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Recovering from Sandy a Challenge for Battered East Dover Fire Company

Officials uncertain how long recovery at Fischer Boulevard headquarters will take

No one at the East Dover Fire Company had seen flood water rise that fast, or with such force. 

"The water was so swift, it picked up that refrigerator and flipped it over," said Sharon Goresh, a company trustee, as she motioned to the 400-pound stainless steel box in the firehouse's kitchen.

Like most everything else in the company's headquarters, it was totaled when Hurricane Sandy battered the Jersey Shore last month.

"None of the equipment is usable again," said Asst. Chief Rick Tutela. "The building, in our eyes, is totalled. It wrecked every office in the building."

The entirety of the Fischer Boulevard fire company headquarters, including its $60,000 commercial-grade kitchen, needs to be gutted and rebuilt. Restoring the building will cost a "substantial" amount of money.

"I would not bat an eye at $200,000 by the time we're done," Tutela said. "And that's conservative."

Sandy's wrath was felt hard at the building, located about 50 feet from the Barnegat Bay. On the night Sandy struck, nothing could stop the flood waters, which came in from the rear of the building and crossed over Fischer. 

"It came so fast and so furious that it was pushing the sandbags out of the way," Goresh said. "A sandbag was nothing."

In 20 minutes time, the water was up to Goresh's knees. About five cars in the parking lot, all belonging to members out responding to storm-related calls, were swept away and totaled. Despite the danger, volunteers stayed and continued to dispatch calls.

"When we had 3 feet of water in here, we were still running fire calls," Tutela said. That night, in addition to a house fire on Grover Road, the department responded to calls for trees into houses, downed power lines and drivers trapped in their cars by flood waters.

"It was the whole gamut of the fire service," Tutela said. "Just people calling for assistance."

All of the company's apparatus were out responding to emergencies that night. But then something unprecedented happened.

"That eerie call came across that they needed rescuing at the firehouse. No one knew why," Tutela said.

Goresh and another volunteer tried to save as much as they could from the flood waters, especially documentation that FEMA may want for reimbursement purposes. The apparatus were relocated to higher ground at Toms River High School East.

Now, a month later, offices have moved to trailers outside the building donated by Hecht. The trucks have returned to the bays at the company's headquarters, but the rest of the building — including the banquet hall — is unusable and may be that way for some time.

"This banquet hall is the major source of income for us. It keeps this volunteer fire company in business," Tutela said.

The members — not the township — own the building and are responsible for its insurance and maintenance costs. Each month, hall rentals and other fundraising activities bring in about $6,000.

But no more. The canceled breakfast with Santa scheduled for December likely would have raised over $2,000. Other private events were canceled, the deposits returned.

The company was sent a $30,000 advance from their insurer, but that money is long gone and didn't go too far. It paid for a restoration company to rip up carpets, a wood floor and 4 feet of drywall, all preliminary measures to prevent mold from forming.

Much more work needs to be done, but the fire company can't get started without money. Insurance will not pay more yet, grant applications are being worked out and it's unclear what FEMA will cover. 

Rather than wait, members are appealing to the public, including the 27,000 residents in its service jurisdiction, to help with donations.

"We're asking our response area for help," Tutela said.

Donations can be made through a PayPal account established by the company or by sending a check to the company's headquarters at 629 Fischer Blvd, Toms River, NJ 08753. 

"We're doing whatever we can to fundraise to rebuild our firehouse," Tutela  said. 

Despite the challenges of running a fire company without a fully-functional headquarters, the members — some of whom, like Tutela, have suffered losses at home because of Sandy — remain committed to protecting their community.

"We're still fighting fires," he said. "And we have to rebuild the firehouse."

