By Stuart J. Pearlman, TSB Staff
As the explosions and fires erupted last week in the small town of West, Texas, the fully volunteer fire department jumped into action. It became clear that this 19-member force would need assistance, and that assistance came in droves, including one McKinney firefighter who was destined to lend a hand in West.
It has been reported that professional fire fighters and volunteers from as far away as 100 miles began to descend on West almost immediately. This is the mentality of the men and women who are dedicated to the job of fire service.
“That’s just fire fighters in general. That’s what we do,” said MFD Assistant Chief of Operations Tim Mock. “You call, we come. That’s just the way it is.”
Mock said within minutes of hearing about the fire and subsequent explosions in West, he and MFD Fire Chief Danny Kistner were on the phones determining what MFD could do to help.
“Whatever they needed we were going to send,” he said. “Because we are over 100 miles away the likelihood of us sending apparatus or personnel was probably not going to happen, but I had guys calling me as soon as this happened saying if we need somebody they were ready to go.”
Enter firefighter Keri Grant. Grant is a resident of McKinney and has been in fire service for 17 years, the last eight with MFD. In addition, Grant is a member of the Texas Task Force 2 Urban Search and Rescue team. Any time there is a natural disaster in Texas or the contiguous states she could be summoned to deploy. When Grant gets summoned so does her partner Tucker, a four year-old black lab/coonhound mix. The trip to West was the first actual deployment for Grant and Tucker.
“This is certainly the biggest thing that Tucker has responded to.” Grant said. “It is what we train for.”
The 33-member team, plus two dogs, which make up Texas Task Force 2, was summoned Wednesday night at about 11:30 and on the scene in West by 1:30 AM. “We began our first assignment within ten minutes of arriving,” Grant said.
Their immediate job was to begin searching for victims, alive or deceased, in the damaged structures like apartments and nursing homes. “It was like a war zone,” she said.
Grant and Tucker did not discover any live victims in their search. “There was a very very extensive search that occurred before we even got
there,” Grant said. “Volunteers, neighbors, volunteer fire fighters and EMS workers, other smaller departments that were closer than we were did a really good job of going in and evacuating. It was a huge presence that made us feel safe as well.”
The Texas Task Force 2 K-9 teams worked steadily for about the next 12 hours, at which point they were sent home. “Once we had done a complete clear and precise search of viable victims, it went from a rescue mode to a recovery mode,” Grant said.
Tucker and his partner are now back in McKinney and Grant is already back on shift in her full-time job at Station #7 and even teaching future fire fighters at Collin College. There is though a noticeable change about her relationship with the black lab.
“I have trained with (Tucker) for three and a half years and I thought I knew that dog,” Grant said. “I am in awe. His paws hit the ground and he knew this was the real deal.”
Keri Grant was the focus on the TownSquareBuzz.com series Stuart J’s Lens in August 2012. To see that interview click here.
To learn more about Texas Task Force 2, click here.
If you are interested in helping the Nation Disaster Search Dog Foundation, go to www.searchfdogfoundation.org. A donation can be made in honor of Tucker and can even be designated for training, supplies, etc. specifically for Tucker.