Cary firefighter joins NC team in Hawaii volcano response

Andrea Blanford Image
Monday, May 21, 2018
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Thousands of emergency workers are in Hawaii to help with the volcano response.

As fast-moving, explosive lava rips through Hawaii's big island, a Cary firefighter is on the ground, ready to respond.

Master firefighter Jordan Rink is one of ten team members from across North Carolina who answered the call from Hawaii's State Emergency Management Agency.

"We're very familiar with hurricanes and flooding and the wildfires and tornadoes and the natural hazards that we prepare for and respond to around here," said Rink. "So the initial question was, what do you do for the volcanic activity and lava flows and fissures?"

Rink said it took a lot of research on short notice to prepare for the mission.

The team, made up of a state emergency manager and nine county and local emergency managers and fire officials, will work from an emergency operations center in Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii.

They'll be running logistical support and resource planning, handling issues such as evacuations, setting up shelters, road closures, and detours.

"While it's a completely different hazard that we're facing, a lot of the response activities are very similar to what we experience," Rink said.

Team members from agencies in Bladen, Gates, Lee, McDowell, Moore, and Onslow Counties as well as fire departments in Cary, Charlotte, and Greensboro arrived in Hawaii on Saturday.

They'll serve for two weeks before returning home.

Conditions in Hawaii continue to worsen since Kilauea volcano began erupting earlier this month.

People have been forced to evacuate, homes have been destroyed, and now lava is cutting across the highway, pouring into the ocean sending up plumes of toxic chemicals.

One man was badly injured when molten rock went flying and shattered his lower leg.

Rink and the team will return to North Carolina on June 2.

What would a successful mission look like?

"Feeling that we made a positive impact, that we brought some skills and expertise and left the Hawaii County EOC in as good or better process and condition than what it was when I got here," said Rink. "Of course, they're doing an outstanding job. Hopefully we can contribute some to their processes and be able to leave them wanting to contact North Carolina for any future help."