Maryland Department Remembers Katrina Response

Responders reflect in essays, their feelings about what the did and saw in New Orleans after Katrina hit.

A forward leadership team comprised of two MCFRS Chief Officers were already on the ground in New Orleans and providing a size up and location of where the task force was to report. The two MCFRS Chief Officers flew out of Dulles on Sunday evening to Houston, Texas and drove to New Orleans that night. The "intel" provided by the forward recon team was invaluable as specific logistics were procured and loaded prior to the Montgomery County Task Force leaving on September 5, 2005.

The Montgomery County Task Force arrived late in the evening at the base of operation in the Algiers region of New Orleans. The temperature was hovering around 100 and the humidity was 100 percent. We were greeted by the forward MCFRS Chief Officers and a New Orleans Fire Department representative. There was no electricity and a limited supply of water, ice and food. Montgomery County did not want to be a burden of the New Orleans Fire Department so we had brought enough food, water and ice for at least 72 hours.

An immediate briefing was supplied to the task force on what our mission was for the evening and the troops began to set up shop. The Montgomery County Task Force was housed with the New Orleans Fire Department personnel in a nursing home in Algiers. Other firefighting personnel from the New York City Fire Department, Chicago Fire Department and other Fire Departments from the State of Illinois began to arrive and assemble. A logistical section was immediately established and a security perimeter was established by the Montgomery County Law Enforcement personnel, as gunshots were heard upon our arrival. No one left the base of operations (BoO) without an armed escort.

An incident management team was placed in service and operational assignments were handed out as the New Orleans Fire Department personnel began to rotate out for a respite of 8 to 10 days. There were several serious fires in the city the first few days. Primitive ways were used to find and locate the fires in the city as there were no communications available upon our arrival. A post was located on top of the Nursing home and when they saw smoke a helicopter was dispatched to locate the fire and return with an address. Units were then dispatched and fought the fire. The main focus of the fire suppression effort was to ensure the French Quarters did not burn and become a conflagration.

The Montgomery County Task Force were assigned several operational missions to cover the City of New Orleans. The task force members worked a 12 shift and then were on call for the other 12 hours for 14 days straight. The Montgomery County Task Force focused on three items: operational assignments, community outreach and humanitarian efforts. The task force members began to clear debris from streets in the city and thus began to open areas up for travel, they began to clean fire stations up and ready them to be safely occupied and they went to the New Orleans Firefighters homes and helped them clear brush and place tarps on their roofs. By far, the clearing of city streets, cleaning and opening New Orleans Fire Stations and helping brother and sister firefighters was the most rewarding and impacting part of the mission in New Orleans for our personnel and for the New Orleans Fire Department.

It was unquestionably a once in a lifetime experience for the members of the combined task forces. The deployment provided an opportunity for Montgomery County, Montgomery County Government and Montgomery County Public Safety Agencies and other County Agencies to focus on a mission and complete the objectives with superb dedication and expertise. Each learned from the other as to what their specific job is all about and how we work together operational -- fire and law enforcement.

The Combined Montgomery County Public Safety Task Force made a lasting positive impression on the New Orleans Fire Department and the City of New Orleans. Fire apparatus, a fuel truck, computers, communication equipment and many great humanitarian works were all left in New Orleans. It was a fantastic and successful mission -- hats off to Fire Chief Tom Carr and the members of the Montgomery County Task Force they made a difference in New Orleans! They remained focused on their mission and always took the high road!