By Alyssa Schnugg
Four Oxford firefighters went to Monroe County after two tornadoes ripped through the area on April 13 to help with rescue efforts.
At about 11:30 p.m. April 13, firefighters Adam Patton, Larry McKinney, Randy Bundren, and Chris Abernathy, who all serve on the Mississippi Search and Rescue Task Force 1, received the call that help was needed in Monroe County after an EF2 tornado hit Hamilton with winds up to 130 mph, killing one man and injuring dozens more.
A second EF1 tornado hit Greenwood.
Trees and debris were blocking people in their homes and cars.
Patton, who was recently named OFD’s deputy chief, said the four men left Oxford around midnight.
“We arrived at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday,” he said recently, “and went to work by 2:30 a.m.”
Their first job was to help search the roads.
“We had to cut our way in,” Patton said. “We checked several homes and vehicles and while we found a lot of damage, we didn’t find anyone injured.”
At 5 a.m., the four went back to the command post and were shortly dispatched to local neighborhoods to do secondary checks at homes that were heavily damaged or destroyed by the tornado.
“We went home-to-home, checking in with homeowners and again, found a lot of damage but no one hurt.”
By noon Sunday, the Oxford firefighters were on their way back home.
“There was a lot of structural damage there, some parts worse than others,” Patton said.
Patton has been with OFD for 15 years. He and the others have been on the Task Force since it was formed in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina.
The Task Force responds to calls from around the state when help is needed for search and rescue, whether from storms or missing persons.
“We’ve helped in several missing people cases,” Patton said.
Last summer, three Task Force 1 members were sent to Florida, Virginia and the Mississippi coast to help after hurricanes hit.
Members of the Task Force are required to be certified in a variety of rescue skills, including structural collapse, swift water, rope rescues, confined space and first aid.
“We have to re-certify every two years,” Patton said. “It’s a great thing to be a part of. We very much appreciate Oxford officials and the Oxford Fire Department for allowing us to be a part of the Task Force.”
The Oxford Board of Aldermen took a moment before their regular meeting last week to recognize the four firefighters for their efforts in Monroe County.