After more than a dozen Long Island fire departments suffered devastating damage to equipment and firehouses from superstorm Sandy, help quickly arrived -- from fellow fire departments across the country.
Powering the rescue effort were the 13 chapters of the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund, which sprung into action to supply departments in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. So far, the nonprofit has delivered vehicles, gear and equipment to at least two dozen departments in the metro area.
"We have to fully outfit them to put them back to work," said fund founder Brian Farrell, whose brother Terry died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Terry Farrell was an FDNY firefighter and Dix Hills volunteer. "The Terry Fund has been there for these firefighters," Brian Farrell said. "He has been an inspiration."
Farrell said help came from fire companies as far away as California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Texas. Right after the storm, crews of three volunteers each spent 16 hours a day giving out equipment.
"They all stepped up," said Farrell, 62, a retired labor law attorney from Wantagh. "I am really proud of these guys."
Long Beach Fire Chief Robert Tuccillo said 6 to 8 feet of water inundated his department's two ladder trucks, four engines, three ambulances and four chiefs' vehicles, destroying some and leaving others in dire need of repair.
The loss temporarily crippled the 150-member department, which received bunker gear, boots, gloves, food and water through the fund. The department also was able to borrow six trucks from local fire departments, one from Brookhaven Lab and the famous Spirit of Louisiana pumper from New Orleans.
"They supplied us when we were in desperate need," Tuccillo said. "The fact that they were there the day after the storm, I don't think you could put that in words. They are pretty amazing."
The 200-member West Islip Fire Department received about 60 pairs of fire-resistant gloves to replace those destroyed by corrosion after making several saltwater rescues, Deputy Chief Blaise Gemellaro said.
"The gloves were a big thing," said Gemellaro, adding that radios also were damaged. "We couldn't operate without gloves."
This weekend, members of the fund's Pennsylvania chapter will drive to Long Island to bring more donations from 30 fire companies, including gear, helmets, gloves, boots, hoses, clothes, shoes and cleaning supplies. The chapter already has donated six vehicles, including engines, rescue trucks and a sport utility vehicle, chapter organizer Mike Maxwell said.
"There were departments in western Pennsylvania that never heard of the Terry Fund, but it was an easy sell to have fire departments donate because it's the right thing to do," said Maxwell, of the Washington Fire Company in Conshohocken.
Delaware chapter director Ryan Knowles said 26 fire companies from that state sent gear, tools, food and clothing to Long Island.
"It's the brotherhood of the fire service," said Knowles, of the Carlisle Fire Company in Milford, Del. "No matter where people need help, we are there to help them."