AFD officers help hurricane victims - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

AFD officers help hurricane victims

Large boats were tossed about like toys by Katrina. Large boats were tossed about like toys by Katrina.
Blue tarps show houses with damaged roofs. Blue tarps show houses with damaged roofs.
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November 17, 2005

Albany-- Total destruction - that's how a south Georgia firefighter describes hurricane ravaged lower Louisiana. Two Albany firefighters came home Wednesday after spending two months in New Orleans and Slydell, Louisiana.

You've seen the emotional stories showing firefighters pulling flood victims from their roof tops and scouring homes for those who didn't survive the hurricane.

 But hundreds of other firefighters, including two from Albany, spent the last two months cleaning up debris and patching up homes so victims could get back into their homes.

Today's the first day back on the job for Josh Bishop. He and firefighter Vann Gerber left for Louisiana September 14th where long days of hard work began. "We went out there and got contracted through the Army Corps of Engineers to put tarps on people's house as part of the Blue Roof Program," said Bishop.

It looks like a sea of blue tarps from the sky above New Orleans. 24 firefighters surveyed damage and helped private contractors patched thousands of roofs. Bishop says the destruction was overwhelming.

"It basically looked like a nuclear explosion happened out there. It was five or six city blocked wiped completely out, houses off there foundation," Bishop said.

A job just too big in some areas Bishop says. "There are places out there that they're not going to be able to fix. It's going to be a start-over process where they will have to bulldoze over houses, neighborhoods, blocks and just start all over again."

But the lucky people who will be able to repair their homes and their lives often came up to Bishop and the others to say 'thank you.'

 The firefighters were counselors as much as they were repairmen. "People just needed someone to talk to, that's why they hired firefighters to go out there. Fighters are easily approachable, and people would just come up and talk to you to tell you all their problems and stuff."

Bishop says the group barely put a dent in the clean up of Louisiana, but he's proud to have help start the nation's largest relief effort.

Vann Gerber, the other firefighter who went, left today for a much-deserved vacation. That's why he wasn't part of our story.

As for Bishop, he says if he'd go back to Louisiana if needed because that's what a firefighter is trained to and lives to do.

When Hurricane Rita hit Texas, Bishop and Gerber also were sent to the Lake Charles area for a few days to do damage assessment on houses.

(Photos Courtesy: U. S. Army Corps of Engineers)

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