ROCKPORT — On Aug 30, the mayor of Rockport, Texas – Charles Wax – was on National Public Radio describing the devastation of his small city of 10,000. Citizens were being allowed back in after Hurricane Harvey made its first landfall on the U.S. there Aug. 25. Wax reported 30 percent of the buildings were destroyed, and that there were many dead animals — pets and horses. There was a stench rising everywhere, he said. But foremost on his mind was safety for his community.
Hurricane Harvey produced major wind damage in Rockport, though the flooding was not as extensive as in Houston and other affected areas of Texas and Louisiana.
In Rockport, Maine, an effort has been underway since Tuesday to organize and help. Select Board member Owen Casas has been waiting for word from Rockport, Texas, to see how Rockport, Maine, could assist.
On Thursday afternoon, Aug. 31, Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley talked with the Rockport, Texas, fire chief. Yes, Rockport could possibly use Maine’s help, perhaps by next week.
Currently, firefighters from other Texas and Oklahoma communities have poured in, and the scene is being secured so that citizens can get back to what remains.
But there will be a lot of work to do, and Rockport, Maine, firefighters, if they go, will help with debris removal, and generally help the Rockport, Texas, Fire Department become whole, again.
According to Select Board member OweneCasas, more than 80 percent of the firefighters lost their homes in the hurricane.
On Aug. 29, the Rockport, Maine, Select Board convened for an emergency meeting and unanimously (three board members were present: Casas, Ken McKinley and Tom Grey) voted to authorize fundraising efforts to assist Rockport, Texas. The campaign is for relief efforts and the money is to be used to pay expenses for Rockport responders to assist in the cleanup.
After all expenses are deducted, the rest will be donated to Rockport, Texas.
Additionally, the Select Board agreed that the town would send town assets to help clean up. Those assets would be firefighting equipment and other necessary tools.
If firefighters go to Texas, they are expected to travel in the pickup trucks belonging to Fire Chief Jason Peasley and firefighter Justin Ford.
The crews going would include Peasley, Ford, Casas and firefighters John Sylvester, Clint Beveridge and John Wickenden.
The Select Board’s deployment authorization, which included extending workman’s compensation coverage, was dependent on several points:
Tom Grey said the trip to help would be contingent on Rockport’s agreed goal to help meet the long-term needs of Rockport, Texas, and establish a constructive and enduring relationship.
Chairman Ken McKinley said the trip’s destination would be contained to Rockport, Texas.
And, most of all, that the Rockport, Maine, assets are “needed and wanted,” said Grey.
Rockport, Maine, has a robust fire department, the Select Board agreed, and its volunteers could successfully muster in an emergency with six of their members on this trip.
The trip is authorized for seven days, with three our four on the ground in Rockport, Texas.
“We will do it right, and we will do it smart,” said McKinley. “We will do it to help them, not to pat ourselves on the back.”