Fort Smith firefighters work 96 hours straight to help flood victims

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA)– Some firefighters in Fort Smith worked over 90 hour shifts to give flood victims hope in the midst of disaster.

In the city, a neighborhood filled with mud, debris and sandbags isn’t uncommon.

In the thick of the flooding, some firefighters are spending more time at homes like these than their own.

Ninety-six hours–That’s how long this River Valley firefighter and his team worked to help the Fort Smith community in a dire situation.

Capt. Ben Noel of the Fort Smith Fire Department said, “In our downtime, not responding to calls, we would go out and help the citizens as much as we could.”

When Capt. Noel and the rest of the crew weren’t fighting fires, the group was filling sandbags, moving furniture, and helping the elderly out of their homes.

Thinking back, he said it all happened so fast.

“I drank a bottle of water, filled it up with some of the dirty water, set it down on the water’s edge, and within 5 minutes the bottle was completely surrounded by the flood water. So, that’s how quickly it was rising,” Capt. Noel said.

He said when fighting the roar of the flooding Arkansas River, no two days were the same.

“You go from one frame of trying to protect property to now we’re in life safety mode that we need to get out there to get that victim out,” he said. 

The department isn’t alone.

Fire crews from the Northwest Arkansas task force under the Washington County Department of Emergency Management are on standby.

Asst. Chief Brad Hardin from the Fayetteville Fire Department said, “We’ve had crews ready to go from Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Washington County.” 

Asst. Chief Hardin said it’s vital for agencies to band together in times like this.

“We can’t do it by ourselves. It requires everybody working together,” he said.

Capt. Noel said, “Not everyone wants to do it, but for me personally, that was the reward for me–to see the community come together to work together so hard for one major goal.”

While the Northwest Arkansas task force does not have immediate plans to deploy, Chief Hardin said it’s always ready to answer the call for help.

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