The Mineola Volunteer Fire Department is having one of its busiest years in recent memory, with one of its busiest periods coming within the last two weeks with the back-to-back occurrences of Hurricane Sandy and the impact of the recent nor’easter.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” Chief Jeffrey Clark said in giving a brief update on the activity of the fire department during Hurricane Sandy to the Mineola Village Board during its regular meeting on November 14 at the village hall.
In all of 2011 the department responded to 612 calls. Since Oct. 29, 2012, they have answered 129 alone.
The fire department began planning for the storm on October 22, a full week before the category 1 hurricane hit the area.
“By the time we got to the morning of the 28th, we were ready to go and we were completing our final preparations,” Clark said, noting that the department had scheduled members to be in the headquarters and at the Elm Place firehouse Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning.
The first storm-related call came in at 9:50 a.m. on October 29 with a tree onto a house and wires down on DeMott Street.
“At that point we activated our hurricane response plan, putting all members on full alert,” Clark said.
The various fire apparatus were assigned to specific areas around the village with all information routed back to the fire headquarters and shared with the village department of public works, the police and FIRECOM. There were a total of 52 calls during the storm hours, ending at 9:30 a.m. on October 30. The nature of the calls included one working house fire, “numerous” wires down, wires burning, poles down, poles burning, trees down and trees on fire.
After the storm, there were about 30 storm-related calls, including 19 carbon monoxide alarms, which resulted in 9 residents being transported to the hospital. Mutual aid calls were also received for a house fire in Albertson and a fatal building fire in New Hyde Park.
“During the storm we sent an engine down to Merrick to help manage with their, they had multiple house fires down there,” Clark said. “A crew from Company 3 left and went down to Merrick to help them out. We had enough manpower on staff here to manage our own activity.”
On October 30, Company 3 would return to the village and an engine from Company 1 was sent down to Freeport for multiple house fires and oil leaks.
“The guys spent 6 hours down there helping out Freeport,” Clark said.
At the height of the storm the fire department had 60 members at headquarters either ready or responding to calls.
“I’m sure all the residents out there would echo the sentiments, we can’t thank you guys enough. A volunteer organization, you’ve left our homes, you’ve left your families to protect ours and the businesses of the village,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said. “We can’t thank you guys enough.”
The Nor’Easter generated 12 calls over a 5 hour period, including trees down, wires down and low hanging wires. A high-tension power wire also came down causing a car fire “which was interesting to deal with,” Clark said.
With the ensuing blackout after the hurricane, the department gave out almost and members have collected and distributed clothing to families in need. The department also housed 35 utility workmen from Alabama at the firehouse while they repaired power lines in the area.
“They were sleeping in their trucks,” Clark said. “We found out about it, opened up the department hall, got the cots out, blankets, pillows and the men had a place to sleep, warm, they had showers.”
This past Monday night the junior firefighters cooked a chicken dinner for the utility workers.
“They guys loved and and they’re very grateful for our hospitality and a place to rest at the end of the day,” Clark said, noting that the juniors are also holding a pancake breakfast to raise money for needy families this Sunday.
If those who cannot attend, you can make a monetary donation, making check out to the Mineola Junior Fire Department and make a note referencing Hurricane Sandy.
Meanwhile, “we continue to deal with storm-related issues,” Clark said. “Wires continue to break, transformers continue to pop so we’re still chasing those down.”