Twenty Helping Hands
by Ed Burke, Dennis K. Burke Inc.
NEFI Member Sends 10 Fuel Trucks to Assist in Hurricane Recovery Efforts
It’s been a really tough hurricane season.
On August 26, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm, slamming the Houston and Southeast Texas areas with a year’s worth of rain, causing devastating floods.
Before Harvey hit, FEMA was already bringing in and staging resources to help with the planned recovery effort. Diesel and gasoline were required for generators, first responder vehicles, and other needs on the ground.
At FEMA’s request, Dennis K. Burke was able to send three tanker trucks to the FEMA incident support base of operations, located at the Fort Hood military base outside Houston.
As the three Burke drivers made the 1,900-plus mile trek to Texas, the slow-moving storm continued to dump rain along the Gulf States. Flooding was a growing concern. When our guys arrived at Fort Hood, FEMA already had 160 fuel trucks positioned, ready to head to devastated areas of South Texas. Our drivers eagerly joined the fleet.
The drivers were anxious to get out there and help, but FEMA was holding back until some of the flooding had receded and the roads were starting to be cleared. Our men were in Texas for a week, making deliveries and transferring fuel, but spent more time in the staging area than they would have liked.
However, everyone’s focus quickly turned to the next storm on the horizon, Hurricane Irma. Seeing the aftermath of Harvey, residents in Irma’s storm track began preparing. Most heeded the warnings and began evacuating their homes, heading north to escape harm’s way.
On September 2, we started dispatching our trucks to help in Florida. Seven more drove down from New England, and the three drivers that were still in Texas would soon join them. Most of the guys made their way to the staging area at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, while a few headed directly to Florida. Along the way, they saw convoy after convoy of utility trucks and tree-cutting crews, who, like them, were traveling toward the storm.
Reaching Category 5 status, Irma ripped a trail of destruction through parts of the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys. On September 10, she made landfall on Cudjoe Key, FL, as a Category 4 storm. She then hit Marco Island and Naples as a Category 3, before turning inland. Coastal residents nervously awaited the massive storm surges that had been predicted, but thankfully, waters rose less than expected.
Within a few days, the roads were clear of debris and wires, so trucks were able to move out and begin making their deliveries. Everyone in our crew was safe and moving around, bringing fuel to various locations in Florida, or manning the staging areas and dispensing fuel to incoming support agencies as needed.
Driver Kevin Coughlin, out of Chelsea, MA, said that Naples was the hardest hit area he’d seen down there. Kevin spent five hours touch-fueling vehicles and gas cans for generators and chainsaws. He fueled a parking lot full of cars, whose owners told him stories of how their families rode out the storm and the ordeals they were sure to face in the days ahead. Kevin was touched by how appreciative and happy everyone was
to have our help. “We’re proud to do it,” he told them. “We’re all Americans, and if we needed it, you would be up there in the Northeast slugging it out with us.”
Of course, the drivers couldn’t do it all by themselves. Credit is also due to our great support team back home, which pulled everything together so we could send help south. We can’t say enough about the excellent job done by Dan Hill, our director of operations, who worked tirelessly from beginning to end to help make it happen.
Emergency dispatches like this aren’t as simple as loading up the trucks and heading southward. There are terminal access agreements and insurance policies to review. You need to make sure all the truck paperwork, drivers’ paperwork and FEMA paperwork is in order. And then you have actually find the guys who are traveling down there a place to sleep! Dan spent a great deal of time on the phone each day to ensure our guys were doing OK.
Here at Dennis K. Burke, we are proud to be able to do our part in assisting with Hurricane Harvey and Irma recovery efforts. Our deepest sympathies go out to all those who have been affected by the storms, and our sincere gratitude goes out to our drivers who aided in the recovery: Jorge Acosta, Jose Guardado, Scott Monaghan, Joe Connors, Pete Hirtle, Cliff Lewis, Matt Drew, Kevin Coughlin, Steve Harris and Jeff Tuplin. We have some amazing drivers on our team, and we look forward to welcoming them home.