Heroes of Irma: Emergency agencies highlight a few in their hardworking crews
A Gainesville Fire Department engine arrives at a tree in the road Monday afternoon along Broad Street as Irma storms across the area. - photo by Scott Rogers

Many emergency responders worked through the night Monday as calls flooded the Hall County 911 center. The Times asked those agencies to recognize just a few of those who went above and beyond in their jobs.

Gainesville Fire Department

Three firefighters, Lt. Gary Clark, Heath Elrod and Shane Martin, manned a spare fire engine, working overtime responding to calls.

“These guys were hustling all night and near the end of the night were covered in sawdust from cutting so many trees,” fire department spokesman Keith Smith said.

Smith reported personnel on shift were running more than their fair share of calls, and these firefighters kept some of the load off other personnel.

They used a blower to blow the sawdust off each other.

Gainesville Police Department

School Resource Officer Chris Coy worked 17 hours straight to help those in need and clear roadways, police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said.

Officer Adam Davis also showed up on his day off to help crews clear roads, Holbrook said.

“The real heroes were the city Public Works department,” Holbrook said. “They were the ones in the trenches ensuring we could make it to calls for service.”

Hall County Sheriff's Office

Spokesman Deputy Stephen Wilbanks said "a whole lot of people went above and beyond, across multiple divisions," with many bringing their chain saws to clear roads ahead of road maintenance crews. 

"Last night everyone was a lumberjack," Wilbanks said.

Meanwhile, the department won the Internet with posts on its Facebook page like this one.

We’re working to identify the faceless “social media guy.” It may or may not be the aforementioned Wilbanks. 

Hall County Fire Services

Ten new firefighter recruits were called on Monday to augment staffing, especially on the north end of the county where authorities expected a lot of calls.

“The recruits were placed with experienced personnel and performed admirably throughout their tour,” spokesman Capt. Zachary Brackett said.

They have completed fire training and are in EMT school at Lanier Technical College, which canceled classes Monday.

Jackson EMC

Benny Bagwell has worked for Jackson EMC for 45 years, and his job is to make sure the power lines are safe before linemen start their work.

Jackson EMC spokeswoman April Sorrow said Bagwell didn’t go home Monday night and had worked 24 hours.

Linemen like Kevin Cash have worked long shifts, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and were back at it again Tuesday working the same kind of long shift.

Sorrow also noted that linemen never leave the job site, and other personnel bring food to them on site. There are 30-40 linemen working full time in Hall County.

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