Wild Florida joins volunteer rescuers in Texas

By Stephanie Bechara, Osceola County Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 30, 2017, 7:33 PM EDT

Wild Florida is a 15-acre wildlife park filled with alligators, birds and even goats. They’re known for taking tourists on airboat tours, but with these very same boats they’re now helping save lives.

  • Wild Florida in Kenansville sent 2 airboats to Texas
  • Team of employees rescuing people in Baytown

A team drove nearly 1,000 miles to Texas with a couple of airboats. They are using airboats on the flooded streets of Baytown to look for people who need help. 

Video shows how high the water levels have gotten as they rescued an elderly man from his submerged home.

“And it really was a 24-hour decision and off they went, because they felt like they needed to get there that fast,” said Jared Reid, the general manager for Wild Florida.

The Houston Police Department tweeted that if anyone had access to a boat to please volunteer. Reid said that was their calling.

Reid believes airboats are ideal to use in these disaster-type situations.

“So on a typical boat, you have a motor that goes down into the water,” Reid said. “These airboats have a flat surface bottom. They can turn very quickly easily, but it’s mainly because they don't sit on the water too deep, so they can glide over areas that maybe another boat couldn't.”

Employees helped pack food, water, gas and diesel in preparation for the trip. These efforts are what Reid believes makes Wild Florida more than just a job.

“They love working here because they feel like they're not just a number… They’re part of  family,” Reid added.

The team in Texas said the community welcomed them with open arms -- hugging them and thanking them for their efforts. Restaurants have fed them for free and people even offered to fill up their tank.