JOE V December 07, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Andy,Risk Im not sure of !!!!!!!!! Gloves, Masks,Boots that minimizes the risk,Mr Lightbody you are correct Your men did a great job not bashing just curious ?? Thanks for all the help. Andy I am a contractor Mr Lightbody how can I contact someone to offer help? Im available on Sundays all day just post a # to contact some one if I can Help save Taxpayers some money and repay a favor in return its well worth it!! Thank you
TR FAILED December 07, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Our Vol. Fire Depts. in Toms River worked around the clock and performed well The Citizens of Toms River thank East Dover and Silverton's Volunteers for their hard and tireless work during the storm. It is reassuring to know that during a time our Elected leaders at both the Township and County Levels FAILED, our unpaid volunteers were there in the thick of it helping TR's citizens. Even when our Ward Reps were nowhere to be found in our wards for days after the storm, Our Unpaid Fire and EMS Professionals were there!
Donna Griffin December 07, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Thank you for your service to our community. I am always in awe of the character of an individual who would place his/her life on the line and volunteer in this type of event to the extent that you all did. I am certain that some of your members' homes were impacted, but yet you folks pulled all nighters to protect your neighbors. God bless you. My check is on its way.
PJ Ortley December 07, 2012 at 02:31 PM
There are many volunteer organizations offering to help - both with cleanup and rebuilding. A contractor friend did my worst cleanup for free. Its a shame that much money was already used up. But given your organization does so much for the community surely together we can find a group to help you rebuild. Get your story on Facebook and on TV and help will come.
Harry December 07, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Actually most of Toms River EMS and OEM are paid positions. Toms River hates volunteer EMS well except Silverton FAS cause their paid guys and Silverton make the township money with Billing. They shut down Ortley Beach first aid cause of lack of calls. Gee maybe if you used volunteers and make then look like garbage. But help out the fire departments they are strickly volunteers!
Elizabeth Ann Gross December 07, 2012 at 05:01 PM
The pay pal link didn't work.
Gregory Kyriakakis (Editor) December 07, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Thanks, Elizabeth. You can find the donation link on the company's website: http://edfc4.com/xoops/
grace December 08, 2012 at 12:13 AM
i must give a shout out to seaside heights fire dept too...they also rescued many including a 3yr old who was given cpr...what a nightmare for all of us so my thanks and well wishes to all depts who did one hell of a job during sandy!!
Mike Maino December 08, 2012 at 12:29 AM
East Dover VFD is in our sights 100+ times per year; when we are up. We sweep your area from May to Sept. for County OEM. You guys look good from> 1,000 ft.. We have your "6" as part of our, "Sunset Patrol". Your loss is a loss to all 1st responders. Please let us know if we can help. My last look (aerial photo) at your house was 9/9/12. On request. We did a looked at marinas for Coast Guard, Sector Del. Bay for before "Sandy". Got the WaWa on Fisher looking north 10/27. After Sandy was sad. Real sad. Photos on request. Your problem is, "our problem". Most talk.>>> "We do." Let's talk. r/Mike Maino Public Affairs Officer Ocean Air Support Squadron c=609-312-9170 Visit, www.oceanblacksheep.com
John V December 08, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Where are they going to get the money? Oh I know! I know! The Board of Fire Commisioners are going to spring another last minute election on us and fund 3 new firehouses to replace the ones damaged in the storm, never mind that all three are still in flood plains.
Mark December 08, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Just curious but why does a Vollie firehouse need a 60K commercial grade kitchen?
cw1234 December 08, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Did you read the article, it clearly states "The members — not the township — own the building and are responsible for its insurance and maintenance costs."
cw1234 December 08, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I'm going to guess it was probably for their banquet hall facility.
barbara December 08, 2012 at 03:07 AM
love that fire house, moved to t.r. in 83, however, we are very close, like right across the street on windsor ave. first house in, we are demolished. no help from FEMA. sucks. no one offering to help us, doing it ourselves my son rents the house and now homeless. living with us in seniorville. horrible for us.......try to get help and we cant. wtf? good luk to the fire house, u guys rule.......heartbreaking for us to lose our house, gonna take months and much $ to restore. so wish sandy woud have just blown it away. so tired of all phone calls and red tape.
