Ed Llewellyn is a fire fighter at Station 6 of the Houston Fire Department. Hi family moved to Houston in 1986 and he has lived in Kingwood ever since. During Hurricane Harvey, Llewellyn worked out of Station 102 because he could not safely get to his station due to flooding. HFD guidelines dictate that fire fighters should get to the closest station during a disaster. Llewellyn remembers the San Jacinto River flooding in 1994, which gave him some knowledge of how to handle the flooding from Harvey.
Before the flooding began, Llewellyn made several trips to the back to his neighborhood to check on the level of the river. He was concerned when some of the rescue vehicles located in Kingwood were called to help in south Houston because he knew they would need them at some point in his location. One fire station, 104, had to be evacuated due to high water. Llewellyn recalls that once the flooding began, the fire station was inundated with calls for rescue, and some people even walked to the fire station to look for help. The station would try to find the resources to help all calls, including those not related to the flooding. He notes the contributions of civilians who conducted rescues with private boats and mentions the overwhelming nature of the operation. Llewellyn was at the fire station from Sunday until Wednesday, but he did not participate in the rescues. Members of Llewellyn’s family contacted him and said they needed help due to high water. He says hundreds of rescues were made. At one point, Llewellyn received a phone call from a man with Florida Parks and Wildlife asking for directions to his location, as they were coming to assist with the rescues. Llewellyn describes the courage of the civilian rescuers, who put themselves in danger to help others. He says that the phrase Houston Strong indicates the resilience of the city. He details the recovery process and how people from all over the community helped each other out. At the end, Llewellyn says that he is proud of how Kingwood residents and the HFD responded to the flooding.
Interviewee: Ed Llewellyn
Interview Date: November 8, 2018
Interview Location: Houston Fire Department, Station 6
Interviewer: Debbie Harwell
INTERVIEWER: I’m Debbie Harwell. I’m here with Ed Llewellyn at Station 6, Houston Fire Department. It’s November 8, 2018. And we’re going to talk about Harvey.
DH: Before we go there, though, could you tell me your full name, please?
EL: My name is Edward Andrew Llewellyn.
DH: Okay, and when and where were you born?
EL: I was born in Danville, Illinois actually in 1967 — May of 1967 — lived there until I was a little over 18. We moved down here to Houston in 1986.
DH: You’re almost a native.
EL: We’ve been to the Alamo. We’ve been most of the places you’re supposed to be.
DH: Okay, good. Alright, well, you’re adopted then. Tell me a little bit about what encouraged you to get into the fire service.
EL: Well, I was fortunate enough when — in ’86, 1986, we moved to Kingwood. And at that time [0:01:00], I was 18, was going to, at the time, North Harris County College for just general studies, wasn’t sure what my path was going to be. And so I joined the Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department. And through that process, I was able to meet with some Houston fire fighters. And they took me on kind of as some times a project, also as a mentor. And I had several mentors at that point, and they helped me focus and direct my attention towards the fire department.
DH: So have you lived in Kingwood this whole time?
EL: I have. I have.
DH: And which village or neighborhood?
EL: We started out in South Woodland Hills when we first moved down here. And I was living with my folks, my mom and dad and my sister, who was also at the time — she was 23. And then from there, we moved to Bear Branch, living in our home. And then we actually lived in Kingwood Lakes. And then from there, [0:02:00] I was with the fire department and was able to purchase my own home in Elm Grove.
DH: Okay, my son lives in Elm Grove.
EL: There you go. It’s a great place to start a family, and that’s what I did. I met my — I met my wife working at Randall’s in the front of Kingwood. She was a checker, and I was a sacker. And we dated for a few years there, and then I already owned my home in Elm Grove. And then together, we purchased our home in Sand Creek. That’s where we’re at today, so we’ve stayed in the area the entire time. And all — she moved there in 1973 and has been there since, so.
DH: So did you graduate from Kingwood High School?
EL: I did not. I graduated up north up at Danville High School.
DH: But you’ve probably been in the high school, I would think.
EL: Oh, many times. And both of my children — my son is 19. He graduated there. And my daughter is 18. She’s a senior there this year. So my wife graduated from there.
