New Bern Fire Department remembers Florence rescues

New Bern Fire Department remembers Florence rescues
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:19 PM EDT

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - Five years later, One department reflects on the lessons learned during rescues with Hurricane Florence.

New Bern Fire & Rescue say they were able to perform more than 700 rescues throughout the storm. Many of those were water rescues.

Hurricane Florence – it’s one of those days that folks with the Fire department here in New Bern – will never forget.

For water rescue specialist and captain at the department – Steven Jerome – was out in flood water helping to perform some of the more than 700 rescues the Fire Department reported.

Recalling the toll the time under tension can put on not only the body but the mind.

“I think the mental aspect of it is probably the hardest part it is physically exhausting to be out in the rain and the wind and the floodwaters doing what we were doing for extended periods of time but the mental toll that it takes on somebody and the sleep deprivation that you experienced during a storm like this it’s it’s unbelievable,” said Jerome.

The department says they received rescue assistance from the North Carolina Task Force in Greenville, as well as out-of-state agencies from Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania.

And with that much help. Crews were able to successfully make those 700+ rescues between Craven and Jones County without a single death. With lessons on teamwork to take away.

“Or some lessons learned from that day is we’ve tried to increase our manpower and certifications with water rescue we’re newborns an area that’s surrounded by water we’ve tried to increase our capabilities with boats and personnel with training,” said Interim Fire Chief Jim McConnell.

“But sometimes with with areas who have been hit so many times by different hurricanes and natural disasters for me to see that it’s it’s a constant reminder of of of what has happened in the past but it’s also those individuals are saying it’s just another storm and whatever happens happens and and we’re gonna get we’re gonna get through it,” said Jerome.

Interim Chief McConnell said in 2018 only 70 people were staffed to work at the headquarters fire station in the city of New Bern, but swelled to 300 people on staff with mutual aid embedded with fire department staff during Florence.