HUNTINGTON BEACH ( — A local firefighter with strong ties to Oklahoma is flying there to volunteer his time.

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Bryan Russell also spoke Saturday evening with KCAL9’s Rachel Kim and told the Los Angeles audience how they could help. [See below]

Russell has been a Huntington Beach firefighter paramedic for 14 years. On Wednesday, Russell says he will leave Surf City and head into Oklahoma City to help those devastated by Monday’s massive tornado.

“There were a lot of emotions going on in me – I wanted to go [right away],” said Russell.

He was with the Oklahoma City Fire Department for six years.  One month after he moved back to California, the May 3, 1999 tornado ripped through the same area — close to his old neighborhood.

He couldn’t get back that time — he was studying at the Academy. But this time, he told Kim, he’s using vacation time and his own money.

Russell says, “We’re just gonna move stuff, cut stuff, fix stuff, whatever we need to do. There’s gonna be 13,000 people with damaged homes who are going to need some help.”

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This tornado wiped out his former home, the first home he every purchased. The tornado also killed several children at Plaza Towers Elementary School — Russell walked his dog there every day. The images of destruction are heartbreaking for him.

“I formed a stong bond with the people of Oklahoma during the Oklahoma City bombing. They came to our station, cooked us dinners, brought us cards and banners. They took care of us wherever we were,” he says.

To return the favor, Russell is asking Southern Californians to donate gift cards they have so that Oklahomans can heal and rebuild.

“If you have a gift card laying around and want to donate it, then do that. I just want people out there to know that there’s people in California thinking about them,” he says.

Russell is asking for no cash or checks (“it will only complicate things”) — and gift cards with denominations smaller than $50 to places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart or Visa/AMEX cards.

To send a gift card:
HB Firefighters For Oklahoma
c/o Bryan Russell
P.O. Box #431
4NE 10th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

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To follow Russell’s trip, click here.