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Fire Department swamped with storm calls last week

July 28, 2010

The storm of July 22 and subsequent flooding kept firefighters in the North Shore Fire Department unusually busy. Combine the storm with the flooding of the department's dispatch center and a lightning strike at Station No. 1, and things got even crazier.

According to a department news release, NSFD responded to about 140 calls between 5 p.m. July 22 and 8 a.m. July 23. Normally, the department responds to 20 calls in a 24-hour period.

Due to the severity of the situation, the department used its pre-established protocols and response plans to manage the calls.

Typical calls for service during this period included: reports of smoke in buildings, reports of the smell of natural gas in buildings/outside, reports of the smell of gasoline in buildings, electrical hazards in homes related to water in basements and people trapped in basements due to flooding.

Right as the storm hit, NSFD responded to a request to help the Mequon Fire Department combat a structure fire. NSFD crews helped out and were quickly released from that scene.

Early in the storm, NSFD also faced a challenge when the North Shore Dispatch Center in Whitefish Bay reported they were experiencing flooding and that they would be moving their operations to the Bayside Police Department Communications Center. Additionally, Station No. 1, located in Brown Deer, was struck by lightning, damaging the building and equipment.

The hardest hit areas - Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and parts of Glendale - were the focus of most of the calls.

The area of 26th Street and Custer Avenue in Glendale was particularly hard hit by fast-rising water. The department received multiple calls for assistance regarding evacuating residents from homes and apartment buildings. An area command was established, which was managed by fire and police personnel.

NSFD members began evacuations and quickly determined that boats were needed in the area to assist with getting people to safety. The NSFD boat and a boat and dive/water rescue team from the Thiensville Fire Department responded.

Meanwhile, a shelter was opened at Glen Hills Middle School by the Glendale Police Department for the evacuees and was eventually staffed by the American Red Cross. The evacuation of this area was complicated by the fact that people had sought shelter in their basements due to the tornado warning that had been issued and had encountered flooding conditions once in their basements. Fire and police personnel worked in this area for several hours. Evacuees were moved to the shelter site by Milwaukee County Transit.

The department received assistance from the Mequon, Thiensville, Grafton, Port Washington and Saukville fire departments.

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