Reno firefighters return from Puerto Rico mission

Published: Nov. 15, 2017 at 5:23 PM PST
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Tom Dunn and Jake Lightfoot have returned to Reno from a 21-day mission to Puerto Rico. Part of an incident management team, the two worked with others from across the country to try and solve problems caused by Hurricane Maria.

“The devastation. I don't think we saw any homes, there are three and a half million people that live there, and I don't think we saw too many homes that weren't impacted in some way,” Lightfoot says of his first impressions once he arrived on the island.

“Previous experience with hurricane assignments was Hurricane Katrina, so I was prepared for the worst,” said Dunn of his expectations once landing on Puerto Rico.

The job was to recognize major problems caused by the hurricane, infrastructure damage, lack of water, and no electricity, and work together with local agencies to solve those problems.

Lightfoot said of the people, “The attitude was pretty awesome, So you take the amount of damage, and the fact that so many people don't have any running water or power at their homes, but people are still going to work at the restaurants, at their office, at the bank, and people are in a good mood.”

While the fire fighters say they believe they made some real progress during their time in Puerto Rico, they say repairs and restoring the island will not happen quickly.

Getting materials and manpower is more challenging as it takes time and effort to get to the island. But through it all, they say the people were an inspiration and very thankful for the help.

“It's like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. You have to take baby steps every day and make progress that day,” said Dunn.

Who knows, the knowledge these two brought back with them from Puerto Rico may be invaluable when disaster strikes locally.

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