Manassas Journal Messenger | Firefighters return from Florida aid trip

The Lake Jackson firefighters who left for Pensacola, Fla., on Monday morning with a couple of loads of relief items returned early Friday.

People in Pensacola welcomed the donated clothes, toiletries and household goods the firefighters brought to aid the victims of Hurricane Ivan.

Ron Rice, pastor of the Liberty Church of Pensacola, said the delivery from Virginia was “a blessing.”

The clothing was especially welcome.

“We have people who have lost everything,” Rice said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“They evacuated so all they had was the clothes they wore out,” he said.

Rice said his church was able to to outfit entire families, with enough left over from the Prince William delivery to spread the wealth.

“It was such a big load, We’ve been able to share it with another church,” he said.

Rice said Prince William County sent the best supplies.

“Your guys had the nicest clothing we’ve seen,” he said.

Lee Campbell, the Lake Jackson volunteer who led the effort to get the donations to Florida, said road signs were down for 80 miles around Pensacola.

Campbell, with the support of the Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire Department, chose the Pensacola area because he had a brother-in-law there who lost his house in the hurricane.

They took as many donations as they could carry to help other families as well.

Lee Campbell, his son Billy and and volunteers Patty Chittendon and Todd Sherwood witnessed the destruction once they arrived in Pensacola at about 3 a.m. Tuesday.

One woman had a boat in her house and no idea where it came from, Campbell said.

Police, firefighters and power crews were working 12- to 18-hour shifts just to keep up and there were roads covered by eight feet of sand.

“It looked like it snowed sand,” Billy Campbell said.

“Going through there was like a war zone,” the 46-year-old Lee Campbell said.

The Prince William contingent helped people salvage what was left of their lives to relieve local emergency crews.

They needed qualified people to help residents safely enter their storm-damaged homes.

“Those guys were burnt out,” Campbell said of local firefighters, Red Cross and rescue workers.

Jim Heinhold and his wife evacuated before the hurricane arrived, but found destruction and death upon their return to their neighborhood 10 miles west of Pensacola.

Heinhold, who appeared in a newspaper photograph with President Bush, said he and his wife were among the fortunate.

“I know a man whose wife was sucked out of the house during the storm and she’s dead,” the 63-year-old said in a telephone interview.

Heinhold said Ivan’s storm surge destroyed so many houses that local emergency crews couldn’t possibly keep up with the needs of the community.

“A 30-foot wall of water came up and literally exploded the houses,” Heinhold said.

Campbell collected donations for a couple of days before he and the others left Lake Jackson. Donations continued to arrive at the station on Coles Drive while they were gone.

He’s trying to make arrangements to get the supplies down there.

Anyone going to Florida who can carry a load should call Campbell at (703) 368- 3233.


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