EMT who survived COVID-19 loses home in Mich. flooding

Mobile Medical Response EMT Jacob Federer's home was destroyed after a dam failure resulted in historic floods

Cole Waterman
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

SANFORD, Mich. — This year has slammed EMT Jacob Federer like a fist, as he’s been at the confluence of both a global pandemic and Midland County’s torrential floods. Already having suffered through the symptoms of COVID-19, he and his family are now displaced by floodwaters that ravaged their Sanford home, knocking the house from its foundation.

After being off from work for weeks due to his positive coronavirus test, the 28-year-old Federer tested negative for the contagion only days before his new home was torn asunder.

A search and rescue boat is deployed as floodwater rises in Midland, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. A Michigan EMT who survived COVID-19 lost his home during the historic floods after the Edenville Dam was breached.
A search and rescue boat is deployed as floodwater rises in Midland, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. A Michigan EMT who survived COVID-19 lost his home during the historic floods after the Edenville Dam was breached. (Photo/Katy Kildee, Midland Daily News via AP)

“It’s rough,” he said Thursday, May 28. “We had hopes of buying the house and that was where we were going to live and raise our children. I don’t know if that’s going to be possible anymore. We had just started getting settled in, then COVID happens so we’re stuck at home and right as the symptoms of COVID are going away and things are getting back to normal, everything is washed away.”

Federer has worked as an EMT for Mobile Medical Response in Saginaw for a little more than two years. In March, he and girlfriend Ellen Camron moved into a house at 546 W. Jessie St. in Sanford, the house he had grown up in after his parents bought it in 1987.

“They had recently bought a new home this last winter, so I got a land contract to be able to purchase this home through them,” he said. Federer’s family consists of his son, Ryan, age 7, and Camron’s daughters, Amilia, age 6, and Issy, just 1 year old.

On May 5, Federer received a positive test for COVID-19, a contagion he believes he received on the job.

“About the last week and half of working with MMR, we were literally transporting COVID patients every day,” he said. “Literally every day just about we were doing transfers of COVID patients from hospitals to nursing homes or nursing homes back to hospitals.”

Federer initially had a slight cough, which soon grew worse.

“I had the cough, shortness of breath, a little bit of fever and chills,” he said. “The shortness of breath was probably the worst. Just taking trash to the road was like running a mile. It was really weird.”

Making matters worse, his girlfriend and her baby daughter also contracted COVID, he said. His son and Camron’s other daughter stayed with relatives and have avoided getting the disease.

When news of the impending flood and looming breach of the Edenville and Sanford dams began to circulate early last week, Federer kept his eye on emergency alerts.

“We ended up leaving the house and contacted the American Red Cross because I was COVID positive and didn’t want to go to the public facilities they had set up,” he said. As heavy rains poured down, Federer and his family drove around Sanford in the early morning.

On receiving an alert that the dams were sound and would hold, Federer and his family returned to their home. On May 19, though, Camron was taking a nap when the more ominous alerts came in.

“The alerts went out that Edenville Dam had breached,” he said. “We each grabbed a suitcase, threw clothes in it, and left.”

They went to a hotel in Midland that had been arranged for them by the Red Cross.

“Once I got to Midland and my family was safe, I decided I was going to go back to the house to see if I could salvage or grab anything before the water came,” he said. “When I went back to the house is when I stopped at the end of the road. The water was to the road and my whole house was under. It happened within two hours where the water level was normal when we left and then it went to that.

“I called my mom and told her the whole house was going to be gone,” he continued.

With nothing else to do, Federer returned to the hotel and went to sleep.

The next day, he returned to see what damage had been wrought to his home.

“The water had receded, but nothing was really salvageable,” he said. “The water had gone up five feet into the house. The current had torn everything apart. The refrigerator was on its side, the couch was flipped over, and the whole house had shifted off its foundation.”

With nothing else to do, Federer and others began gutting the house.

“Right now, it’s just studs and the outside walls,” he said. “Everything from the inside is completely ripped out — all the drywall, the flooring. We’re hoping we can eventually lift the house up and put it back on its foundation and eventually rebuild.”

As this was going on, Federer on May 22 received a negative test result for COVID-19, showing he no longer had the virus. Whatever silver lining that came with was then tarnished when his workers’ compensation ended on May 26. He also said he was unable to obtain anything from his employer’s emergency cash fund.

“Now I’m on leave without pay until I can figure out housing and stuff like that,” he said. “I’m trying to still figure things out before I go back to work. I have no idea when I’m going back to work, but I’m hoping it’ll be within two weeks.”

Camron is likewise on a leave of absence from her job with MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot, Federer said.

The family is currently staying in his grandparents’ one-bedroom camper parked on his parents’ Midland property.

Throughout the health affliction and housing wreckage, Federer said his family has garnered help from neighbors.

“We had a lot of neighbors and the community come out and empty the house,” he said. “There were probably 15 to 20 people who I had no clue who they even were or where they came from.

“The community has been amazing in helping us.”

Federer’s mother, Michelle Federer, has created a GoFundMe campaign to help. In four days, it has raised $2,670 from 34 donors as of noon on May 28.

“Any money raised in the campaign will be used to replace furniture, toys, and household items, as well as rebuild the family's home,” said Angelique McNaughton, regional communications for GoFundMe.

McNaughton added that the company has seen an uptick in campaigns related to those affected by the Midland County floods.

“We want to ensure that everyone is able to get the help they need right now,” she said. “Please visit the centralized hub GoFundMe created on behalf of residents here: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/michigan-flooding. It will be updated on a regular basis and we guarantee all funds will reach those impacted and who need it most.”


©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2021 EMS1. All rights reserved.