Monday, August 1, 2011

Volunteers needed for tornado clean up effort

The news cycle for natural disasters is short. Have you read anything lately about the recovery efforts from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan? How about the devastating floods along the Mississippi in the spring?

That is a problem for people affected by these events who wake up each morning knowing that they are months and perhaps years from getting their lives back to normal.

Cosmo Casamassa and Mark Forsman recognized the need for a sustained effort by volunteers to help those recovering from the tornadoes that took lives and destroyed property on June 1st in western Massachusetts. They formed Recover, Repair, Rebuild Tornado 2011 to match people willing to lend a hand to those who need a hand.

The first “marriage” of volunteer laborers and property owners took place last weekend, drawing hundreds of people with chainsaws, backhoe loaders, and just plain muscle to clean up huge amounts of debris and fallen trees.

I was joined by Sandwich Selectman Frank Pannorfi on Sunday. We didn’t know what to expect, so we brought tools and nearly 125 years of experience.

Our assignment was to help a Brimfield landowner clear a fire road that ran the perimeter of his 10-acre site. What we encountered was incredible and, quite frankly, disheartening. Mounds of fallen trees and brush stacked eight feet high blocked the road.

With the help of two chainsaw operators, a small backhoe loader, and a half-dozen manual laborers, we cleared about 50 yards of the road. Unfortunately, the landowner still has a half-mile to go.

To find out how to assist in this effort, visit

The pre-existing fire road was so covered up with fallen trees, we decided to cut a new path around it. This large downed tree was the path of least resistance.

Mark, from Worcester, manned his chainsaw for hours without taking a break.

John's backhoe loader proved invaluable in dealing with uprooted trees.

The fire road from where the grass ends was covered with downed trees and brush.

Janet, Mark's wife, and Frank celebrate the clearing of about 50 yards of the fire road. (Notice the trees in the background that were snapped off in the tornado.)

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