Firefighter Returns From Gulf

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

September 15, 2005

The Charlottesville Newsplex has been following the journey of a local firefighter who went down to the Gulf coast to lend a hand. He recently returned to Charlottesville, and shared with our stations some of his experiences and amazing pictures from his time there.

"I was instructed to be ready to live primitive for two weeks and I'm not sure you realize what primitive means until you get into a place like that where you have to be there and you have to do your work and there's no driving back from the camping in the mountain," said Battalion Chief Bill Purcell. "You learn to appreciate what we have--being able to turn that faucet on and turn that light switch on and everything is kind of easy."

Purcell spent two weeks in Hancock County, MS which people nicknamed Ground Zero.

"When 31 feet of water came through there, it wiped out everything. There was no infrastructure left, no power, no telephone, nothing," Purcell said.

He took video by the shore and points out the irony in a sign reading: "A Place Apart," and the buildings indeed are torn apart. The residents he said are in pretty good spirits.

"All this destruction around them and they made sure to bring the kids out to play ball and that kind of stuff, rode bicycles. So they were doing their best to bring some normalcy back," said Purcell.

Purcell said there were American flags all over, even one with 48 stars. The Charlottesville Fire Department loaned it's Satellite Uplink Unit to the rescue squads and law enforcement still in Hancock County to provide communication with the outside world.

The truck that they did provide them gives the area phone as well as internet access.

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