DH: That’s great. So let’s talk about Harvey. [0:03:00] First of all, 6 is your station.
DH: But I understand you were working out of 102 during Harvey.
DH: Can you tell me what transpired there?
EL: Sure, fire department, obviously, we were trying to plan for the event. And our shift — we worked two-day shifts, so we’re on 24 hours. We’re off 24. We’re back on 24 and then our days off. We have a tour of days off. So the first day, which was the Friday, which the storm was still approaching, our shift worked here at Station 6. And through our guidelines and our preparations, all of my regular crew here at the station — our district had planned to — prepared to be here at the station. We didn’t think we were going to have relief the next morning. So we had all of our uniforms and food. And we were preparing to be down here. And we had prepared our homes, because we knew the storm was coming. The next morning when we woke up, [0:04:00] we were told we were relieved. We could go home, which we were somewhat surprised at the time. We thought we were going to get held up. So we made our way home. The storm was still approaching the Houston area. It was out in the Gulf. And so we knew that sometime Sunday it was going to be in our area. And so most of us got up at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning to try and come on into work. And that’s what I did. I got up early to try and make my way down here. I came up 59 into downtown, and I could only get to about Tidwell — 59 and Tidwell. So I had to turn around at that point and head back. Again, through our guidelines, our preparations, we try to get to the closest station. I couldn’t get off the freeway at that point, because all of the feeder roads had flooded. And so the best — from my opinion, the best thing I could do is probably heading back to Kingwood. And I made it to 102, and that’s how I got there.
DH: So you must have come up [0:05:00] Northpark or something. Or was that before Kingwood Drive or Kingwood proper had actually flooded?
EL: Yeah, this was about 5 o’clock in the morning on Sunday morning. This was before the storm really hit in my — from what I can remember. This is when it was rain. It was a lot of wind. And there was just localized flooding in a lot of areas.
EL: And so on Sunday, I went back and met up with a good friend, Kelly Ford. He’s a district chief up there on the C shift — and said — explained to him I couldn’t get to my regular station. I called my regular station here at 6 and let them know where — because that’s another part of it. We have to check in and let them know where my location was. And I was on-duty but just at 102 trying to find a way to get back to the station. But I think some advantage to that was being living in Kingwood since 1986, I was there for other events that we had. In 1994, we had a serious flood, where the rivers — San Jacinto River was flooded. And it went into Forest Cove and many areas. And so [0:06:00] through expectation what was fixing to happen, I was able to be some place where I think I probably could have provided more good than being at my regular station, because I had some history. I had some experience of maybe what to expect in some of that.
DH: Right. So that was going to be one of my questions, whether or not you were there in ’94. When the storm was approaching and you were there or planning to go be at 102, were you thinking it could be a flood like ’94?
DH: Were you thinking it could be worse?
EL: I wasn’t thinking worse, because at the time, our information we were getting from OEM, the Office of Emergency Management, and the news coverage was that — you know, at some point, they started using the terms catastrophic flooding and, you know, all the records in time. But in ’94, my experience then [0:07:00] with the volunteers and working on the side up there was when Forest Cove flooded, we know that that was from the release of water in Conroe area and the Conroe dams. And it started first in Forest Cove, and we started rescuing or evacuating people out of Forest Cove. And then we did that all day long. And this was in ’94. And then somewhere in the middle of the night, Conroe released water, and it start flooding back in the back part of Kingwood. And at that time, my parents had called me. I had left the station — finally got back home and got some rest at about 10:00, 11 o’clock at night. And that’s when my folks’ house started taking on water in ’94. And so I kind of knew the area that was going to start to —
DH: Was that in Kingwood Lakes?
EL: It was in Kingwood Lakes. Yes, ma’am.
