WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — A local firefighter with a record of rescuing people during natural disasters said he’s ready to go should Florida need assistance after Hurricane Michael hits.
“This storm is dangerous and if you don’t follow warnings from officials, this storm could kill you,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a news conference Tuesday.
The dangerous and destructive conditions Scott mentioned are a familiar sight for Lt. Dean England, who has been a firefighter in Walker for 25 years. When Hurricane Florence blasted North Carolina last month, he was asked to travel with a Michigan task force to help with rescues.
“While everybody else is coming out, we’re going in. We’re dashing into the storm,” England told 24 Hour News 8.
The task force is comprised of 140 firefighters from across the state. Only a few dozen were activated to head to North Carolina, and England was among them. He said the crew gets about three hours’ notice before they have to be ready to depart from Holly, Mich.
“You have to be on your a game (and) ready to serve at all times, just like working here in the city of Walker,” England said.
As Hurricane Michael pushes closer to the Florida panhandle, there have been several fierce warnings from state officials to heed evacuation warnings. Despite several similar warnings during Florence, England’s team rescued about 40 people who chose not to evacuate.
“The night before when you’re seeing all of this, you’re like, ‘There’s no way the water’s going to get that high,'” he said.
Photos England shared from his nearly weeklong trip show how the water rose toward the roofs of buildings in only 12 hours.
“You’re in your rescue boat and you’re four or five feet below those power lines,” he said.
One man England helped rescue said he had just invested $30,000 to fix his home after a 2016 storm ruined it. It was flooded in Florence.
“He said he’s not coming back after this time,” England added. “(His house) was going to be completely under water. That’s the tough part, that they’ve lost everything. Two garbage bags full of their personal belongings is all we had time to get out.”
England has so far not been asked to travel to Florida for Hurricane Michael response.