CLOSE TO HOME
Capt. Michael Bingham has called Meyerland home for 11 years, and he has been stationed in the area for three out of the 16 years that he’s served with the Houston Fire Department.
The image of Meyerland under water haunts him.
“It’s my neighborhood,” he said. “It was definitely heartwrenching to see my neighbors walking through water.”
At one point, he saw a firetruck stuck on the West Loop, water up to its roof.
“That was just an eye-opener — how high it got, ” he said. “It’s not something mentally you can be ready for.”
Today, the neighborhood feels a bit like a ghost town.
“None of the homes have people in them because they’re being worked on,” he said.
The night Harvey arrived in Houston, Bingham was as prepared as possible.
“It didn’t hit when they said that it would,” he recalled. “But when it hit, it hit hard and quick.”
Bingham and his fellow firefighters went to work immediately. They headed to a parking lot at the intersection of West Loop 610 and West Bellfort. Residents made their way to the area, and the firefighters transported them to safety.
The crew was there until 2 a.m. By the time they were ready to shut down the operation, their firetruck was trapped in the parking lot. The crew slept in the vehicle, waiting for water to recede.
The next day, Bingham and his fellow firefighters waded through chest-high water, climbing up 610, to help get people out of helicopters and into trucks where they could be taken to shelters.
Eventually, a group of citizens showed up with airboats, Bingham said. The four firefighters in his crew took the boats to a three-story apartment complex where a number of people were stranded. They evacuated the whole place, then they moved on to help more residents stuck in their homes.
“We went to neighborhoods off Stella Link,” Bingham said. “They just kept sending us addresses.”
About 4 a.m., the firefighters had to be rescued themselves to get back to the station.
Monday, Aug. 28, was his son Asher’s birthday.
“I was hoping to get home, but I was one of the last ones relieved,” he said.
When he finally made it home, Bingham had worked for three days straight. Many firefighters in the city had a similar experience. “My story is no different,” Bingham said.
Firefighter Rick Rivera has worked with Bingham for three years.
“Captain is a stand-up guy, a give-the-shirt-off-your-back type of person, ” he said. “Everything we did, he would do first to make sure it was safe for us. He was looking out for us.”
Storm a double was whammy for fire captain who lives and works in Meyerland