EL: And so when I got there, the first thing we need to do is get my folks out of there. We took them to my house, and I went back to the station. The volunteers started back again. With that experience, for Harvey on Sunday, I met with Kelly — also had [0:08:00] experience working out there on the side. And a lot of firemen worked out there with the volunteers. And we kind of kept an eye on it. And I — even to the point where I — throughout Sunday before the storm actually reached the Houston area, I was making trips in my own car to the back part of Kingwood to see, because I knew that if the water came up through the sewers and started backfilling, then the river was starting to push out of its banks. And we were going to start having probably some evacuations back there. So we were trying to preplan and use some of that experience from ’94 to help forecast what we were going to have to try and work through. And I even met up with Tom and Lisa Slagle at their house at one point. And they were — we were discussing on the — on the front of their driveway. You know, “Is this going to be as bad as ’94?” So we did discuss that.
DH: [0:09:00] Tell me what you observed then as water did start to come up.
EL: Sure, so once again, all through Sunday, it was just a rain event — not a lot of flooding. We started having some low areas in Forest Cove start to flood. And we were starting to get just minimal calls, but most of the events were all occurring south of Houston. And so at that point, the resources — some of the resources that Kingwood had, the boats, HFD, Houston Fire Department, were requested to the south of Houston. And so they actually left the area, which concerned Chief Ford, Kelly Ford, and myself, because we knew that at some point, if the event expanded, we were going to need those resources back. And Kingwood, as we know, would become an island, because we have limited access. So throughout Sunday, we just tried to keep our eyes on it. We just kept driving out in the neighborhood. I kept watching for the drains to come up. And at one point later in that evening, water started backing up in Fosters [0:10:00] Mill and back in Kings Point, which is where our concerns were.
EL: And we knew that if it was flooding back there that Forest Cove was certainly going to be a major event.
DH: Right. So when you say Kings Point, do you mean over on Scenic Shore, those homes that face the lake?
EL: Yes, right, all back through the lake.
DH: And what about Royal Shores?
EL: Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am.
DH: Because that’s right on the — some of those homes are right on the water, too.
EL: And that was a big concern — big concern.
DH: Now, how about the Barrington? From 101, were they checking on the Barrington?
EL: Well, and we have a station there in Forest Cove. And so at one point — now, this is on Sunday, when the event was still coming in. We were just in the neighborhood trying to forecast — trying to keep up with what was happening. And from my memory, recollection, it was about Monday when we really took on the big water. And we started [0:11:00] expanding past our resources. We actually had to evacuate 104. And they made the decision at that point to get all of the personal vehicles and the apparatus and bring them up to Station 101, which is on Kingwood Drive, and try and get them out of the area that we knew was going to be affected.
DH: Going to be underwater.
EL: And so they secured the station, the computers, you know, what they could, and then took those resources to 101. So they actually started running out of 101.
DH: How about in your neighborhood? Was water rising there?
EL: There was. So into Monday and the actual — when the water was expanding and it at some point just became overwhelming, the water came up. And so I was at Station 102, if I can kind of bring it together this way.
EL: I was at 102, and I was trying to help Kelly. Kelly had that crew — if you think about it, they had no relief. They were on an island [0:12:00]. The people that were supposed to come in and relieve them so they could go home weren’t able to get in at some point. And so they were there. I was there with Kelly. So we kind of took on an area command, as you call it. And so I helped Kelly with the operations. He was the overall area commander. And from that point, we just started getting calls from every type of resource. People were calling. We were getting calls from our dispatcher over the radio. We were getting them over the telephone. We were getting them on cell phones. We were getting walk-ins — residents walking saying that their family and their friends need help. HPD, Houston Police Department, was walking in. They were getting calls, and they were bringing them to us. And I was getting calls on my cell phone, my own personal cell phone, from my friends and family, calling, “Ed, we need help.” And that was a tough one.
That’s something you normally don’t — and so trying to keep all of that in order and prioritize — and you’ve got to think, also, Houston Fire Department, we service 900 to [0:13:00] a thousand calls on a daily basis. And those regular incidents don’t stop when a major event like this occurs. They just add to. And so to try and prioritize those calls — who is in the most need at that point? And the water was coming in so fast at some point, you had to, you know, obviously, prioritize. And then all of the sudden, you’d get chest pains or you’d get diabetic complication or some type of medical call. And that just compounded, because not only was there persons calling for regular service that we consider regular, but now, we had to try and find some type of water resource, a boat or some type of high-water vehicle, that we could use to get to them. And so that priority took over, because it wasn’t just a water evacuation, somebody in their home that they couldn’t get out. It was somebody that had an actual medical problem. They were calling for help. And so [0:14:00] it just created a very broad situation that we had to try and overcome.
