The West Sayville Fire Department is running a command fire, rescue and assistance mutual aid center deep in the heart of Oakdale where homeowners are facing tremendous rebuild and repair tasks, as well as ongoing potential safety issues following Hurricane Sandy’s visit on Tuesday.
The Great South Bay surged well past main roads in the Idle Hour area, flooding basements and first floor of homes and issues such as diesel fuel vapors and potential fire hazard scenarios are the main focus of a 24-by-7 crew effort that involves volunteer help from six fire departments off Long Island.
West Sayville Fire Department Chief Joseph Schroeder said the mobilized mutual aid effort, overseen by state emergency and rescue officials, is put into action whenever a devastating event occurs and communities need help.
“Right now we’re dealing with flooding, potential carbon monoxide issues and providing residents with all types of assistance,” said Schroeder, noting the aid effort began with preparation work on Saturday and went into full swing Sunday.
The damage and impact from Hurricane Sandy along the south shore area has been devastating, said the fire chief.
“One of our members, who was here during the 1938 hurricane, said this is the worst,” he noted.
The mutual aid response crew features 25 volunteers from six different departments from a wide range of upstate and out-of-state departments including Rochester and Maine. The 25 volunteers came to the community with department emergency trucks as well as their own vehicles to provide service and are being housed at the West Sayville Fire Department.
Such an mutal effort allows local community departments to continue to focus on local emergency response. The WSFD has been on stand-by since Saturday and out helping residents in the department's communities which includes Oakdale, West Sayville, areas in Bohemia and parts of Sayville.
As Schroeder and Assistant Chiefs Todd Gray and Lucus Domingo handle incoming radio calls from dispatch, the volunteer crews are sent out to homes to check on issues such as a smell of gas to helping pump out basements and homes.
The initial big task was helping people evacuate homes Monday and Tuesday as the water table rose and kept rising.
Then the big task was keeping up with downed wires and falling trees and dangerous situations once high winds kicked in.
On Wednesday the focus was on helping residents pump out, assess damage and restore stability to the community.
“We typically don’t do pump out but this is a very unique scenario given the situation,” explained Schroeder, noting that pump out was delayed until the water surges receded a bit.
“There’s two reasons for that. One is the instability on a home’s foundation when you pump out water but there is water pressure remaining on the outside. The second is if the water is up to the street and there is no where to pump e have to wait until the tide pulls ack and we can pump back into the bay,” said Schroeder who’s served on the WSFD for 23 years.
“This has been the worse I’ve ever seen,” he added.