‘We helped a lot of people,’ Port Angeles firefighters report on first day in Haiti

The first day in Haiti for four Port Angeles firefighters/emergency medical technicians donating their time and talents to the relief effort was a full one.

“We had a great day in the field, said John Hall in a report from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to the Peninsula Daily News on Tuesday.

“We helped a lot of people, a lot of them children under 18,” he said.

“We helped one 11-year-old girl with a broken leg, and another young girl with a very large abscess that we had to take to the hospital.”

Hall said the group also took the 11-year-old with a broken leg to the hospital, but — along with an orthopedic surgeon — ended up recasting her leg in the back of the truck used to transport her to the hospital, then return her to her tent village.

Other firefighters from the Port Angeles Fire Department who made the trip with Hall are Capt. James Mason, Lt. Kevin Denton, paramedic Mark Karjalainen and firefighter Bryant Kroh.

The team left Port Angeles Saturday, with a plan to stay in Haiti for 10 days, rendering medical and humanitarian aid wherever they could.

Because of the difficulty in getting into Haiti on a non-government flight, the team didn’t arrive until Monday morning.

The magnitude 7.0 quake on Jan. 12 killed perhaps as many as 200,000 people.

Up to 1 million people require shelter, and some 200,000 have had amputations or other surgery.

Also, an estimated 1 million children are unaccompanied, orphaned children or lost one parent, said the aid group Save the Children.

The firefighters trip is being blogged on a Web site set up by Hall at www.mercworks.us.

“We also had a boy about 7 with basically all the skin pulled off his foot that we redressed and took to the hospital,” Hall said.

“Tomorrow, it looks like we might get to fly in to the backcountry to help a lot of the little towns that haven’t had any aid at all,” he said.

That flight would be courtesy of the U.S. Army, he added.

“It’s been really fulfilling down here,” he said.

In Port Angeles, Fire Chief Dan McKeen said the community response to their mission has been tremendous.

In addition to funds donated through the Web site, donations have been streaming into the fire station.

“The community has been extremely generous in donating to the Haitian relief effort,” he said, with cash and checks from $5 to $1,000 delivered in person or in the mail.

Donations to date total at least $5,700, he said.

McKeen noted that any funds not used by the team on the ground will go toward other Haitian aid efforts chosen by the team.

“They will gauge where the most need is and give funds directly to that effort,” he said.

Donations to the Port Angeles firefighters Haitian relief mission can be mailed to Port Angeles Fire Department, 102 E. Fifth St., Port Angeles, WA 98362, or dropped off at the same address.

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Features Editor Marcie Miller can be reached at 360-417-3550 or [email protected]

The Peninsula Daily News will publicize additional Haitian relief efforts on the North Olympic Peninsula both in print and online. Contact Miller at the above phone number or e-mail address, or by fax to Miller’s attention at 360-417-3521.

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