DH: So how did you respond to those people? How’d you get there?
EL: We’re going to have to wait for a minute.
DH: There you go.
ALARM: Alert, heart problem, chest pain, assign at risk, Engine 033, Ambulance 025, [unclear, 0:14:21] 06 and 65. 50 [unclear, 0:14:25] Street, number one-hundred-one seventy-seven-thousand-thirty between University Boulevard and seventeen-ninety-eight B-L-K Drive Road, Key Map 532H, Radio Channel 010.
EL: So Monday became the big day for us. Sunday was kind of preparations. And Chief Ford, Kelly Ford, did a great job trying to call OEM, but obviously, they were overwhelmed. And they were trying to get ahold of county resources, state resources, federal resources, FEMA, trying to get extra help in here. But Kingwood [0:15:00] was limited. And then when the water surrounded Kingwood, we became an island. And so we were limited with what resources we did have. The resources to get to those type of incidents — of course, we’re going to send a firetruck first, but the firetruck is limited to how deep of water they can get in So that point, our boats — I say, our — the boats assigned to Kingwood were still on the south part of Houston. And so at one point, we only had one boat in the area. So the depending on the depth of the water, we also called for high-water vehicles. High-water vehicles would be something like a dump truck from public works or — they call them 6-by — military-style, large vehicles. And so depending on where it was at and the crews in the field and the information they were sending us — and if they said they need a boat, then we had to try and find a boat.
At that point, there was also the civilians, who championed the cause. It was amazing how they came out and just showed [0:16:00] up. “What do you need?” We were having them come to the station with their boats hooked to their vehicles and saying. “What do you need? What can we do?” Because they knew that it was overwhelming. And so were using civilians at that point also. So firefighters were getting to — as close as they could to wherever the event was at or the incident. And then they were using whatever resources they could come up with. And if there was somebody there that said, “I have a boat right here,” then they would launch it in the water, and they’d take off. And they’d go get them. And so the civilians played a tremendous part in the rescue and evacuation.
DH: It seemed like on West Lake Houston Parkway at both ends — not all the way to the end where 102 is, but there at the Rustic Woods by the community center and on the opposite side of the river kind of in front of Kings River — there were like two launching stations, it seemed like, for the boats.
EL: That was it.
DH: Is that kind of right?
EL: That’s exactly right [0:17:00]. And it’s funny how the topography kind of came together there. So at on point through Monday into Tuesday, my wife, a nurse at Methodist — and she went in on Thursday. And she was there through the duration. She didn’t get home until Wednesday. So our two kids — I call them kids, but they were, you know, 18 and 19, they were at home. And so at one point, I wanted to go check on them. When we started dispatching incidents and I had friends calling saying, “Ed, we need to get out of here,” I went to go check on them. And the water hadn’t come — had not come into our immediate area, but it was in our subdivision. It was still coming. And they were launching out of the front of our subdivision area. And the water was up to the headlights, so I made it through to our house, got our kids, told them, “Get the dog. Pack your toothbrush. We’re going to your aunt’s,” and we took them to one of my wife’s sister’s house. But when I came through that immediate area right there where [0:18:00] Wendy’s and just north of HEB, which I think everybody kind of uses as a kind of a —
EL: Wendy’s, right there — Wendy’s has kind of a ramp when you first pull into the front of Wendy’s. And they were using that just like a boat ramp.
DH: A boat ramp?
EL: Using to get the water — you take your boat. The boat starts to float on the water, and the car pulls up and out. And it was — just to stand back and look at that, you would never think now. But it came together. And there again, adapting — adapt and overcome. I think that’s what those Kingwood residents did. And it was just fantastic how they did it. They just — you know, they weren’t down. They just figured out what they needed to do and keep moving.
DH: So were you actually out in the field rescuing people?
EL: I was not. I was — I was back at the command post. So yeah, anywhere, we were rotating the crews through.
DH: Did you have occasion to go in any of the buildings? Maybe not necessarily [0:19:00] during but after, like HEB or Kingwood High School?
