SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the state will continue to answer the call for assistance by deploying 250 Illinois firefighters and nearly 70 fire trucks to Louisiana to help that state recover from Hurricane Gustav. The firefighters, from approximately 80 fire departments throughout the state, will depart for the Gulf Coast on Wednesday and begin a seven-day mission on Thursday.
“Illinois is very fortunate to have one of the strongest fire services mutual aid systems in the nation,” said Governor Blagojevich. “When the request went out from Louisiana for firefighters and equipment, we knew our fire services would eagerly answer the call, just as they did three years ago during Hurricane Katrina.”
The firefighters and equipment were requested by the State of Louisiana through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement, signed by all 50 states, that facilitates states assisting other states during emergencies.
The Illinois firefighters are being activated through the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), the mutual aid organization for the fire services in Illinois. MABAS includes 1,300 member emergency service agencies with more than 35,000 firefighters. In 2005, nearly 1,000 Illinois firefighters were deployed to assist in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.
“The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System is proud to partner with the state of Illinois to provide disaster assistance anywhere, at anytime,” said MABAS President Jay Reardon. “Our system is designed to do that without compromising our ability to provide life-saving fire service here at home. This response is a true team effort, bringing together firefighters from every corner of the state for a common mission.”
The Illinois firefighters will be traveling in convoys to a staging area at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where they will be assigned missions, including search and rescue, extrication, potential evacuations, relief for local firefighters and general firefighting duties. Thirty fire engines, 20 water tankers and 15 heavy rescue squads from Illinois are being deployed with the firefighters.
Officials from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) have been in continual contact with EMAC since last week to determine how Illinois can assist. The state was notified Tuesday that its offer of firefighters and equipment had been approved by Louisiana.
“Illinois has built a very robust mutual aid system that includes the fire services, law enforcement, emergency management and public health,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III. “This nationally-recognized mutual aid system enables us to provide needed disaster assistance anywhere in Illinois or across the nation.”
Over the weekend, the Governor deployed three Illinois National Guard helicopters and their crews to Louisiana to assist with search and rescue missions, air movement of critical supplies, evacuation missions and sand-bagging of levee breaches.
In 2005, Governor Blagojevich directed the deployment of more than 2,500 Illinois responders to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. In addition to the nearly 1,000 firefighters, paramedics and essential fire support equipment sent to assist, other Illinois assets included:
- More than 1,100 Illinois National Guard troops
- More than 300 local, county and state law enforcement officers and equipment
- A 50-member Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team made up of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel
- More than 30 local and state emergency managers
- More than 100 state employees and vital telecommunications equipment