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Exclusive: Local first responders help storm-ravaged Oklahoma in historic fashion

Posted at 11:29 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 04:17:18-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Local police and firefighters are in storm ravaged Oklahoma helping the area recover after massive damage from days of tornadoes and flooding. It’s the first time the Cherokee Nation has invited an outside agency to help like this.

Eight members from the Region 7 South Florida All Hazards Incident Management Team (AHIMT) was summoned to the region that’s close to a 75-year flooding record. They showed us a picture of a flooded area that’s two a half mile from where the river normally is.

Steve Hynes day job is a sergeant with the Delray Beach Police Department. In Oklahoma, he is the incident commander.

“Our whole mission is to make sure the (Cherokee Nation) can get back to community recovery,” he said in an interview over FaceTime from the Cherokee Nation’s Emergency Operations Center.

Their land spans 14 counties and 7,000 square miles in northeast Oklahoma.

Jason Haythorn’s day job is a lieutenant with Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue. In Oklahoma, he is the public information officer.

“We actually got involved with Cherokee Nation following Hurricane Irma down in the Keys two years ago,” he said over FaceTime.

The Cherokee Nation helped when South Florida needed the help and now South Florida answering the call.

It’s the first time ever an outside agency has been asked to help them.

“A lot of stuff that’s happening is historic. With the flooding, the damage that they’re dealing with, their recovery and their response to it,” Haythorn said.

Much of the strategy in responding to a hurricane and tornado will translate. The flood waters, however, will take much longer to subside.

Flood waters in South Florida drain when it’s low tide, Hynes pointed out.

“Unfortunately, here this is not tidal, the rivers will continue to flow,” he said.

They’ll work 12-18 hours a day, for the next 15 days, to help the Cherokee Nation recover.

“It’s a huge honor to call us for help and let us help them give some sort of guidance toward that recovery process,” he said.

The crew also gave thanks to their local bosses to allow them to help the community in Oklahoma.

AHIMT is a 40-person team from Palm Beach County to the Keys. The eight-person crew in Oklahoma is made up of six Palm Beach County-based rescue personnel, with a Sunrise Fire-Rescue member, and another from the state level emergency management office.