EL: Yes, yes, so I was at the station until about Wednesday. And Wednesday, we finally — the water had receded enough or had, I guess — they found ways to get people into — so crews were starting to get relieved. And some of the firemen that were there for three, four, five days straight were finally able to go home to their families [unclear, 0:19:27]. I finally left on Wednesday. And that’s when we kind of explored Kingwood and what had happened. But from Sunday until about Wednesday, I was at the station trying to manage resources and help Kelly — help those crews up there.
DH: Right. So do you think the problem was the release of water from Lake Conroe?
EL: As a resident of Kingwood, I do, because I witnessed it and experienced it in ’94. And it — the experience we had [0:20:00] then, it was exactly what we experienced this time. Everything was fine. Everything was working well. Everything was in place. And then in the middle of the night, it just — all of the sudden, it just felt like everything —
DH: Right. One of the things I’ve heard from a number of people is that we didn’t have any warning. And I also know that Harris County Flood Control District would argue, “We gave a lot of warnings on TV.” But some people didn’t have power.
DH: And I don’t know that there was ever anything that specifically said, “Kingwood, overnight, there’s water coming your way.”
EL: Right, right.
DH: So the consensus of people I’ve talked to anyway is —
EL: I would agree with that statement. I would. You know, I think watching the weather channels [0:21:00] — they were trying to help everybody understand that this was a catastrophic event. But I think that everybody kind of focused in on the storm itself. But the bigger piece of it — because the storm was really — from my understanding was, you know, forecasted to be towards the south. And they weren’t thinking that it was going to come all the way up and fill Lake Conroe up. And I’m not a meteorologist or any type of that, but it just seemed like — to me like it was — the direction of the storm wasn’t going to play into that. And somehow the release of the water on the north side, which I don’t have any information or recollection of what happened up in the Montgomery County area or any of those northern countries that would create that or cause that to happen — to have them release that water.
But even with that, the information we were receiving was that the water — when they — when it floods, it was going to be 7 inches below the ’94 flood. And I think that’s why a lot of residents in those lower areas [0:22:00] that live south of Kingwood Drive — even my mother — my mother’s home flooded. She had five feet in the Kingwood Lakes home that her and my father lived in that I lived in before I moved to Elm Grove. It got water up to — I remember, we spoke. In the middle of the night, they called up and said, “Ed, water’s at the house.” It came up to the back door and just seeped in the back door. And so when I called and talked to her on Sunday, I said, “Mom, you need to pack your car up. And we’re going to get your animals and what you can. Get all your important papers, and we’re going to take you to my sister’s house. You need to get out of there.” And she said, “We’re going to be fine. They’re saying it’s going to be below what it was in ’94. And we lived through that.” And so somehow, we were able to get her to — you know, she’s a proud person. You know, she can take care of herself. But we were able to get her to my sister’s home. Thank goodness. And so I said, “Even if that happens — if you just watch it on the news for two or three days, we’ll get you back home and get your settled. At least we don’t need to worry about it [0:23:00].”
And I’m glad we made that decision. Now, my aunt, who lived right across the street, she was in our home. She was in her home. I have an aunt, my dad’s sister. And she was one of the ones that contacted. She actually contacted my wife at work through text and said, “Water’s in our home. It’s up to our waist. We need out. We need help.” And so my wife had texted me direct. And I put her on the list and tried to get resources there as quick as we could. And so they both reached — I think Kingwood Lakes was in the four and a half — my mom got five foot in her house. So yeah, that was — it’s amazing what those folks went through. And I just — I admire them. I mean, we’re very fortunate. We’re blessed, my family.
DH: How many rescues do you think you all took part in in Kingwood from 102? You probably wouldn’t have for the other stations, I guess.
EL: From the HFD’s standpoint, hundreds — hundreds. I know that [0:24:00] — like I said, we were limited in resources to begin with from HFD. The boats were sent to — which is normal procedure for us. You know, if we have a major fire in a certain area, we start to reassign our resources to help cover the coverage area. And so that’s what had happened that day — was the water resources were needed, so they were redirected to other parts of Houston. And then when Kingwood started flooding and needing those resources, they were brought back along with others. But within the process, there’s what’s known as mutual aid, which you get boats and firetrucks and manpower from other departments in the area. There’s also, like I mentioned earlier, county, state, and federal resources — FEMA. And at some point — and that’s all handled — we say at the 40,000-foot level. That was down at OEM, the Office of Emergency Management. And they were making those contacts.
