Local firefighter heads to Texas to help with disaster relief efforts

Firefighter-Paramedic Mark Widlund, a 14-year veteran of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, is providing medical assistance to victims of Hurricane Harvey

Post-Record file photo
Firefighter-paramedic Mark Widlund, pictured here in the center, with Camas-Washougal Battalion Chief Mark Ervin (left) and C-W firefighter-paramedic Nick Ober (right), at a Sept. 11 memorial service in 2014, has deployed to Texas to help with disaster relief efforts.

A local firefighter-paramedic is assisting with hurricane disaster relief efforts in Texas this week.

Mark Widlund, a member of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department for the past 14 years, deployed on Saturday, Aug. 26, and joined a team of 65 other medical professionals as part of the federal government’s National Disaster Medical System.

Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said he talked to Widlund on Sunday and that the firefighter-paramedic had landed at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and was ready to deploy to areas most in need of medical assistance.

The Houston area in particular has been devastated by Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on Friday, but continued to drench the nation’s fourth-largest city with historic levels of rainfall throughout the weekend.

The National Weather Service released a statement over the weekend calling the storm “unprecedented” with all impacts “unknown and beyond anything experienced.” Images coming out of Houston on Sunday afternoon showed residents coming to their neighbors’ rescue, using personal boats to shuttle people to safety. Today, the NWS said the flooding was Houston’s worst in recorded history and was “expected to worsen” with peak flooding not arriving until Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

Widlund is the only Camas-Washougal firefighter-paramedic deployed to Texas at this time. He is working with the NDMS, a federally coordinated group overseen by the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs. The government deploys NDMS teams as a rapid-response to disasters to act as an emergency, on-the-ground medical response until other federal resources can mobilize.

HHS deployed 460 NDMS staff members ahead of Hurricane Harvey’s arrival to prepare for what has turned into a catastrophic storm.

According to the NDMS website, the medical teams arrive at disaster sites with enough supplies to last 72 hours, are prepared to work at temporary medical facilities and are typically deployed for two weeks.

Swinhart said Widlund is not able to give updates to the media during his deployment.