Live Oak, Fla. – A day after Hurricane Idalia struck Live Oak, Lieutenant Brandon Williams prepares his team of firefighters venturing into a town grappling with downed power lines, fallen trees and extensive damage.
As they wrap up their staff meeting, a heartening sight unfolds outside the station’s window: a convoy of electricity bucket trucks rumbling through town, poised to join forces in the mission to restore normalcy to the battered community.
“I felt warm and fuzzy,” Williams said with a smile. “We were just having an officers meeting inside and we see out the window all these trucks, all these guys, all these people out there working to get it back going.”
In the wake of Idalia’s fury, the small town of Live Oak found itself in the heart of chaos. The storm’s rage and destructive winds not only toppled trees into power lines, but also resulted in a surge of calls to the city of Live Oak Fire Department.
From putting out flames engulfing houses caused by flickering candles to rescuing a man pinned to his bed by a tree and collapsed roof, Williams and his team of firefighters fearlessly stepped up to respond to their community when they were needed most.
“This is what we live for. It’s because we love people,” said Williams. “We do more in this little bit of time after a storm than we usually do in months in this department, so it means the world to us.”
As the community picks up the pieces, local and state leaders join forces to restore power. Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) brought men and women from across the country to assist with this statewide recovery effort.
Firefighters accompanied utility crews into neighborhoods that were difficult to access due to debris and flooding. Their familiarity with the city's layout and their equipment for cutting through obstacles ensured that utility workers could reach damaged power lines faster, expediting the restoration process for Live Oak’s residents.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had this much of a combined effort. We’re ecstatic about it,” he said. “I’m thankful for [FPL] getting here so we can start functioning again and getting the lights back on so people can make a living.”
Joining the dozens of FPL contractor crews committed to this restoration effort was FPL President and CEO Armando Pimentel. He watched as crews contended with thick vegetation to stand up new poles one day after Idalia roared through town.
“We continue to work day and night to restore power safely and as quickly as possible to our customers affected by Hurricane Idalia’s destructive path across Florida,” Pimentel said. “As power and a sense of normalcy are restored, we remind everyone to stay alert and safe and to avoid any hazardous conditions.”