Emergency Captain Helps Others, Loses Own Home - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Emergency Captain Helps Others, Loses Own Home


LEBANON, Tenn. - One of the men who met President Bush Friday was not only a victim but a rescuer.  Captain Phil Spears has spent his life preparing for disaster and now he's in the middle of it. 

As a captain for the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, Spears was helping out with the destruction following a natural gas plant fire in Hartsville.

Then he got the call about his own house.

"This is a garage back here and it has two mobile homes laying up in it," he said.

A series of tornadoes swept across Tennessee Tuesday night. Officials said one ignited an explosion at the plant.

"It's unbelievable, "Spears said, looking at where his house once stood.

As families sought refuge from the storms or evacuated their homes because of the plant explosion, Spears' first thought was to help others.

"You don't ever expect something like this to happen to yourself," he said

For 19 years, he has responded to countless disasters with WEMA.

His son, who also works for WEMA, called him and told him how his 3-acre homestead was flattened by the storm. The four structures on the land were severely damaged.

"It's devastating to go through this," he said. "I know how people feel because I went through it firsthand."

He continued to work on search and rescue for several hours before coming home in one of the state's hardest-hit areas. 

Even President Bush took a moment to acknowledge his loss. 

"If I wasn't for my friends I don't know where I'd be," he told the president.

"I have a feeling you're going to have a lot more new friends," Bush said.

One thing Spears hasn't lost is hope or faith. He counts himself as one of the lucky ones who didn't lose a life. He is eager to rebuild so he can get back to what he's trained to do - help others. 

He said hopefully some good will come from the emergency.

His colleagues at WEMA have covered all of his shifts so he can focus on his family and his home right now. 

He moved into the home 24 years ago when his son was born. That son, a WEMA employee, is also working on disaster
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