But of course, there’s that delay in time, because they have to mobilize. And they have to, you know, travel [0:25:00]. And so there’s a delay in getting the resources there. But I remember, at one point, I got a phone call. I didn’t even know they were coming, but I got a phone call — and on my personal phone. How he got that number I don’t know. But it was, “This is Major Russell. I’m with the Florida Parks and Wildlife. And we’re heading to your location. What’s the best way to get there?” And so I took his information, because he was trying to get what streets were open, what roads were open. And they were coming from the Crosby-Huffman area. And he said, “As a matter of fact, we’re right now — we’re conducting rescues right now. We have our resources in the water, but when we get passed this –” And so just in their attempt to try and get to us from Florida to Texas to Kingwood, they had to perform rescues in the immediate area just to clear the area to get them on through. And so about three hours later, all of the sudden, he stood there. And you know, at that point, he was about 10-foot tall and bulletproof in my eyes. Because they had 30-some [0:26:00] workers, you know. They had 20 boats. They had everything, everything. But at that point, though, they used the term Cajun Navy. I’m sure you’ve heard that many times.
EL: Those folks were doing the heavy lifting at that point. They were out in the water, and they were doing things that they hadn’t — their boats were not equipped for. I say equipped, because when you go down a neighborhood and you’ve got hundreds of people that are trying to get out — and they’re just picking them up one house up from another. You know, that’s life preservers. You know, their boats probably aren’t equipped to handle 10, 12, people.
DH: Probably not.
EL: And then to take personal possessions that they want to bring with them, because they’re evacuating their immediate area. And so between that and the — I think the stories I’ve heard, too, is their boats — the power of them. My brother-in-law was one. And he has a fishing boat. And he took the fishing boat out there. The current was so strong coming through those neighborhoods [0:27:00] and through the houses and the trees. And he had mentioned a couple times that his boat at some point wasn’t even strong enough to get through the current to get across the street to get to the other house he needed to get to. So by them putting themselves in harm’s way, you know, it was really testament to, you know, number one, their courage but their dedication to Kingwood and the residents of Kingwood to get out there and do that. I was just — I was thoroughly impressed. And I couldn’t — there wasn’t anything I could do to help them. That was the hard part.
DH: I think we were lucky in Kingwood to have you there, because somebody who, you know, really knows the neighborhood, had experience with where the water’s come up in the past, and that sort of thing. And I’m sure the regular people on shift at 102 would know the neighborhood. I don’t mean to imply that they don’t.
EL: They do.
DH: But they may not have all had your experience with prior [0:28:00] flooding.
EL: Well, and that’s kind of the fire department’s way. As a whole, we all come together and just put our resources and our thoughts together. And you know, how are we going to work through this? And you know, I think something else to mention is the fact that they were there. They weren’t able to be relieved to get home to their families, but they continued. And even though they didn’t have relief, they pushed through it. And that happened in every fire station in the city, because firemen were actually told not to come to work. And we were surprised at that. But firemen still came to work. They still — because they have that draw — that “I got to be there.” This is — my crews — and I don’t mean to say mine, but my crew here, I was proud of them. They kept trying to get to the station — the ones that live out of the Kingwood — or out of the Houston area. They live in Montgomery. They live in community. They live — Katy. They pushed in to get here so that they could [0:29:00] help where they could. So that was — but that was all Houstonians. You know, at that point, I don’t think there’s a single Houstonian in the five- or six-county area that wasn’t affected one way or the other. Be it a family member or personal flood of some type. So it was — it was truly a —
DH: Yeah, even if you didn’t flood, it still impacted you.
EL: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think, you know, everybody either had a family member or a closer personal friend that probably had some type of personal loss that they had to try and help.
EL: And it really brought the — not just the community. Kingwood is a very special place. But it brought Houston together.
