JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many Jacksonville-area first responders have been working around the clock since Hurricane Irma moved through North Florida on Monday.
The storm wiped out trees and power lines as it made its way through Florida, leaving debris scattered across neighborhoods statewide.
As their neighbors continue cleaning up and getting things back to normal at home, many of the first responders serving in Northeast Florida haven't been able to start digging their own homes out of Irma's wake.
But Friday, several officers pitched in to help their fellow first responders start cleaning up.
“Unfortunately, first responders during hurricane Irma were just going 12-, 15-, 16-hour shifts at a time and really didn't have time to take care of their own homes, because they're taking care of everyone else,” News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said. “Some of them are quite a mess and really need a lot of work, but still, even today, they're still out there working.”
Smith, a former officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, joined members of Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police on Friday as about 30 or 40 officers put in some extra time off the clock to help pick up after the storm.
“We act as a family. We are out here helping those that are a part of that family and really the community as a whole,” JSO SWAT Sgt. Scott Rammage said. “We are out here to serve.”
The gathered up tree branches by the truckload as they helped ease the recovery process for their colleagues.
“First responders come out here to serve, and that's what they signed up for, and they are more than willing to help out during times where people really need stuff,” Rammage said. “They're really willing to put themselves aside and come out and help and serve other people.”
Rammage said despite the heat and hard work, it was worth some physical labor to help a fellow officer in need.
Officers aren’t just helping each other in Jacksonville. A few retired JSO officers made their way down to Naples to help officers there start picking up.