One of White Rock’s top fire officials is among volunteers on the ground in Turkey this week helping with search-and-rescue efforts following a devastating earthquake.
Fire Chief Ed Wolfe confirmed that deputy Chief Norm MacLeod flew out Tuesday (Feb. 7) night with fellow members of the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue, a non-profit formed in 2011 to assist with disaster mitigation, preparedness and response in Burnaby, as well as help in countries affected by natural disasters.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southeast Turkey and Syria on Monday, causing countless buildings to collapse. The death toll as of Wednesday had surpassed 12,000, and the search for victims and survivors is ongoing.
According to information on the Burnaby group’s website, the technical-search team is trained to locate those who have been buried in collapsed buildings and structures.
Wolfe said the mission is MacLeod’s first since joining the White Rock fire station three years ago. He has been part of at least one other such trip, however, when the Burnaby team travelled to Nepal following the earthquake there in 2015.
Wolfe said while the team is “boots on the ground right now” – with MacLeod designated team lead – he does not know where exactly in Turkey they are stationed. They are anticipating being there for at least a week, working under the direction of the area’s established emergency command structure.
The time between MacLeod’s request to step away from his White Rock post to accompany the team and their arrival in Turkey was just 36 hours, Wolfe said.
While images of the devastation have been widely shared, the heartbreak of seeing the tragedy firsthand is difficult to fathom, Wolfe agreed.
“Every time you turn the news on, the death toll’s up 2,000,” he said.
“They’ll be busy for sure. The positive side of it is that they’re trying to make a positive impact on the situation. They’re trying to help in any way they can and there will definitely be lots of opportunities for that.
“I’m sure that as sad as a lot of it will be, that there will be positives that come out of it, where the team has made a difference.”
Seeing news reports of toddlers pulled out of the rubble alive “are the little victories that keep you going in situations that are so overwhelming,” Wolfe said.
He noted that the city is covering MacLeod’s wages for the duration of his time in Turkey, and that there was no hesitation to clear him for the trip.
Schedules have been adjusted to fill the gap at the Pacific Avenue firehouse until MacLeod returns.
“We’ll make it work,” Wolfe said.
For those wishing to donate to the rescue efforts, the Canadian Red Cross is among agencies collecting funds. According to information on the agency’s website, the federal government has committed to matching individual donations received Feb. 6-22, to a maximum $10 million. Visit redcross.ca for more information.
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