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Photos by Fritz Rethage

Brothers Helping Brothers

Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

Related story: Goodbye Engine #1

Area Fire Departments Donate Fire Trucks, Turnout Gear, etc.
Hasbrouck Heights Adopts Devastated City in Mississippi

By Justin Watrel

 As a local volunteer fire department, Hasbrouck Heights responds to the call of its citizens with the urgency and zeal of a determined group ready to conquer a fire.

This dedicated group of volunteers is available morning, noon and night.

Now the Department has another call of duty in helping another fire department in need.

As a country, we have all rallied around the devastation of New Orleans, and we tend to forget that many communities around the panhandle were also badly hit, and their needed relief has gone unnoticed by the media.

Our call came from some phone calls made by a councilman and a firefighter who wanted to get involved. That is how Hasbrouck Heights as a community "adopted" the city of Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Members of the Department got involved with the relief when the disaster of Hurricane Katrina went beyond the city of New Orleans.

"We got involved in our own fund raising when Councilman Tom Meli and firefighter Tom Rubino (See "It’s a Family Affair" November issue) realized the devastation the storm had caused by communication with friends that lived in the cities of Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi.

"We had an extra truck that we were going to donate to another firehouse, but when we called both cities we figured the first one to call back would get the truck," said Tim Moots, a Hasbrouck Heights firefighter. "Pascagoula called first."

During the end of the summer, the Hasbrouck Heights Volunteer Fire Department repaired, buffed and shined up their old Engine One, stocked it with household supplies and with a donation of flatbed transportation from Joseph Sanzari, the truck was escorted down to Pascagoula by Hasbrouck Heights Police Chief Michael Colaneri and Captain John DeLorenzo.

The next night they were followed by Hasbrouck Heights Fire Chief Joseph Taylor Jr. and Firefighter Tom Rubino.

"Nothing prepared us for what we saw," Chief Taylor explained.

"Complete neighborhoods were flattened. Sewage water overflowed the area, snakes infested the downtown area and people completely lost everything. What amazed me was how they were handling it. Throughout all this, they still had a sense of Southern charm and hospitality."

The Chief told his counterparts they were there to help them in any way they could, but even through the whole ordeal were politely refused.

"My counterpart, Chief O’Sullivan, took time out of his schedule to take us around the town. It was unbelievable."

Chief Taylor continued. "If people didn’t know they were living in a flood plain, they did now. The worst was there were three families including two chiefs, who lost everything but the clothes on their backs and they and their families are living in the firehouse.

It really showed the storm’s effect. By the end of our few days there, we were asked by the chief to leave as Hurricane Rita was approaching.

He was not sure what the next storm would do, so we packed up and got out of there."

Under a committee of chiefs, captains and lieutenants as well as active firefighters, other ways to help were planned.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s committee includes firefighters Tim Moots, Mike Christensen, Chris Halloran, Tom Rubino, Pat Hayes, Second Assistant Chief Mike Ratkowski, Chief Joseph Taylor Jr. and Councilman Tom Meli.

This dedicated group has planned many activities to help their fellow firefighters.

A successful boot drive over one weekend and a well attended beefsteak dinner as well as donations have generated over $20,000 for fellow firefighters and their families. Another boot drive and car wash are now in the works.

Recently the committee, with a big push from firefighter Tim Moots, solicited more donations for Pascagoula.

With the support of other fire departments in New Jersey, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was able to send down more needed supplies.

The Rockleigh Fire Department generously donated their old engine to Pascagoula, which will be a big help to their department.

"When they were thinking of selling it, I asked their chief if it could be donated," Tim Moots said. "This was brothers helping brothers."

Tim’s father, retired Ridgefield Fire Chief Charles Moots got involved as well. He was able to get 10 pairs of turnout gear donated from Globe Manufacturing.

The North Haledon Fire Department donated 10 sets of turnout gear.

The Ridgewood Fire Department also donated turnout gear plus a generous monetary contribution, the Fort Lee Volunteer Fire Department donated their old Engine #5 as well as excess equipment that they weren’t using.

"Fort Lee was extremely generous with their donation. Some of the equipment was in excellent condition," Tim Moots explained.

Firefighter Tom Rubino was able to acquire a very generous donation of household goods that includes microwaves and stereos and the group packed the engines with much needed supplies.

