The entrance to the enclave of Melody Village, just off Harris Court, is being cleared of fallen tree debris. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

The entrance to the enclave of Melody Village, just off Harris Court, is being cleared of fallen tree debris. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

Team Rubicon enters the fight for battered residents

Volunteer group of veterans, first responders help clear tree debris at Harris Court homes.

PORT ORCHARD — Twenty volunteers from Team Rubicon are slowly making progress in helping residents who live in places such as Melody Village, off Harris Court, back to some semblance of normalcy.

While many are dealing with the red tape and intricacies of insurance adjusters, contractors and the logistics of finding a temporary place to stay while their homes are being made habitable again, the team is doing what it can to clear the visible scars of the tornado that now litter the surroundings.

John Byars, a FEMA instructor and Team Rubicon volunteer, directs traffic on Harris Court while providing assistance to Rebecca Chitwood. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

John Byars, a FEMA instructor and Team Rubicon volunteer, directs traffic on Harris Court while providing assistance to Rebecca Chitwood. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

The group of mostly veterans and first responders are volunteers who comprise a small part of about 85,000 members in 10 countries that jump into action after a natural or man-made disaster strikes anywhere in the world, said John Byars, a volunteer who helped direct vehicle traffic pass safely around the busy workforce as it chainsawed fallen trees.

“This is the most organized group I’ve ever been part of,” Byars said while guiding Rebecca Chitwood of Federal Way, armed with a chainsaw while cutting hundreds of board feet of tall firs that the Dec. 18 tornado brought to the ground.

Rebecca Chitwood of Federal Way, a Starbucks employee who is part of the Team Rubicon effort to clear tornado tree debris, cuts up sections of fallen trees. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

Rebecca Chitwood of Federal Way, a Starbucks employee who is part of the Team Rubicon effort to clear tornado tree debris, cuts up sections of fallen trees. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

Chitwood, a Marine Corps veteran herself, said she felt exhilarated while progressing through her volunteer checklist.

“I haven’t felt like this since I was in boot camp,” she said with a smile while taking a break from the high-pitched chatter of her chainsaw.

Byars, the team captain, said the group has been working at the site since noon on Friday, Dec. 21. Group leaders started planning the effort the night of the tornado. Team Rubicon has been working in coordination with the Kitsap Department of Emergency Management, charged with the overall response effort in Port Orchard.

“This is a great activity for veterans. And many of them need our help.”

Five days after a tornado devastated Port Orchard homes adjacent to Harris Court, the site is slowly being cleared of fallen tree debris. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

Five days after a tornado devastated Port Orchard homes adjacent to Harris Court, the site is slowly being cleared of fallen tree debris. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News)

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