NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Since Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida, the Tennessee volunteer spirit has been in full swing with local members of fire, police, and EMA departments, as well as utility companies, deploying to the affected areas.
This also included members of the Nashville Fire Department helping out in the Jacksonville area, where the St. Johns River reached record flood levels.
They were originally expecting to perform an urban search and rescue mission. However, they found that their swift water rescue capabilities suddenly were needed when the St. John’s River rose out of its banks.
News 2’s Davis Nolan talked to Chief Larry Clymer via FaceTime on Wednesday and he described some of the rescues.
“One of our teams came upon a nursing home where people flagged us down. We were actually being deployed to another address, so that quickly became a priority on their rescue response,” Chief Clymer told News 2.
He continued, “Then we were able to send more assets to them with military and high water vehicles, and we had another team that had some people that sheltered in place over near the hospital in the San Marco area.”
Clymer said there were also people hanging on to cyclone fences, and families that took shelter in Nemour’s Specialty Care for Children. The children and adults thought it was a good place to ride out the storm, but the chief said they quickly realized water had surrounded them.
“And their parents, we actually didn’t have a 911 call on that, we were actually launching boats over there and their parents came up and told us exactly what building they would be in, so we were able to send a team over there and get them out safely,” Clymer explained.
News 2 also spoke with the captain of the Franklin Fire Department via FaceTime on Wednesday.
Captain Michael Pardue said he and his team are in Jacksonville with several other first responders from Middle Tennessee, including some from the Metro-Nashville Police Department.
Pardue told us about one of the more dramatic rescues they were involved in.
“About a block from the sea wall, they came upon three kids on a blow up air mattress with the parents basically holding on up to their necks in the water, holding those kids up,” the chief explained. “And then they got the people in the boat out as quick as they could, and then went and rescued those. That was a legitimate rescue in our eyes.”
Chief Pardue said the parents and children were shocked, saying they didn’t realize the names on the trucks of their rescuers until after they were safe.
“’Nashville sent people down here?’” the chief recalled. “We jokes and laughed.”
Now the interesting thing is that it was a pure coincidence that the teams from Middle Tennessee were even in Jacksonville. You see, they originally staged in Tallahassee, and then when the storm track was headed there, they were sent to Jacksonville to be safe while they await future orders.
Then the St. Johns River reached record flood stages, and their swift water rescue skills were put to good use.