NYTEWYND December 08, 2012 at 05:37 AM
There are alot of links and grants for help but you have to research and fill out the paperwork in order to get them.There is also a group of fire fighters standing by waiting to come and help departments with restoring their buildings.The state also has a bulk warehouse with building materials for donation to ems and fire departments.Guys get on there and start filing for these options and making calls to get your supplies.Take advantage of what is out there so you can restore and get back up.
Mark December 08, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Not trying to be funny but why does a Volli Fire-House need a banquet hall facility?
George December 08, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Please post aerial pix of flooded inland bayfront areas such as SILVERTON and SHELTER COVE. Thousands would like to see them. Thanks, Mike.
jerzey fish December 08, 2012 at 02:54 PM
they use the banquet hall to rent out to raise funds for the fire house
Johnny Cobbler December 08, 2012 at 06:37 PM
There you go John V talking out your arse again, not knowing (or reading) the whole story before you open your mouth again
Mark December 08, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Actually everything a Volli Firehouse needs to fight fires etc is provided through out property taxes.
John V December 08, 2012 at 10:36 PM
I just thin we are going to have another last minute firehouse election rammed down our throats again. The one last year was for the firehouse on water street across from the post office and that one flooded too during the hurricane. So we may not get one for this firehouse but we will probably have one for the one downtown...just like last year, when it does happen I'll tell you all "Told Ya So!"
John V December 08, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Mark, you hit the nail on the head with that one. Our property taxes pay to fight fires and the crooks over at the board of fire commissioners are going to pull another fast one over on the sheep here in TR, just like last year.
cw1234 December 08, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Please show me where it said it was for the firehouse across from the post office?
cw1234 December 08, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Your Property taxes? The article clearly says "The members — not the township — own the building and are responsible for its insurance and maintenance costs."
1guy December 09, 2012 at 01:10 AM
John V....the vote for last year was not for the firehouse on Water St. across from the post office, that firehouse, like all others in Dist. #1, is owned and operated by the members of that particular vol. fire orginazation, not the town, the commisioners have NO say in any existing firehouse, the vote was to put a firehouse on Hooper Ave that would be owned and operated by the commisioners, please get your facts straight before you speaker out.
John V December 09, 2012 at 03:21 AM
CW1234, here is your proof right here from the patch itself http://tomsriver.patch.com/articles/1-million-firehouse-land-buy-before-voters-thursday I quote from the article: "District 1 is aiming to move Toms River Fire Co. No. 1 & 2, which operate out of the Robbins Street and Water Street stations currently, into a new firehouse to be built on Hadley and Hooper Avenue where Williamson Realty currently is. District 1 Administrator Brian Kubiel, also the township council vice president, said moving the two downtown firehouses out of their current facilities is an idea at least two decades old. “Fire Company Number 1 is outdated. Fire Company Number 2 is in the flood plain,” Kubiel said."
John V December 09, 2012 at 03:25 AM
1Guy, You can read it in black and white yourself, the vote was to replace the firehouse on water street with one on hooper ave. http://tomsriver.patch.com/articles/1-million-firehouse-land-buy-before-voters-thursday
Project Bluebeam December 09, 2012 at 10:21 AM
So if I donate through PayPal, can they prove my $ will go towards rebuilding and not another Kobe steak at the national firefighter convention?
grace December 09, 2012 at 04:02 PM
can we purchase sweatshirts or tees from the firehouse itself?
Andy December 10, 2012 at 03:05 PM
........Thank you to all who have left their good wishes and suggestions to us. To others who have axes to grind (no pun intended) your comments reveal your true intentions and I will not justify your existence by responding to them. Jenny we don't sell shirts, but there is an excellent group out there called "Blue Wave Printing" who do the "Restore the Shore" shirts and sweats, you can check them out on Facebook. They have donated back to Toms River organizations and are good people...... to NYTEWYND, we have and are applying for grants all over the place...thanks for the suggestions...... Mike Maino...... thanks for looking down on us....you stay safe!! To those out there who support all your first responders....... THANK YOU!!!

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