Emergency Crews Aid Hurricane Survivors

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Seven emergency service workers have left the Rim Country to help in the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

Chief Gary Hatch and Emergency Medical Technician Bob Evanson of the Diamond Star Fire District are in New Orleans, providing emergency medical services for a detachment of U.S. Marshals. Payson Fire Department Battalion Chiefs Guy Austin and Tom Barker are in Hattiesburg, Miss.

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Gary Hatch

"I think it's wonderful that we are able to provide some assistance to the hurricane-ravaged areas," said Marty deMasi, Payson fire chief. "A lot of those neighborhoods, especially in that part of Mississippi, are flattened. Their particular assignment is more damage assessment and community relations. They'll be walking neighborhoods, making assessments and providing information on how victims can get assistance from FEMA."

Chief Bill Dekker and Captain Bob Lashua of the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department assisted with evacuees at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix earlier this month. Janine Senita, an EMT with the Pine Fire Department, is helping at the evacuation center in San Antonio, Texas.

"We flew out on Sept. 3 and will be here 20 more days," said Hatch in a phone interview Monday.

Hatch is patrolling streets in New Orleans and Evanson is out on a boat. They are stationed in Jefferson Parish, west of the city.

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Bob Evanson

"We start at 6 a.m. and patrol between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. We try to talk people into leaving, search for survivors and the dead," Hatch said, adding that they recently came across a family of six they tried to talk into leaving.

"They were in mud about a foot thick and didn't want to leave their possessions," he said.

Hatch also is responsible for keeping the U.S. Marshals healthy.

"Every time they get this water on them they break out into a red rash and we have to wash them down."

He said so many of the buried natural gas lines have broken that gas is bubbling up through the mud.

Originally, the two members of the Diamond Star Fire District were sent to be part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that was to meet the president.

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Guy Austin

"We missed him by about an hour and they tried to get us to pass out brochures," Hatch said. "They had a small rebellion on their hands, so we talked our way into helping in New Orleans," he said.

Hatch said he has only seen trees blown down and windows broken out when patrolling the French Quarter.

"They weren't broken out by the wind, people in the hotels broke them out to get air into the rooms."

The damage is so minimal in that part of the city, there is talk that Mardi Gras will go on regardless of the other destruction by Hurricane Katrina, he said.

Some of the worst destruction he has seen has been in the St. Bernard Parish and the city of Chalmette, east of New Orleans.

"The smell is so bad we are using respirators," he said.

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Tom Barker

On patrol Monday morning, Hatch and his crew found eight bodies. They were the first he had seen who had died of storm-related causes. The others he has come across died of either gunshot wounds or had their throats slit.

"It's hard to believe people could turn against one another like that," he said. "We're seeing stuff you don't ever expect to see."

There is lots of looting still and lots of drinking.

"People we will see in the morning are as nice as they can be, but if we come back by at night they've been drinking so much they call us every name in the book."

He said Evanson has pulled about 12 people out of the water, treated them and taken them to safety -- but one guy has been pulled out three times.

"He gets drunk and decides to take a swim," Hatch said. "Bob said they should lock the guy up someplace."

Hatch has a personal attachment to New Orleans. His son, Cameron Hatch, is a New Orleans firefighter.

"I didn't know if I would get to see him. But I went to his station the first chance I had and he was there," Hatch said. "His home is about 85 percent intact and he was just given seven days paid leave. He spent some time with us and showed us parts of the city we had not been to yet. Now he's in Nebraska, where his family was evacuated. He will spend some time with them, then come back down here to work. If we get some down time, I'm going to see if I can get some people together to clean up his place before he gets back."

Hatch said he and Evanson are doing well, though they're tired and it's hot.

"We think it's hot in Arizona, but it's nothing like this," he said.

He said his patrol group has probably put 1,000 miles on the vehicle they're using just patrolling the streets.

Other Rim Country fire departments are ready to participate in recovery efforts.

"We have had a request, but I haven't processed the paper work yet," said Chief Mark Essary of the Whispering Pines Fire District.

Chief Chuck Jacobs of the Houston Mesa Fire Department said the requests usually go to the paid departments first.

"We have a couple of people ready to go, but they haven't been called up yet," Jacobs said.

Personnel from the Christopher-Kohl's Fire District are still in the Rim Country too.

"We help cover for the people who are gone," said Chief Ray Larsen of the CKFD.

No county personnel have been requested to assist with relief efforts, but the board of supervisors will be reviewing the policy on leaves of absence for emergency assistance at it Sept. 13 meeting in Globe.

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