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Chief's Message to Residents about Halesite FD's Storm Response

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dear Residents,

As we return to our normal routines following Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent Nor’easter, I thought you’d like to know how your fire department performed during these two major storms.

On Sunday, October 28th, we spent the day setting up cots and furniture in the firehouse for potentially displaced citizens and making sure all equipment—including our many chain saws—were operational. We held a drill on Sunday morning for all firefighters to review safety procedures when clearing roads of downed trees and how to work around power lines.

When the first rain drops started to fall on Monday, dozens of firefighters and EMT’s gathered at the firehouse, anticipating a very busy night. What many people forget is that these men and women are volunteers; people who could be home looking after their own families and property, but instead commit themselves to the protection of our community.

During the height of Sandy’s fury, when the wind and driving rain brought down so many of Huntington’s grand trees, firefighters were out trying to keep the roads clear so that our equipment could respond to the many calls. Our Department’s tall, small wheel-based mini-pumper, which was added to Halesite’s arsenal last summer, was an important asset because it allowed firefighters to access narrow streets, steep driveways and flooded roads.

As Monday afternoon turned into evening, the frequency of calls began to rise. Ten calls became twenty. Twenty calls became thirty and so on. At some points during the storm multiple Department trucks were literally just going from one call directly to another. By midnight Monday, as Huntington Harbor began lapping at Halesite’s garage doors, we had already responded to 72 incidents, most involving downed trees and wires.

In one of the storm’s many unexpected turns, the moon tide on Tuesday failed to flood the firehouse. Original expectations suggested that two to three feet of water would come into the building as the height of hurricane Sandy hit precisely at the astrological high tide. A slightly faster moving storm coupled with a last minute shift in wind from east to west , however, pushed the water back into the parking lot and ultimately back into the harbor.

While the majority of Halesite’s calls involved clearing the roads of downed trees, some were even more urgent. Two ambulance calls, a cardiac arrest at 2 AM Tuesday morning and a mutual aid maternity call later in the week, demonstrated the importance of keeping the roads clear. Had firefighters not been out all night chain-sawing pathways through the streets, the ambulance would have been unable to get from the patients’ homes to Huntington Hospital. During the storms Halesite was also called to two other mutual aid alarms – a stand-by for a helicopter landing when a Suffolk County Police Officer was struck by a hit and run driver on Greenlawn Road and a storm-related working fire in Centerport.

Throughout the two storms many displaced Huntington residents sought shelter at the Halesite firehouse. There, they found hot meals and friendly faces to lift their spirits. Dozens more stopped by just to charge their cell phones or catch up on the news. Although the firehouse, like most others, lost power on Monday and is not a designated shelter, its back-up generator provided uninterrupted electricity throughout the ordeal. We also opened our doors to many of the line workers who came from other states to assist in the power recovery.

During the roughly nine days that comprised both Hurricane Sandy and the Nor’easter, the volunteers of Halesite responded to a total of 142 incidents even though most of its members were still without power in their own homes. That’s over nine times the usual volume of calls for Halesite. While a large volume, it’s even more remarkable considering that Halesite’s Fire District is only about 2.2 square miles in size.

With the holidays approaching and life slowly getting back to normal, I thought you would appreciate hearing how Halesite’s volunteers performed during the storms. For my part, I was never so proud to be Chief of the Halesite Fire Department.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Andy Magerle
Chief




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