DH: Right. So what does the phrase Houston Strong mean to you?
EL: What does it mean? Wow, that’s big. I wasn’t expecting that question. Houston Strong, I think it’s — it just exemplifies we may be — we may be on [0:30:00] one knee, but we’re not out. Houston’s always going to get up, and we’re going to do whatever needs to get through it. And we’re going to do it together. One team, one fight. We use the term, one team, one fight. And that’s, I think, what Houston did in that not just day or two days but in those weeks and months past. Because people would — I think that’s the other part — is the recovery process. It wasn’t just the two or three days. Months later, people would go to work. They would fulfill their 8-hour, 10-hour, 24-hour, and they would go home. And even though it was their day off, they were in somebody’s home helping. They were tearing sheetrock out. They were trying to help sort out. They were moving people. They were replacing. They were starting to rebuild. And so it seemed like people were 24/7 for many months. You know, we’ve passed a year from this event. And there’s still stories of [0:31:00] people working on their homes, their family’s homes. And so, you know, that’s just — that’s just one story. And you see Florida and New Orleans and all of the other catastrophic events that have occurred over the years, you know.
EL: You know, this was Houston’s turn.
DH: Uh-huh. Hopefully, we won’t have another turn for a long time. I have a question more generally — not necessarily about Kingwood, but you could answer it about Kingwood. Once of the people I talked to was James Sheffield.
DH: I don’t know if you know him.
DH: And he had told me that HFD has like a dispatch location at Tully Stadium. And that’s where he worked out of during Harvey.
DH: And they helped with dispatching some of the [0:32:00] ambulance and different vehicles that came from departments outside of Houston.
DH: Is there anything like that on the north side? Or is there anything like that for Station 6?
EL: Well, and so I think what he was — just kind of trying to work through this. You said where was he stationed at?
DH: Maybe it’s at — maybe dispatch isn’t the right word — like a staging location, Tully Stadium out off of I-10 and I can’t remember, Dairy Ashford maybe.
EL: Okay. So I think what you may be referring to is like an area command. So to try and build this out, if I can explain this — so as a district chief, I make an event or an incident. And depending on the type of call it is, I get certain resources. So on a house fire, I get four pumpers, two ladder trucks, a district chief, and an ambulance. As the event expands, I call for more resources [0:33:00]. When you have something like Harvey or a hurricane or a flood event, Fourth of July, Memorial Day flood, those other types of incidents we’ve had over the last few years — when it encompasses such a large area, NIMS, National Incident Management System, has developed [unclear, 0:33:18], where it’s known as an area command. And that’s where — it’s something like a base camp. So that’s where your Incident Commander, your operations chief, your logistics chief, your resources, that’s where they work out of to try and cover a much broader area. So as a district chief, I’m responsible for a house fire in this area. But if we had multiple house fires, then I may have to expand that to an area command. Because when we have a lot of resources working in the same area, we don’t want to duplicate effort. So I think that may be what he’s referring to, because kind of moving forward in the weeks past, Memorial was another big area in Houston. And so working out of Station 6 here, the next tour [0:34:00] when we were finally able to make it into the station, I was sent out to work with the North Branch area command, which was on Dairy Ashford at the field house. And I think that’s probably the same one he was at.
DH: I think that sound right.
EL: Yeah, the Stafford High School field house?
EL: And that’s what we did. We had boats, and we had multiple units and the FEMA. We had FEMA resources, strike teams. We had the Texas Task Force there with us and Florida Parks and Wildlife. The fellow that I worked with up in Kingwood just happened to be reassigned down there days later, so we were able to meet up and talk a little bit. But that’s what it is, so an area command encompasses a large geographic area so that you don’t duplicate your effort and your resources and the city dispatcher doesn’t have to sit there and try and dispatch individuals. We just send it to that area command, and from there, we accomplish whatever needs to [0:35:00] take place. So I don’t know if that helps.
DH: Uh-huh. Yeah, I just was curious how that works.
EL: Sure, sure.
DH: Another thing I’m curious about is — did EMS calls increase or change in that aftermath of Harvey? So once the flood waters receded, did you have calls that were kind of like secondary issues as a result of Harvey?
