HFD Station 49

Firefighters at Station 49 of the Houston Fire Department recount their experiences as first responders during Hurricane Harvey. Chief Bob Branch says that no amount of planning could have prepared them for the flooding during Hurricane Harvey.

He says that other recent floods, such as the Tax Day flood, were small events that affected a limited portion of the city, and that because Harvey affected such a large area, they could never have had enough resources. Brian Dea mentions that the need for emergency services due to regular medical emergencies, like heart attacks, did not dissipate during the flooding, and that HFD and EMS had to make their regular volume of calls on top of calls related to flooding. He also points out that a call does not go away after a set amount of time, so first responders still must go to that location even if there was a back log. During Harvey, Branch says there was a forty-eight hour back log of 911 calls. In response to the flooding, Branch remembers many federal agencies assisting with rescues and recovery. Michael DeLeon recalls how his team was able to resuscitate a man who had drowned in Brays Bayou. At one point, a man showed up to the fire station with a large, high-water vehicle and asked to help conduct rescues. This truck was able to get the firefighters close to a house fire. Branch describes how the firefighters had to wade through deep water while wearing their firefighting gear as they made rescues. No Houston firefighters were injured during Harvey, and Benjamin Burton fondly remembers the kindness and generosity of the community, which manifested largely in the form of food donations. Because there was such a back log on emergency calls, Branch began to make calls to check on those people to see if they still needed help. He says that some people called him back days later and thanked him for checking on their wellbeing. Burton, who decided to become a firefighter after his experience during Hurricane Katrina, mentions that the community rallied around first responders. After the storm, there were days of paperwork to complete, the size of HFD’s boat fleet increased, and high-water vehicles were purchased.