MERIDEN – When city fire Lt. Danny Torres saw hundreds of homes covered in blue tarps while flying into Puerto Rico last month, he knew the damage caused by Hurricane Maria was significant.
Torres, a Meriden firefighter since 1984, joined went to Puerto Rico with five others in October to install large water filtration systems in island communities devastated by the storm. He spent about a week in the territory and said residents were appreciative of the aid.
Torres was born in the Bronx and moved to Puerto Rico at age 5. He moved to Meriden in middle school and joined the Meriden Fire Department in 1984. His mother and sister currently live in the Puerto Rican towns of Humacao and Yabucoa, respectively.
The island's electricity grid, bridges, cell phone towers and additional infrastructure were destroyed in the hurricane, which made landfall in Puerto Rico in September.
While on the island, Torres said, the group installed four water filtration systems. They hope to install two additional filtration systems in the near future, with an ultimate goal of 12 filtration systems.
In one city, the group received a police escort on their way to install a filtration system.
Torres said some cities may not have power for a year. An estimated 50,000 telephone poles will also need to be replaced, Torres said.
He plans to return to Puerto Rico in January. He said the residents were upbeat despite recent hardship.
“It was humbling,” Torres said. “They have no water, no power, very strong-willed.”
Meriden Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Dunn said Torres is a person who “consistently gives back.”
“He’s one of those stand up guys that will always be there to help people out,” Dunn said.