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Minnesota firefighters safely return from Hurricane Ida response mission

From bowls of jambalaya to flooded roads and flames, Minnesota firefighters are sharing memories of being on the front lines of a major natural disaster.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A group of Minnesota firefighters is back home after a 15-day mission to Louisiana. Friday, they gathered at Eden Prairie Fire Station No. 1 to share what it was like to be on the front lines of Hurricane Ida.

A total of 22 firefighters from nine Minnesota departments were deployed through Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement involving all 50 states. 

Battalion Chief Anthony Scavo of the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department is used to collaboration, considering his own department covers three cities. So what's several more? 

Scavo describes it all as a "unique but rewarding" experience.

"Going down to Louisiana was a unique amount of challenges," Scavo said. "Not knowing the area, having to deal with multiple fire districts, trying to learn the roads."

Of course, Scavo and fellow Minnesota firefighters handled their deployment like the pros they are.

"Bringing out water, helping clean debris, helping clean up yards, making sure people had their generators at a safe distance so they didn't have carbon monoxide issues," Scavo said. "So some of that type of stuff. It kind of morphed into eventually we started relieving crews that had initially got there. So we did changeovers at fire stations."

While dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, another hurricane struck.

"When that hurricane came through, I was stationed at a fire station that was north of our base camp," Scavo said. "They actually had some old military vehicles that they used specifically for high water operations so we kind of went into rescue mode."

Fortunately they didn't need to rescue anyone. However, over the days there were some scary situations. 

"The gentleman right across from the fire station was out mowing his grass and he was on his riding lawn mower and happened to pick up the wire that had been laying on the ground," Scavo said. "Well, little did he know the power company had gotten power up the hour prior. He ended up getting electrocuted. Luckily he was grounded as he was on his mower. If he would have gotten off of his mower he probably would have not been with us. So some scary moments."

Most buildings were without power, which meant staying at a hotel was not possible. Instead, first responders slept on cots in large tents. From water to fire, Minnesota was ready to respond.

"We did have car crashes that we responded to," Scavo said. "We did have fire alarms once power grids started getting turned on. We did have a couple of structure fires that we did respond to."

Firefighters returned Wednesday last week.