Superstorm Sandy left Redding residents without power for five to seven days and damaged hundreds of trees, but residents in Breezy Point, Queens, N.Y., suffered much more.
Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged because of flooding, and 111 homes were decimated by a widespread fire that could not be extinguished. Many residents, including fire departments, lost all they had.
In an effort to give back and help out, the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department held a community donations drive and delivered the donated items to a distribution center on Long Island. The department also donated an ambulance it was replacing.
2nd Lt. Hal Gourad said the department opened one bay for the collected items.
“A bay is about the size of a four-car garage,” he said. “It was packed. We opened the garage at the Georgetown Fire District building and that got full.”
All the donations fit in a 24-foot box truck and a 12-foot box truck.
“People donated everything from diapers to generators. People donated tents, blankets — and not just blankets they had. They went and bought new items to be donated,” he said. “There were a lot of toiletries, cleaning supplies, warm clothing, and even board games.”
Originally Mr. Gourad hoped to send the donated items directly to the affected areas, but the fire departments in Breezy Point aren’t working places, so they wouldn’t have been able to get anything there, he said.
“So we did our homework and found an organization that we’re working with,” he said.
The fire department teamed up with the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund so the items could get to the fire departments in need. The Terry Farrell Fund was established in memory of Terry Farrell, a fallen New York firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
“They buy equipment and donate money for fallen firefighters,” said Mr. Gourad.
In order to deliver the donated items, several companies donated the use of a truck and drivers for the day. Arra Carpentry of Stamford, Hallmark Woodworkers in Danbury and Trassig Playground People of New Milford came forward to help, he said.
The donations were taken to Bethpage, Long Island, where the volunteers from Georgetown filled a container that will be organized and distributed by FEMA, he said.
“All the donations filled a 53-foot container,” said Mr. Gourad.
Many of the items will go to the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, which lost all of its fire trucks and ambulances, as well as the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department in Queens.
“There are only eight volunteer fire departments left in New York City. They lost everything. There was seven feet of water in the firehouses,” said Mr. Gourad.
In addition to the donations made by members of the community, Mr. Gourad said, the department wanted to contribute something as well.
“I saw what all these people were doing and I asked, What can we do?” said Mr. Gourad.
So instead of selling an ambulance when it was replaced, the department donated it, he said.
After dropping off the donations on Long Island, members of the Fire Department had loaded a pickup truck with shovels and equipment in order to lend a hand to clean up in Breezy Point.
Mr. Gourad said that with the National Guard already there, there wasn’t much for them to do. The chief gave them a tour of the Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department and showed them the flood damage. From there, members of the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department walked to where an out-of-control fire destroyed 111 homes.
“It was very surreal. All you could see was foundations and chimneys — that’s all that was left,” said Mr. Gourad. “It looked like a scene from an apocalypse movie. Everyone got quiet real fast when we got there.”
Mr. Gourad said the fire started with one house that was flooded, but firefighters could not reach it, and with the high winds, the fire spread.
Days after the donation was delivered, the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department was still receiving phone calls about making donations.
Mr. Gourad said if people would like to contribute, they may make donations to the Terry Farrell Fund at Terryfund.org.