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Brothers Helping Brothers
Hasbrouck Heights Fire
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
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
"We got involved in our own
fund raising when Councilman Tom Meli and firefighter Tom Rubino (See "Its 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
"My counterpart, Chief
OSullivan, took time out of his schedule to take us around the town. It was
Chief Taylor continued. "If
people didnt 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 storms
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
Departments 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
"When they were thinking of
selling it, I asked their chief if it could be donated," Tim Moots said. "This
was brothers helping brothers."
Tims 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
"Fort Lee was extremely
generous with their donation. Some of the equipment was in excellent condition," Tim
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.
Related story: Goodbye Engine #1
(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
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 Murphys
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
The fire truck was backed up a
hill. A front end loader clipped the base of the hill to the height of the transporter
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
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.