By the Office of Louisiana State Fire Marshal
August 12th signified the anniversary of the momentous, unprecedented flood event known as one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
The floodwaters which derived from considerable amounts of rainfall resulted in the overflow of several Southeast Louisiana waterways. The widespread flooding impacted multiple parishes, with Livingston being the hardest hit. Over 146,000 homes and several thousand business structures were submerged when the Amite and Comite rivers reached a record level.
Fire Marshal, H. “Butch” Browning, recognized the magnitude of the event unfolding and immediately mobilized the state’s Urban Search and Rescue/Swift Water Rescue Teams for their first full active deployment in preparation for what appeared to be a catastrophic event.
The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal’s Emergency Services Section positioned approximately 90 deputies across the state to conduct evacuations, render aid, execute rescues and sustain 24-hour communications between state and local emergency operation centers. The USAR team, comprised of 320 members along with 7 canines, saved the lives of 4,315 individuals and 12 animals throughout 4 days of vigorous water rescues.
One of the first heroic efforts involved the swift evacuation of a nursing home facility, known as Flannery Oaks Guest House. Chief Browning, along with several of his deputies and Shreveport firefighters rescued numerous elderly patients and staff members as the knee deep floodwaters moved rapidly, rising by the minute. Flannery Oaks Guest House Administrator Earl Thibodeaux said, “They were great guys who worked 6 to 7 hours lifting patients”.
“The fact that our first responders rose to the call along with ordinary citizens certainly made Louisiana proud,” said Browning.