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Portraits of Sandy: Ocean Beach Fire Department

Barrier island fire department continues to find members scattered by mandatory evacuation

The communities the Ocean Beach Volunteer Fire Department serves were all ordered evacuated from the barrier island for Hurricane Sandy.

In the days after the devastating storm, local and state wide rescue teams led dramatic rescues as well as mundane room-by-room searches of each and every home and business on the barrier island.

Now, Ocean Beach Fire Department is searching for some of its members who remained unreachable during the days of mainland power outages and spotty cell phone service.

The volunteer fire department — part of Toms River Fire District 1 — has an ongoing tally on its website as it confirms each member is doing fine, and where they have ended up and how homes may have fared.

On top of that, the Toms River Fire District 1 held a special meeting Tuesday night at the Robbins Street firehouse to meet with Ocean Beach firefighters and assist them with FEMA queries and share information.

The Ocean Beach Fire Department is just one of many barrier island organizations grappling with what the next step is amid the sadness of a natural disaster.

Around since 1951, Ocean Beach Volunteer Fire Department was first called the Chadwick Beach Fire Department. Known as Station 27, the fire department often responds to ocean rescues and beach front home fires. The station sits on 40 Kittiwake Avenue and responded to more than 125 calls this year.

The fire department shared a heartfelt message on its website, alerting the community of the damage to the island, and hoping to share some reports and useful information.

But the message also painted a picture of volunteers who went out and volunteered more in spite of being essentially homeless. Amid those tireless efforts, still the fire department urged patience for a community anxious to get home again. 

The Ocean Beach Fire Department message was posted this weekend for its members to see:

"As of right now our communities have taken a significant blow and sustained tremendous damage. Ortley Beach, and the Northern parts of Normandy Beach sustaining what appears to be some of the worst. All utlities have been shut down at the present moment making the island inhabitable. Crews are working on attempting to get roadways open and thus far have been making tremendous progress. 

"There is still much debris, pole & wires down and minimal standing water.  It is unknown when officials will even allow anyone on the beach and it has even been sometimes difficult for firefighters to reach parts of the Island.  It is our belief that once the road ways are open and most hazards are mitigated officials will allow home owners in a controlled effort to enter the Island and survey the damages and gather belongings.  When that occurs we are not sure. 

"There are shelters still in place on the Mainland at High School North and High School East.  FEMA, Red Cross and Toms River Township have been working around the clock to try and help all those affected by this disaster. 

"For some we know it is not fast enough or just enough in general, but please try and be patient this is like nothing any of us have ever seen or experienced before. 

"Good luck to you all and if we can be of any assistance along the way we will do our best. 

"Our first goal is to take care of our members and then begin to formulate a plan for long term protection of the Island. 

"Many of our members have been VOLUNTEERING since the storm started and have barely been able to take care of thier own damage and families, some going since before the storm even hit. 

"You may see fire companies from far away and they are here to help us on a 24 hr rotation and we have been working out of Seaside Heights Fire Station due to damage at ours. 

"Currently the Toms River Fire District 1 Board of Fire Commissioners have been working feverishly to get us back up and running with generator, alternative source of heat, toilets and some sort or washing facilities. 

"They hope to have us back in our station very soon to better protect our communities. 

"We wish you all the best for your families and the rebuilding process.  God Bless America and God Speed."

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