By ASHLEY BERKERY
The Homewood Fire Department was the first outside crew to reach the tornado-ravaged Pleasant Grove only 30 minutes after the storm hit on April 27.
“In my 17 years with the fire department, this was absolutely the most devastating thing I have ever responded to,” Homewood Fire Lieutenant Brian Bonner said. “People were crawling out of debris, and the need was just so great.”
While tending to a house fire and downed trees in the Homewood area that night, a crew of 15 was immediately dispatched to the scene. The team, including the fire chief, fire inspector, administrative officer and line fighters, worked fervently through the night searching for missing persons and clearing debris to make way for emergency vehicles. At 4 a.m. April 28 the crew returned to Homewood only to change out crew members, and by 7:30 a.m. the new crew arrived back in Pleasant Grove clearing, searching and treating injuries until after dark.
“Our crew worked systematically and methodically to prioritize the needs,” Bonner said. “We evacuated serious injuries to hospitals, treated walk and wound victims and helped residents get to safety.”
Luckily, when they asked for a missing person count, neighbors responded that everyone had been accounted for. Bonner said there had been a lot of self-rescue and neighbor rescues before their team arrived on the scene, and that was especially great to hear after seeing so many people walking around dazed and confused when they first arrived.
Bonner credits his entire team, along with all of the other Homewood Public Works departments that responded, for their efforts. “It is in times like this we really witness what a great community Homewood is – and how we have such great leadership,” he said.
Bonner also pointed out how Mayor Scott McBrayer took a stand and encouraged Homewood to go above and beyond what they would normally do. Homewood Parks and Recreation Director Berkeley Squires agreed. “The mayor really stepped up and didn’t wait on anyone to ask for help after tornado damage,” he said.
In addition to the fire department’s work in Pleasant Grove, the mayor also directed parks and recreation and sanitation department crews and trucks to clean debris in Cahaba Heights and Pratt City.
“Things will never be the same,” Squires said of the city’s continued relief efforts in several areas, “but we want to help put something back that the people can be are proud to say is theirs.”