Working to save lives

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First Student, the largest provider of home-to-school student transportation in North America with a fleet of 43,000 yellow school buses, helped saved lives during the 2020 wildfires, as Richard Sharman explains

2020 is not only the year of the coronavirus pandemic but also the year of the worst wildfires the West Coast of America has seen in 18 years, with the intensity linked to climate change. The devastation from the massive wildfires in Oregon and California, in September, was overwhelming, but First Student kept working through the damage and destruction to help save lives.

First Student said that 16 employees lost their homes and 125 employees were evacuated from 13 First Student locations. Paul Osland, President of First Student said: “My prayers are with the members of our First Student family who have lost their homes and those whose homes are in wildfire’s path. I also want to thank our teams for their extraordinary efforts during this dynamic situation.”

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Several First Student locations in Southern Oregon were directly impacted including, Medford, Talent-Phoenix, Central Point, Grants Pass and Roseburg. First Student drivers in Medford and Central Point were quick to respond and help evacuate hundreds of residents from nursing homes and healthcare facilities in the neighbouring Southern Oregon cities. Overall, the wildfires made more than 7,000 people homeless and a handful of people were killed.

District Manager for Southern Oregon, Andrew Good, said drivers stepped up to the call and provided ‘unbelievable care’ to those in need during a devastating time.”They went way, way above the call of duty,” he said.
Southern Oregon Area General Manager Michael Hamel is originally from the East Coast of America and said: “I’m used to hurricanes and the two disasters are nothing alike. With hurricanes, there’s more time to prepare. If you’ve never dealt with fire before, it is life-changing,” he said. “It changes your whole aspect because you hear about it on TV. But until you see it and experience it, I don’t think you really know what it’s like.”

Teams in Northern Oregon also moved buses from Jefferson, Molalla, Lincoln County, Woodburn and Gladstone depots to various First Student locations throughout the state. Overall, First Student teams have evacuated 1,500 area residents, driving more than 8,000 miles to take them to safety.

Senior Director of Corporate Communications for First Student said: “First Student is very proud of what Mike and Andrew and their teams were able to accomplish, but I actually think it could be a point of pride for the entire industry, that we also feel good about the work that they did, and the importance of it.”

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