Fires, floods, hurricanes — while most people flee from natural disasters such as these, first responders run toward them.
In the FOX Weather documentary "Weather Warriors: Heroes on the Front Lines," FOX News Channel senior meteorologist Janice Dean speaks to firefighters, veterans and a disaster relief ministry which turn devastation caused by extreme weather into hope.
The stories of these unsung heroes are told through a series of vignettes in the documentary, highlighting their work to put the lives of others before their own.
Janice Dean's story
"Weather Warriors: Heroes on the Front Lines" kicks off with Dean covering her own experience as a meteorologist, helping the public to understand and prepare for extreme weather, such as Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
She also notes her personal connection to the first responder community, as her husband, Sean, is a New York City firefighter.
"Being part of a family of first responders is really an honor," Dean said.
She recalls how her husband was inspired to become a firefighter by his father, an Air Force veteran and firefighter who came home from work "smelling of smoke."
A family dedicated to service
The second vignette covers another family of first responders – the Hegen brothers. Dean spoke with two, who are firefighters, and one a retired EMT and paramedic in New York City.
Like Dean, the Hegens came from a family dedicated to service.
"It comes from a sense of wanting to help people," said Bill Hegen. "We grew up in a close-knit neighborhood where we knew a lot of firemen and police officers."
The Hegens recall how they responded to disasters ranging from 9/11 to Superstorm Sandy, and what it takes to be a first responder.
"It’s the best job on the planet," said Joe Hegen.
Crossing the Rubicon
The next group highlighted in "Weather Warriors: Heroes on the Front Lines" are also a family, but rather than be connected by blood, they are connected by a mission.
Team Rubicon includes about 150,000 volunteers around the world, with 70% of them being veterans. The organization assists communities in emergency situations, such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the current war in Ukraine.
Dean first came across Team Rubicon when they were deployed in Houston after Hurricane Harvey barreled through in August 2017. According to Team Rubicon's head of strategic partnerships Matt Colvin, the organization has helped approximately 120 families rebuild and return to their homes.
"Some of the best parts of Team Rubicon are the hugs after you’ve provided somebody with a service they just never thought would come," Colvin said. "It’s a feeling that there’s not much to compare it to."
In another part of "Weather Warriors: Heroes on the Front Lines," Dean hands the reins over to FOX Weather multimedia journalist Mitti Hicks to talk about the impact disaster relief ministry Eight Days of Hope made in LaPlace, Louisiana, when Hurricane Ida hit in August 2021.
Hicks spoke with one LaPlace resident, a veteran whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Ida’s floodwaters and who prayed for strength and resilience. Eight months after Ida, volunteers from Eight Days of Hope came to help.
Eight Days of Hope founder Steve Tybor said the number eight in the Bible means "new beginnings." He added that the ministry now has at least 50,000 volunteers who have responded to more than 60 natural disasters nationwide.
"We’ve made some lifelong friends here," Tybor said of his ministry’s work in LaPlace. "You can’t do what we do and not leave unchanged."
Firefighting and love
The last story in "Weather Warriors: Heroes on the Front Lines" highlights a husband-and-wife duo of wildland firefighters who were brought together by their shared desire to help. Their story is told by their son, FOX Weather correspondent Max Gorden.
Gordon interviews his parents, Bruce Gorden and Edy Ullman, about the different paths they took to become wildland firefighters — his father came from a family of firefighters, while Gorden’s mother pivoted from a career in law to one in firefighting — and the unique ways their careers shaped their marriage and parenthood.
Despite both the risks and heroics involved in their work, Gorden and Ullman remain grounded and focused on what matters.
"We’re just here to try to sort things out and make things better," said Bruce Gorden.
The best in humanity
Whether by fighting fires, saving people from floods or providing relief efforts, first responders go above and beyond to serve their communities.
"I see it all the time," Dean said. "When tragedy happens, that’s when you see the best in humanity, that’s when you see human beings coming out and helping each other."