CLEARFIELD – At Tuesday’s work session, the Clearfield County Commissioners ratified its declaration of disaster emergency due to the torrential flooding last week, as well as recognized the emergency personnel and volunteers who responded to both the Colonial Courtyard fire and then to the flood-stricken areas of Clearfield County.
The commissioners declared a disaster emergency late Thursday afternoon amidst the heavy rainfall and flooding. Following its ratification, Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen, chair, asked Emergency Management Director Joe Bigar for an update on the fire and flood situations.
“We went from one disaster to the next within the last week,” he said. “We had the fire at Colonial Courtyard [on June 25], and that taxed our first responders. But there were no injuries, no fatalities; we have to commend our firefighting forces and our first responders.”
Colonial Courtyard, a senior assisted living facility, housed 60 residents. Seven staff members were on-duty at the time of the fire, said Bigar. He added that many who responded to the fire also quickly responded to the flooding, which began Thursday.
According to him, flood waters impacted mostly the areas of northwestern Clearfield County, such as DuBois City and Sandy and Huston Townships. He said they utilized resources from around the state to help rescue people from the flood waters.
Bigar said during the storm, Curwensville Dam’s gates were kept closed. He said they’ve contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make sure there aren’t any plans to release large volumes of water in the near future. Bigar said they’ve obtained this week’s forecast from the National Weather Service, and it shows some light showers and rain.
He said Clearfield County Emergency Management has transitioned into the recovery stage to assess the extent of the flood damage. He said the state’s Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has teams canvasing the area and identifying individuals who have major, first-floor flood damage.
According to Bigar, they are trying to compile the major damage to help the county qualify for state or federal assistance. He said the county’s EMA has received a lot of calls for individuals who would like to report flood damage. However, they are asking that all flood damage be initially reported to local municipal governments.
He said municipalities have been supplied with forms to capture flood damage information. He said municipalities will turn it over to the county’s EMA to compile and submit to PEMA. He also said DuBois City and Sandy and Huston Townships have issued their own disaster declarations.
Robinson-McMillen said early Friday morning, U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office reached out to Clearfield County. She said they have vowed support if the county’s flood disaster reaches the federal level. Commissioner John A. Sobel participated in a four-hour tour of the flood-stricken areas, and said Thompson and State Rep. Matt Gabler were both “very aware” and vowed support.
Bigar said he was thankful to the first responders who are all strictly volunteers and who act like the utmost professionals. He said there wasn’t much that separated a career firefighter from a volunteer firefighter other than the pay check.
Robinson-McMillen thanked Bigar for his handling of two, major disasters within a matter of days. He credited the county’s 911 dispatchers who were overwhelmed by both disasters but who still did a “fine job.”
The commissioners read an in “Recognition of Service” into county record. Robinson-McMillen said the commissioners have reached out to the students who helped save the lives of the dozens of residents the night of the Colonial Courtyard fire. She said the county plans to publicly honor them in the future.
“It just gives me goose bumps to think that we have young folks who are willing to put their own lives on the line,” said Robinson-McMillen. “Firefighters do it every day and have training, but these folks were just students in a class.”
Before the meeting, Robinson-McMillen said she’d asked Bigar for a list of fire departments that responded to last week’s disasters. She said, “He told me ‘everyone in the county,’ and we do appreciate them.”
Commissioner Mark B. McCracken added, “We had two, major disasters and very minor injuries. We had property damage, but that can be replaced.”
Editor’s Note: The following is the complete “in Recognition of Service” presented by the Clearfield County Commissioners.
“This past week in Clearfield County, we saw how important it is to have individuals who will put their lives on the line to help the people in a time of need. Within a 48-hour period, we saw a fire and flooding destroy and damage millions of dollars in property, but thankfully no lives were lost.
“On Tuesday evening (June 25), a devastating fire destroyed Colonial Courtyard, a senior assisted living facility, displacing 60 residents. Then, starting Thursday morning, a steady rainfall throughout the day triggered flooding in the City of DuBois, Sandy and Huston Townships and surrounding communities and later in the evening saw flooding conditions in the Curwensville and Clearfield areas.
“At this time, the Clearfield County Commissioners want to recognize the efforts of all the emergency responders, community groups and individuals who pulled together to deal with the Colonial Courtyard fire and the flooding events that occurred in communities throughout Clearfield County.
“We also give special recognition to the men and women from the class at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building who saw the fire at Colonial Courtyard and, without hesitation, did the right and brave thing, helping to evacuate the residents of Colonial Courtyard. Without their efforts, it is very likely someone would have been injured or died in the fire.
“Also special recognition to the staff of the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging and Colonial Courtyard for working tirelessly to make sure that all residents were treated with respect and dignity during their relocation. These folks went above and beyond their normal duties.
“We sign the Recognition of Service on behalf of all citizens of Clearfield County to honor and thank those who responded to the Colonial Courtyard fire on Tuesday, June 25 and those who responded to the flooding event, starting Thursday, June 27.”