PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Seasoned New York City firefighter and veteran disaster responder Tim Kuhl still gets emotional when he can help someone who has been affected by a disaster.
“Someone gave me a hug and said ‘You have no idea how much you are helping us out’,” Kuhl said. “That really got to me.”
Kuhl is in Panama City as part of an 11-member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) from the Fire Department of New York. The FDNY has been working with the American Red Cross for 30 years to bolster emergency relief capabilities.
“Firefighters are trained for action and the DART members have had Red Cross training too, so they just hit the ground running and make a big difference,” said Mauricio Serrato, who coordinates DART manpower with Red Cross operations.
Their first day in the Florida panhandle, four members of the FDNY DART team were tasked with delivering disaster relief supplies. When they arrived at the Providence Community Church and noticed a tree on the roof, they sprang into action. With a borrowed chainsaw and ladder, they made quick work of tree removal.
This is the second Red Cross deployment for DART team member Richard Mendez. “It’s rewarding, yet it breaks my heart,” he said. “You want to do more once you see the devastation.”
Kuhl is on his third Red Cross deployment; he also worked on relief efforts after hurricanes Harvey and Maria.
“I have a passion to help out wherever I can. To me, there is no greater feeling than to do something selfless,” he said.