EL: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, people were — at that point, when the water receded and they went back into their homes, that became the recovery. That’s where we went from rescue to recovery. And at that point, people of all ages, from small kids to, you know, folks like my mom, 73 years old, went into a home that have five feet of water in it. And now, they had to start trying to piece their life better together. And so they were pushing themselves [0:36:00] beyond probably what their normal routine was and in conditions that are dangerous for anybody that has training in them, let alone people that were just walking in. And so, you know, it kind of expanded. It would — it played out, so the first couple days it was working in the flooded waters — the flood waters that had oil and gasoline and, you know, debris. And they were wading through this. And they weren’t prepared. They didn’t have the, you know, steel-toed shoes. And they didn’t have the blue jeans. They were doing it in shorts. So you had cuts. You had bruises, falls. You know, at one point, I think we even had a resident in Kingwood that, unfortunately, we lost due to the virus.
EL: Right. And from what I remember — what I think is it was — she was working in an area [0:37:00], trying to help and got cut. And so many — hydration, hydration problems, overexertion, that type on top of, like we mentioned earlier, the normal, everyday 900 to a thousand cardiac arrests, diabetic reactions. And so everything was compounded. So yes, ma’am, I really — I believe that was — people were using power tools that they’d never used before. They were — they were pushing themselves beyond what their normal skillsets were. And I think that was probably what caused a lot of that, which you can see. You wouldn’t think, but people were just trying to pick up their life and move on. It was sad. It was sad to watch — sad to be a part of it. But there again, Houston Strong. When we were at my mom’s house working – I think I mentioned this last time – the church community out there is amazing [0:38:00]. They’re standing — and 10 people walked up my mom’s driveway we never met before. And they said, “We’re from your church. What do you need?” And that’s all they said just like Major Russell from Florida. “What do you need? What do you need next?” And it was just — to see that, you know — and that think that’s how a lot of people in Houston got through that — was having that insurgence of extra energy and people coming in.
DH: What’s her church?
EL: Kingwood Methodist.
DH: A lot of the churches —
EL: Oh, well, buckets.
DH: – were really —
EL: They came in with buckets of soap and sponges and towels and all the things that you wouldn’t have on hand. Supplies were limited, too, the next days — you know, the days after the recovery process. A lot of the stores, Home Depot, Lowe’s, they ran out of — but I was surprised though, too. They brought that stuff [0:39:00] in. When you went up to Lowe’s, there was pallets of shovels and pallets of cleaning supplies. I’m sorry. My mind’s going blank here. But the chemical you need for the —
EL: Yeah, the bleach, right. There we go. That’s what I was trying to refer to. I’m sorry. I’m losing it here.
DH: That’s okay.
EL: Yeah, for the mold.
EL: The mold.
EL: So they were bringing it in. And they were getting it, but the churches were walking in with it in their hands. They had gone out there and brought that. So it just — the community was amazing. That makes Kingwood special.
DH: That’s true.
EL: It’s a very special place. And I’m — I would like to think — I hope that other areas, Memorial, Clear Lake, have that same opportunity to have that. I just know that — I know in my heart that Kingwood, we have that. And I only hope that other areas experience that [0:40:00]. So it just — and this just reinforces that point.
DH: Uh-huh. Me, too. So is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to add?
EL: Anything you haven’t asked? I think we’ve covered a lot. I think we’ve covered a lot. I just — you know, I’m proud of — I’m proud of the Kingwood residents for the way they persevered. And they were able to pick up and keep moving. I’m proud of the Houston Fire Department. I’ve been a member for 28 years. And you know, those guys that — you know, they weren’t able to get home to their families. They kept in contact with them on the phone, but that didn’t get them down there. They kept doing what they needed to do. And I think projects like this are extremely important — to be able to capture that information and hopefully learn and carry forward and be better prepared for the next one. So I appreciate your efforts and all that you’re doing.
DH: Thank you.
EL: Because that’s just one more piece of the recovery. You’ve got to remember [0:41:00] where you were before you can know what to do next time it happens.
DH: That’s right.
EL: So I thank you.
DH: Thank you.
EL: Alrighty? [0:41:10]