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Only on 12: Local forestry ranger speaks about helping with oil spill cleanup

News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 21, 2010

HARLEM, Ga. -- Most days, Georgia Forestry Commission Chief Ranger Steve Abbott maintains equipment that will fight brush fires, spends time in the shop, but for the last two weeks he took a journey away from his Columbia County office.

"My station was in Cocodrie, Louisiana," said Abbott.

Part of a national disaster response team under FEMA, Abbott camped on the edge of the Gulf. He was named to the Wildlife Branch of the Deepwater Horizon cleanup effort, working alongside thousands of others on Trinity Isle -- west of where much of the oil is concentrated, but still one that is affected.

"All four corners (of the country) are coming down to Louisiana helping us out."

He led 20 men to a group of barrier islands. Everyday they rescued dozens of oil-soaked animals.

Adds Abbott: "It is heartbreaking, because it's not their fault. They don't know the difference between clean water and dirty water. They have a natural feeding ground. They feed in these waters. A pelican is a diver, so he dives into the water to catch his fish. They come up in this oil bath, and they don't know that, so it's pretty sad to see that."

Abbott also shows us pictures of the fishing boats that remain docked at Coco Marina nearby. He helped secure housing for some fisherman, who now have no job to do.

"You get attached to the local people down there and you feel there frustration, you feel their anger," he said. "They're hard workers. They want to do their job, they want to fish, run oil wells, make a living for their families. But their lives have been turned upside down."

And the oil spill is also bringing out the scammers. The Federal Trade Commission warns you about scammers that pose as government officials. Also, some could offer job or volunteer opportunities that ask you to pay money first.

And if you're thinking of donating any money, check into the charity. Never wire money and avoid cash donations, if possible.

To report a scam or other fraud attached to a disaster like the oil spill, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF). The phone number is 1-866-720-5721. You can also email disaster@leo.gov or send a fax to 225-334-4707.


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