• Mike Wilson turned vacation into opportunity to help Florida community leveled by Hurricane Irma

    boatA vacation the district’s driver education and training instructor Mike Wilson was planning to take in September turned into an opportunity to help Florida residents with Hurricane Irma relief.

    “My wife is from Cape Coral, and we had planned to go down to visit. Then the hurricane hit,” he said. “I kept my plane ticket and went down anyway. It's what volunteer firefighters do.”

    The longtime district employee has also been in the fire and EMS service for nearly 20 years. His work includes acting as a regional fire instructor, and is a member of the Logan and Milesburg fire companies.

    “I have taken a bunch of FEMA courses and training over the years, and I was able to work with and assist (in) FEMA efforts in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel Island in southwest Florida,” he said.

    FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that aids in the response to disaster efforts across the country.

    Wilson described the scene: “When I arrived in Florida, you could clearly see where the roadways were all flooded. Some 20,000 people still without power in part of Cape Coral, Florida – south of Fort Myers, north of Naples. Many (could not) return to their homes, with sewage in their yards and trees on their homes. (There was) no power or clean drinking water.”

    Calling it the largest site in Florida to distribute food, water and other supplies, Wilson said 29,784 meals were distributed, along with 17 pallets of ice and 1,215 cases of water.

    “It was really moving to see everyone come together in this time of need,” he said.

    Authorities told Wilson it would take about a year for the Cape to rebuild and about six more years until the Florida Keys and Miami will fully recover.

    *By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD