“Many friends, family, cousins, my people need help,” Torres said.
A 34-year veteran of the department who works at Station 5, Torres planned to leave for Puerto Rico at 2 a.m. today.
The group he is traveling with has a 6:30 a.m. flight out of John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and will go to work immediately upon arrival.
“Our plan is to go one city one day, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Torres said, referencing the island’s nightfall curfew due to a lack of electricity.
Torres was born in the Bronx and moved to Puerto Rico at age 5. He moved to Meriden for 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.
The island’s electricity grid, bridges, cell phone towers and additional infrastructure were destroyed in the hurricane.
More than 30 people have been confirmed dead and residents have been without clean water.
“The towns that don’t have water, will have water,” Torres said. “That’s my way of giving back.”
Chester resident and former Marine Ray Guasp is also a member of the group of five, which has purchased multiple water filtration systems for about $7,500. The systems can be installed in about an hour and, when operational, can filter 250 gallons of water per hour for a community. The goal is to install filtration systems in 12 communities.
“If we have to go back, we’ll go back,” Torres said.
“As a military man, we have a sense of honor and duty,” Guasp said. “This disaster is so large and immense, I don’t know how anybody could wrap their hands around it.”
“These are Americans we’re talking about,” Guasp added. “They’re sitting there drinking dirty water. You can go days without food, you cannot go days without water.”
Meriden Fire Chief Ken Morgan commended Torres for his actions.
“To have any of my guys take their own time to do something that would benefit the public, makes me exceptionally proud,” Morgan said. “That’s what we’re here for, that’s what we do.”