ELLERSLIE, GA (WTVM) - Almost two weeks after tornadoes ravaged through the Chattahoochee Valley, first responders are still working to clean up.
What most people don’t know is, many volunteer fire departments worked for hours on end without any sort of compensation to help their community.
The Ellerslie volunteer firefighters are worn out mentally and physically after working hard in their community for the past week and a half. They said they do it because it’s what’s right.
“Golly it’s terrible.” That’s Skip Wyatt’s reaction when talking about the damage tornadoes did in Ellerslie. Wyatt is the chief of the Ellerslie Volunteer Fire Department. He said his 20-person crew is on-call at all times.
“It’s a huge time commitment," said Matt Andrews, a captain at Ellerslie Volunteer Fire Department. "Your radio is pretty much part of your body. You get called out any time of day, most convenient time, inconvenient time, middle of dinner. You just have to drop everything and head out the door.”
“Anything could happen at any time," Wyatt said. "Just like this tornado come through. That’s actually been the worst thing we dealt with out here since I been out here 26 years.”
“When a tornado’s path came through Ellerslie, a lot of the guys, they couldn’t go to town," said Wyatt. "They stayed and called into work and said ‘look, we got a catastrophe, we have to stay here and help.’ Most of their employers said ‘hey, do what you gotta do.’”
Wyatt said most of his crew, minus the retired people, have full time jobs. They donate their time as a volunteer firefighter.
“When I turned 18, it was just something that I did," Andrews said. "Seemed natural to come up here and try to help when peopled needed help.”
Almost two weeks after the devastating storms, Wyatt is reflecting on how everything went.
“I mean I felt like them rubber stretch arm-strong men last week," Wyatt said. "I was pulled in 50 directions. "Here it is a week and a half later and I’m still exhausted. I’m trying to run my business now and it’s tough.”
Wyatt said there is still so much work to do in Ellerslie. There are a lot of trees still down. But he said he is thankful there were only minor injuries and no fatalities.