Op: Greased Lightning – Personal Reflection from Wilderness EMT Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller

The day started with homemade pancakes from Theresa, a TR member in Trenton who kindly opened her home and kitchen to a team of thirteen.

We then deployed to Brick, NJ to clear streets for emergency services access. In a little over an hour we got five chainsaws running and cleared three trees from the street. Homeowners were surprised to find out that we were an all-volunteer group rather than being paid by the county, and very moved by the disabled vets with their service dogs. A county public works supervisor arrived while we were working and was grateful that we had the situation in hand and he could deploy his teams to other sites. The neighbors were grateful for the cleared street and donated some lumber for tarping homes in other harder-hit areas.

After making sure everyone was fed and hydrated we moved to a hard-hit neighborhood north of Brick where almost every home on several streets had downed trees and flooding. Most homes were using generators to pump water out of basements. We couldn’t touch several trees that were involved in power lines or had too much weight inaccessible on high-pitch roofs. We split into two teams at each end of the street to remove accessible trees endangering homes.

One large tree had destroyed elements of three backyard fences and crossed the entire roof of a twenty-year army veteran, with several roof and wall penetrations.  We winched off one broken branch to stabilize the tree, then moved to the roof to limb the tree. Eventually two sawyers were able to cut the tree back to the edge of the roof where we used a strong standing tree as a stanchion to winch the tree off the roof with steel cable and tow straps. After removing the tree, we used the donated lumber and Home Depot tarps to cover the holes in the roof. Homeowners were extremely generous, offering bathrooms and coffee and inviting us to the neighborhood barbeque the following day.

While that effort was underway other volunteers removed a leaning tree from a roof on the other end of the street and contacted other homeowners to survey backyards for downed trees far enough from power lines for us to safely remove, enabling them to repair roofs, drains, and fences and get tarps up before the forthcoming Nor’Easter.Teams with handtools pruned broken limbs away from roofs and powerlines on the rest of the street.  When we told homeowners that  we would be back in the morning to buck the downed trees for removal and were attempting to acquire pumps for their flooded basements, they were grateful but incredulous that volunteers would expend so much effort on fixing their working-class and pensioner neighborhood.  Military retirees asked how they could join Team Rubicon to help other areas in future disasters.

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