"Before the engines went down to Mississippi, the trucks had to be repaired, inspected, cleaned and buffed -- this represented about 100 hours of labor per truck," Tim Moots added.

Most of the materials used in preparation were donated by department personnel.

"There were a lot of firefighters who volunteered their time on top of their regular jobs to get this all done. I am really grateful for all of their help," Chief Taylor added.

"Tim and Tom have done an outstanding job with this project. They were able to get donations that otherwise would never have gotten to these people.

Pascagoula is a paid department of 26 men. Everyone of them and their families are extremely grateful for all we have done for them; not just as a department but as a community as well."

The Chief explained that they were able to make a $5,000 donation to each family living in the firehouse.

"These people have not seen much in the way of government aid and even call us a "Little FEMA," Councilman Tom Meli said recently.

The Chief wanted it also to be known that the money that was donated to the regular Hasbrouck Heights Volunteer Fire Department annual fund drive is completely separate from the fund raisers for Pascagoula Mississippi Fire Department Relief Fund.

"We were even able to send money down to Mississippi to have two of the three firefighters join us for our January 2006 installation dinner, which they more than appreciated."

Chief Taylor added, "We were able to show them New York City. They were able to see Ground Zero and tour the city. We wanted them to relax. This is really an effort to show that one community can make a difference to another. It shows a lot of community spirit. Thank you to all the residents of Hasbrouck Heights who have shown their support for this project." ###


Hasbrouck Heights, Fort Lee & Rockleigh Donate Fire Trucks

The communities of Hasbrouck Heights, Fort Lee and Rockleigh each donated a fire truck destined for the Pascagoula, MS Fire Department. Joseph M. Sanzari donated transportation for the Hasbrouck Heights fire truck and United Parcel Service (UPS) donated transportation for the Fort Lee and Rockleigh fire trucks. Transportation costs were estimated at $4,000 each vehicle.

The Hasbrouck Heights Volunteer Fire Department was the staging point for the area fire departments’ contributions and hosted a brief ceremony commemorating this historical donation on March 2, 2006.

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Related story: Goodbye Engine #1

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(l-r) Dan Cardillo (UPS), Michael Sargenti (Fort Lee Fire Commissioner), Stephen Richter (Fort Lee Fire Chief), Joseph Taylor Jr. (Hasbrouck Heights Fire Chief), Nick Langella (Rockleigh Mayor), Kathleen Harju (UPS) Ronald R. Jones (Hasbrouck Heights Mayor), Thomas Meli (Hasbrouck Heights Fire Commissioner), Timothy Moots (Teaneck/Hasbrouck Heights Firefighter and Project Coordinator) and Michael Malhame (Rockleigh Fire Chief). ###

No Problem. Can Do!

With dignitaries from Fort Lee, Rockleigh, Hasbrouck Heights and United Parcel Service on hand at the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department for a ceremony for the departing third fire truck, so was Murphy’s Law.

On Thursday afternoon, March 2nd, with a snow storm approaching, a fixed 42" high bed transporter arrived.

(The transporters for the previous two fire trucks were the low-boy drive-on type, typically seen used to move construction equipment, and the loading was flawless.)

With some deliberation, the quandary was resolved.

A convoy consisting of the Fire Chief, transporter, fire truck and others went down to the Department of Public Works yard.

The fire truck was backed up a hill. A front end loader clipped the base of the hill to the height of the transporter bed.

The transporter backed into the slot and the front end loader leveled the ground.

A search around the yard found a couple of steel beams and heavy timber to construct a ramp for the wheels to bridge.

Amid the sleet, the 16 ton fire truck slowly ... very slowly edged onto the extremely slippery aluminum deck of the transporter.

Once in position, the fire truck was chained securely on the deck and departed for Mississippi.

The maestros on hand for this successful problem solving magic included: Hasbrouck Heights Fire Chief Joseph Taylor Jr., Fort Lee Fire Chief Stephen Richter, Rockleigh Fire Chief Michael Malhame, former Ridgefield Fire Chief Charles Moots, DPW diesel mechanic operating the front end loader, Steve Daus, Acting DPW Superintendent William Spindler and Councilman Thomas Meli.

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