I did an interview with Marietta Fire Fighter Ron Presley. He was in Hurricane Harvey a little while ago and is a Search & Rescue Field Commander that rescues animals in disasters around the world.
- You are a Fire Fighter, but what else do you do?
I have been a fire fighter for 16 years. I also volunteer at Forgotten Paws in Acworth and I am the Search & Rescue Field Commander for Kinship Circle (www.kinshipcircle.org).
- Why did you start doing search and rescue in disaster situations?
While watching the coverage of Katrina on TV, I saw a CNN reporter attempt to feed a stranded dog. The water got too deep and he gave up the effort. I couldn’t live with that, and loaded up my truck and headed for New Orleans alone. It was a life changing experience and I’ve dedicated my life and skills to animal rescue and doing good in the world ever since.
- What types of animals do you rescue?
All types. Dogs, cats, horses, cows, chickens. Even alligators.
- What are some places you have been to help in disasters?
I’ve done hurricane rescue in Hurricanes Harvey, Matthew and Katrina. I’ve helped in flooding situations in Mexico and Louisiana. Chile for the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. Thailand also for flooding and Japan for the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and radiation crisis.
- What is your favorite story to tell?
In Japan the tsunami wiped out pretty much everything and there was not a lot of rescue relief in the aftermath. I was driving a truck going to shelters along the coast. I found a woman and her dog. There was very little relief and the people were only given 1 slice of bread and 1 banana every day. She would eat the banana and give the slice of bread to her dog. I gave her a 50lb bag of dog food.
- What did it feel like when you rescued your first dog or animal?
I can’t really remember. It was in Katrina and it was so chaotic. We visited this flooded home, there were 2 dogs on the porch. We were ordered not to go into the water so I had to hop from a tree to a washing machine to get to the porch and get food to the dogs. We had to ‘feed in place’ until other arrangements could be made for the animals.
- How do you decide which disasters to go to?
Kinship Circle makes the call.
- What was the worst disaster you have been to?
From a damage perspective definitely the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Towns were completely demolished for miles inland.
- What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
I jumped on to a downed power line in Hurricane Katrina hoping it was not charged. In Japan I was wading around in waist deep water then heard that a nearby alligator farm had been washed away. In Thailand we filled kiddie pools with water for dogs. A snake went under one and I pulled it out by the tail not knowing what kind it was – there are 65 venomous snakes in Thailand.
- What advice do you have for me?
Be a fire fighter and rescue animals on the side. I will put you on one of my teams when you are older.
- What can I do to help you?
Put the word out there that we need volunteers. A lot of people don’t realize that the opportunity exists to go with a team and help in disaster zones.