time in those 33 days for a long training session and debrief given the dire situation in the nation’s largest city.
“Chief Escobar, the EMS deputy chief, up at FDNY, very much gave the statement of: ‘I’m giving you a 16-week class in 4 minutes.”
So the crew hit the ground running spending their days working for various hospitals alongside other medical professionals from across the country helping with transport and answering calls for the NYPD and FDNY.
Austin Hamilton, a fireman and EMT who went, said it made the virus and its impacts very real.
“Before I left here, I didn’t really think COVID was much of anything. Nobody really talked about it, wasn’t much to worry about, but being there, I saw what it actually is and what it can do,” Hamilton said.
The department took volunteers to go on this mission, but it did not take any convincing at all as the whole team was willing.
“What it meant to me was going and helping the country when it was in its time of need, and it was one of the coolest experiences that I’ve ever been a part of to see people from all over the country come and help out a city that was really struggling,” Sam Fransden, an EMT, said.
They said what stuck out to them was not only the amount of people in hospitals, the overflow and extra beds needed, but also the partnership between first responders from across the country with a common mission.
Now that their deployment is over, they returned home on Tuesday night to a parade through town, and although it is time for rest and a 14-day quaratine now, the team knows the overarching mission is far from finished.
“When we get done with this quarantine, the mission’s still not over,” firefighter Adrian Monroe said. “Our fire department is still doing COVID operations, testing, so we look forward to getting back to work.”
“We’re extremely proud to have been able to have sent them, and they represented our fire department and West Virginia, so we’re extremely proud of them,” EMS Captain Raisa Wheeler added.
Chief Shane Wheeler also said as his team continues to help locally with testing and meal distribution, the trip to New York was just one small piece in the giant mission of getting the state and the country back on its feet.