McDowell Co. EMS Dir. assist in Hawaii with volcano relief

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Lava is still spewing from the Kilauea Volcano eruption in Hawaii. Thousands of people have been displaced and hundreds of homes destroyed. 

“To be walking down the street and seeing a wall of lava creeping back at you that was about 15 feet high… was quiet impressive.” William Kehler, McDowell County Emergency Services Director, told 7News. 

Kehler was in Hawaii was just a few weeks ago. He is part of a group of 10 North Carolina Emergency Managers that went to assist at the island, battling volanic activity from Kilauea. 

“We assisted with everything from public information,” he said. “[We] provided a safety officer, operations officer, logistics, planning and finance support.” 

Kehler says one night, he and a team of first responders were dispatch to evacuate people from their homes and trailing right behind them was a river of red lava. 

“We were as close as 100-150 yards to a lava fountain that was shooting,” Kehler said. 

The McDowell County Emergency Services Director says lava is not something you come across in Western North Carolina, but handling natural disaster is essentially the same everywhere. He says the incident management team working alongside Geological experts, that are predicting where the next eruption is going to happen, is the type of organized efforts that save lives. Kehler says that’s the number one priority for all Emergency Managers. 

“Fortunately to my knowledge there hasn’t been any fatalities when I left Hawaii,” he told 7News. “That says a lot about the way that event is being coordinated, but it breaks your heart to see people lose everything that they’ve worked for all their lives.” 

Kehler was previoulsy deployed to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. 

He was pulled out of Hawaii, before his time was up, due to the floods and mudslides that crippled Western North Carolina in May. 

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