Covington 1st Responders part of tornado response

A photo taken by Covington Police Lt. Bryan Bogard and supplied by Covington FOP #1 shows some of the damage caused by a tornado that tore through the town of Mayfield, Ky.

Firefighters, police on the ground in Western Ky.

COVINGTON, Ky. – A police officer and five firefighters from the City of Covington are in far Western Kentucky as part of the massive response to the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the region late Friday and early Saturday.

Among their tasks: Searching for survivors and casualties in the rubble of more than a thousand destroyed buildings and coordinating the logistical response (including food preparation) that is making that search possible.

All six are on formal assignment: Four firefighters are members of the Ohio Task Force 1 regional search and rescue unit that was deployed Sunday afternoon, one firefighter is a volunteer member of the Powell County (Ky.) Search & Rescue team, and a police lieutenant is part of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police’s effort to feed First Responders.

Other firefighters and police officers are on standby for possible assignment.

“From everything I’ve been told and the pictures I’ve seen, the extent of the devastation is difficult to comprehend,” Chief Mark Pierce said. “Houses and buildings are just gone. It’s nice that we’re able to assist our fellow fire departments get through something that we hope to never have to go through here in Covington because we know that if we did suffer such a disaster, they’d be here to support us.”

At least four tornadoes touched down in Kentucky. As of this morning, the confirmed death toll had reached 64 people, with 18 people still unidentified and 105 people still unaccounted for, Gov. Andy Beshear said. Ages of those killed ranged from 5 months to 86 years, he said.

At least 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Pierce said the Fire Department “had plenty of people with chain saws and equipment willing and ready to go down,” but those that are there are part of trained teams that are entirely self-sufficient:

  • Firefighter Tyler Sipes is a member of the Powell County Search & Rescue group and arrived at the scene with that unit on Saturday.
  • The Ohio Task Force 1 group (OHTF1) includes four from Covington: Engineer Ryan Marzheuser (a Rescue Squad officer), Lt. Paul Woodring and Engineer Kurt Thomas (Rescue Squad members), and Capt. Amy Schaefer (a member of the Hazardous Materials group). The OHTF1 group arrived in West Kentucky this morning and will be based at Murray State University, Pierce said. Murray is only about 25 minutes from Mayfield, whose downtown was obliterated by a tornado that left a trail of damage more than 200 miles long.
  • Two high-ranking Covington fire officials – Deputy Chief Michael Bloemer and Assistant Chief Greg Salmons – may be sent to the area in the coming week as part of the Kenton County Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Management Team.
  • Covington FOP Lodge #1 President Mark Richardson, a Covington officer, said he and several other members of the City’s FOP are on standby for possible assignment on Thursday in Western Kentucky. Already, Lt. Bryan Bogard is in Mayfield as part of a state FOP contingent.

As part of an internal collection, Covington’s FOP already sent down one pickup truck full of supplies and is working to fill a second truck now, Officer Rachel White said.

Residents who want to donate to the relief effort have several options listed below.

How to help:

  • The Commonwealth of Kentucky has set up a formal fund to collect private financial donations that are tax deductible, called Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, HERE.
  • Kentucky Emergency Management is sharing the American Red Cross’s desperate plea for blood donors, saying it’s “experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade.” HERE.
  • Police, fire, and emergency management agencies in Northern Kentucky are jointly collecting supplies. A tractor-trailer will be at the Campbell County Fire Training Center at 10 Training Center Drive in Highland Heights to accept cases of bottled water, new (still in packaging) pillows and blankets, toiletries, First-Aid items, new (still in packaging) underwear and socks, cleaning supplies, and dental items. Drop off today until 8 p.m. and Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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