The 911 dispatcher came up on the Beach Patrol main channel last Monday evening with a request from the Galveston Fire Department to help with a fire on an oil platform fire on Pelican Island.
Three of our full time superstars responded, all of whom are surf guards, EMTs, and peace officers. As per our protocol Josh Hale went directly to the scene of the fire to assess what was needed from our end and to join the unified command. Kris Pompa and Austin Kirwin brought our rescue boat from Stewart Beach to the Yacht Basin, launched, and drove quickly to Pelican Island.
When Kris and Austin got there they realized that the Fire Department had a pretty intense situation going on. The fire was in one of the legs of an old oil platform that was dry docked. The fire fighters had been shuttled out to a barge. A crane lifted two of the fire fighters 50-60 feet up in the air so they could shoot water down into the leg.
The Battalion Chief called us in case one of the fire fighters fell in the water. Falling in the water from such a high place could be a big deal, but doing it in full bunker gear could be disastrous.
Fortunately, everything turned out fine. Our team’s role of sitting and watching was uneventful. The fire department put out the fire without any one getting hurt and without significant loss of property. Our guys got back to headquarters with even more respect for the amazing job our fire department does than they already had. For us watching how they handled it so smoothly was a real privilege. For them it was another day at the office. As the Battalion Chief put it, “If there weren’t accidents, none of us would have jobs.”
Situations where the different response agencies in Galveston smoothly help each other have become more and more common, thanks to the formation of the Galveston Marine Response group. Galveston Fire, Police, and Beach Patrol routinely assist each other, along with the Sheriff Office Marine Division, Jamaica Beach Fire Rescue, State Park Rangers, Schlitterbahn Lifeguards, and the Jesse Tree. When Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas asked us to come up with a cohesive response group for major disasters we didn’t realize how in the process we would drastically improve our response to localized events. Enhanced communication, joint training, and shared resources are common occurrences which is better for everyone, especially the public who depends on us.
The nice thing about this particular incident is that it was a good chance return all the favors we receive from the Galveston Fire Department on the beach each year. When those 6 million people hit the island’s beaches, no one group can handle it alone. We’re really thankful for all the good work Fire, Police, and EMS does each year and all the help they give us on the beach. Nice have the opportunity to repay them how and when we can.