Firefighters travel to aid brethren; `Obvious they took big hit'.
LUNENBURG - Long before Superstorm Sandy slammed Long Beach, a city in Nassau County, N.Y., just south of Long Island on Oct. 29, several Central Massachusetts firefighters already had established relationships with Long Beach Fire Department firefighters.
Sterling Firefighter Jamieson C. Shea served as a volunteer firefighter with the Long Beach Fire Department from late 2007 to 2010 before moving back to Central Massachusetts.
"It's a barrier island," Firefighter Shea said. "It's blue collar; a lot of cops and firefighters live there, and a lot of first responders who work in New York (city) live there. It's a community of about 50,000 in about four square miles."
The Long Beach Fire Department sustained significant losses along with the entire region and much of the East Coast. The hurricane did major damage to three of their four fire stations, and they lost three of their four engines, two tower ladders, their heavy rescue truck, three ambulances and all of their support vehicles. Moreover, many of the firefighters also had major property damage to their homes.
"It was pretty obvious they took a pretty big hit," Firefighter Shea said. "I kind of felt I had to do something so I reached out to my captain and ex-captain there."
The Long Beach Fire Department has about 30 career firefighters and about 150 volunteer firefighters who serve the community, Firefighter Shea, who also serves as vice president of the Worcester County Emerald Society, decided to organize relief for the firefighters. He found out that they needed generators, fire service equipment, home and building supplies, tools - and some hurricane relief themselves.
As soon as word got out via Facebook, contributions from throughout Central Massachusetts began pouring in and more than 30 firefighters from 11 communities volunteered to deliver the donated goods and help firefighters with some of their home and station rebuilding projects.
The firefighters plan to pull out of Central Massachusetts at 4 a.m. today to drive to Long Beach to provide hurricane relief to their firefighter brothers. The group will travel in a 55-passenger bus that was anonymously donated for the trip, and a Fitchburg firefighter transport bus.
"We'll be their manpower," Firefighter Shea said.
There is still no lodging in Long Beach because the only hotel there is not up and running yet, so the group will work all day and return late tomorrow night or early Monday.
"It will be eight hours of driving for 10 hours of work," Firefighter Shea said, adding that it will be worth it to deliver the donated supplies. "It's been insane; people and companies have been so generous."
Fire Lt. Shawn P. McKenna and about a dozen of the firefighters headed to Long Beach to make final preparations yesterday at the Lunenburg Fire Department.
"We've gone down to Long Beach before," Lt. McKenna said. "We went down for Billy Quick's funeral. We stayed with a bunch of Long Beach firefighters, so we've actually met the guys."
Firefighter William Quick, 55, was a 23-year veteran of the FDNY. Since that time, Long Beach firefighters have been up to attend firefighter balls and other events in Central Massachusetts. Lt. McKenna said that Long Beach Fire Capt. Darren Kaye's house was destroyed in the hurricane, a house that Lt. McKenna had stayed at when he was down for the funeral.
"It's personal for a lot of us," Lt. McKenna said.
Many of the Long Beach firefighters, who rescued and assisted so many others during the hurricane found they could use some hurricane relief themselves now. Firefighters here asked what firefighters down there needed the most - food, water or supplies?
"They told us `We need bodies to come down,'" Lt. McKenna said. "`We're exhausted.'"
Two others headed down with the group are Fitchburg Firefighter Sean J. Roy and his wife, Lori Roy, who works as a paramedic in Lunenburg.
"This is what firefighters do," Firefighter Roy said; they are there for each other. "Line-of-duty-death, hurricane, whatever, it doesn't matter."
CUTLINE: Lunenburg Fire Department members, from left, Rick Howard, Eric Martineau, Ryan Major, Neil Guthrie, Pete Lekaditis, Matt Glenny, Sean Roy and Shawn McKenna prepare for their trip to aid firefighters besieged by Superstorm Sandy.
PHOTOG: JACKIE RICCIARDI