BOWIE, MD. (WUSA9) - As cleanup and recovery efforts continue in both Texas, Florida and other nearby states, first responders from all over the country have touched down to help their own.
“It’s unprecedented how many people were rescued by the fire departments in Texas.”
Ivan Lawit and Shawn Allen have seen a lot on the job as firefighters in Prince George's County, but both will never forget the devastation that washed away lives and livelihoods in Texas.
"I still saw some flooding in the streets and damage to some of the houses," said Shawn Allen, who's been with the department for 12 years.
When Hurricane Harvey happened, Allen and Lawit packed their bags and joined a cohort of first responders from around the country. They are members of the International Association of Firefighters(IAFF) and were there to help their own.
"A firefighter doesn't ask for help, so you kind of have to go to them to figure it out if they need it," Lawit said.
When the duo traveled to Houston, they saw how much firefighters there needed the help.
"Some of them were mentally drained," Allen said.
"Some of them lost their entire home and can't look at the house they just lost because they've been at work helping others," Lawit said.
While IAFF members were on the ground, they helped firefighters apply for assistance and used demo teams to help with the cleanup.
As peer support team members, Allen and Lawit also provided emotional help.
The IAFF Disaster Relief Fund provides resources to keep firefighters on the street to help communities recover and then helps the firefighters recover.
According to the union, health concerns are among the most urgent issues. The IAFF is directing resources associated with exposure to E. coli from contaminated water and toxic materials, including purchasing and administering 2,500 Hepatitis-A and Tetanus vaccines for an active immunization program underway in Texas and soon to be in Florida.
Teams have been deployed to Florida, where supplies are being distributed.
If you'd like to donate to the IAFF Disaster relief fund, click here.
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