9:20am

Thu May 26, 2011
Eastern and Central Kentucky

Firefighters Provide Relief in Joplin

“Absolute, complete devastation” is how Georgetown firefighter David Raisor described the scene in Joplin, Mo., Wednesday morning. Raisor and three fellow firefighters, Capt. Revel Oliver and firefighters Matt Marshall and Wade Calvert, arrived in Joplin Monday night and got to work the next morning, assisting in search and rescue operations along with firefighters from about 50 other fire departments across the country.

The tornado, a 5 on the enhanced Fujita Scale, cut a 6-mile destructive path through the southwestern Missouri town, with winds in excess of 200 mph, the National Weather Service reported.

The command post for the city’s rescue and recovery efforts is near the site of St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which was almost completely leveled in the tornado that hit Joplin on Sunday.

“When you stand here, in every direction you look is complete devastation,” Raisor said.

He has seen such destruction before. In 2005, Raisor was part of a contingent of Georgetown firefighters who went to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.

“Most of what we experienced in Louisiana was more water-related than wind-related. The storm had gone through; it was over and done,” he said. “Here it keeps recurring.”

The firefighters coped with the threat of another severe storm Tuesday. The area received another tornado warning late that night. Sirens could be heard on television news broadcasts from the battered town.

“It was unnerving,” Raisor said. “There was no tornado, but there was significant wind.”

The four Georgetown firefighters are part of a 10-person team conducting search and rescue through tornado-damaged areas of Joplin.

“We walk along and when we come to a debris pile, you do what you can to clear it by hand and then you shout to see if anyone is under there,” Raisor said.

So far, he and his fellow rescuers have not found anyone, but a similar team searching across the street from Raisor’s group found a man alive Tuesday afternoon.

“Everyone right now is pretty optimistic,” he said, adding that as more time passes, the work likely will change from rescue to recovery.

Raisor, Oliver, Marshall and Calvert are staying in the basement of a family whose home was not hit by the storm.

“We’re very grateful to the wonderful people of Missouri who have taken us in, taken care of us and welcomed us right into their homes,” he said.Raisor described the scene in Joplin, Mo., Wednesday morning. Raisor and three fellow firefighters, Capt. Revel Oliver and firefighters Matt Marshall and Wade Calvert, arrived in Joplin Monday night and got to work the next morning, assisting in search and rescue operations along with firefighters from about 50 other fire departments across the country.