SOUTH TEXAS — Among the thousands of rescue and recovery volunteers who’ve converged on Hurricane Harvey’s wreckage this week, are 14 men from the Quapaw Tribe’s Fire/Rescue team, Tribal Marshal’s office and Canine Unit. They are all from the Miami, Okla., Tri-State Area, and normally serve the needs of the Quapaw Tribe’s reservation and surrounding communities in northeast Oklahoma.
“We arrived Monday night, and on our first deployment on Tuesday we rescued 21 people, four dogs and three cats, in about 7 hours of work,” said Jeff Reeves, Quapaw Tribe Fire Chief. The team went by boat into a Houston neighborhood subdivision with chest-deep water that was still rising, and collected the flood victims and pets and shuttled them to safety.
“It’s a tough task with lots of hazards — alligators, snakes, and rising water,” Reeves said. “So we have to stay focused to keep ourselves safe, keep each other safe, and to save as many people as we can.”
The Quapaw crew is coordinating with the Houston Fire Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Reeves said he was not sure how long they would be activated. “As long as we’re needed, I believe.” They are staying at a regional temporary shelter, with portable showers in a Target store parking lot.
The team also includes five rescue dogs from the Tribe’s Marshal Service Canine Operation.
Quapaw Chairman John Berrey said responding to a national emergency such as Harvey’s deadly destruction in south Texas is an automatic reaction for the Tribe and its fire and emergency operations. “We’ve been in similar situations, such as with the horrible Joplin, Missouri, tornado in 2011, and other deadly tornadoes in our state. I’m always so proud of our people for the way they respond and help in a bad situation,” Berrey said.