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Fire Chief's Post-Sandy Report Includes 750 Calls

An out-of-town fire truck responded to a smoke alarm at Lindell School on Election Day, more than a week after Hurricane Sandy ravaged Long Beach.
An out-of-town fire truck responded to a smoke alarm at Lindell School on Election Day, more than a week after Hurricane Sandy ravaged Long Beach.

Although its three firehouse were flooded and most of its apparatus was lost during Hurricane Sandy, the Long Beach Fire Department was self-sustained the following day, according to Chief Richard Corbett.

“A lot of the members actually lost everything, but they came to the firehouses because they couldn’t do anything at their houses,” Corbett reported after a special City Council meeting last Tuesday, noting that one member, a building engineer, went to each firehouse to ensure everything from the generators to plumbing was working.

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Since the night of the storm Oct. 29, the LBFD has responded to roughly 750 calls, and continues to respond to many calls, mostly for gas leaks and electrical fires and smoke alarms, as of last week.  

“A lot of times if your heating equipment lays dormant, there’s dust in there and that burns and gives off an odor,” Corbett said. “So, we’re handling a lot of calls like that.”

From Oct. 28, the day prior to Sandy's arrival, and Oct. 30, the department responded to 126 alarms. On Oct. 31, the department responded to 74 alarms. The most destructive incident came during the height of the storm, when a cluster of seven houses burned to the ground and three others suffered considerable fire damage in the Canals neighborhood.

Corbett said that during the storm, when sustained winds reached 55 miles per hour, the department decided to stop operations as a safety measure, but membership continued to respond to calls. “We tried to shut down but it just couldn’t happen with all the calls for help that we were getting,” he said.

Another incident involved a car that drove into a house, on Lincoln Boulevard near East Park Avenue, and firefighters had to extricate the people in the vehicle. “I think that it was people driving like idiots because we didn’t have traffic lights and people weren’t paying attention,” the chief speculated about the cause of the accident.  

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All told, there weren't any storm-related deaths, Corbett reported.

Immediately after the storm a temporary emergency room was established at City Hall, and four days later a small-scale but full-service hospital, a Disaster Management Emergency Team tent, was set up on a ball field at the Recreation Center, which treated more than 1,000 patients.

Initially, numerous fire departments, especially from the Albany area, assisted the LBFD, as part of a mutual aid agreement Long Beach has with the state. “These departments drove over five hours to get to Long Island, and stood by for 72 hours and then they had to leave,” Corbett said

Still, many of their members returned to assist the city, while other departments sent manpower simply to help Long Beach residents gut their flood-damaged homes. “It was a pretty amazing show of support,” Corbett said.

Preparations for the storm began five days before Sandy made landfall on the barrier island, as LBFD met with its members and officials from the city, Nassau County Office of Emergency Management and Nassau County Fire Marshals Office. Corbett put all members in the firehouses the night before the storm, and they brought supplies including cots, blankets and food.

“We asked all firehouse to have enough food to sustain themselves for at least three days, which all the members did,” said Corbett, who noted that his department cooked for every firefighter, state trooper and National Guard member that assisted the city.

As of last week, the LBFD was partially in service with some borrowed equipment as it works toward full service once again.

“I’m very proud of all the citizens for working with us and helping us every way they can,” Corbett said. “ … I think the whole community came together as one. Strangers were helping strangers. People have been coming down to the firehouses just to say thank you. It’s pretty incredible, the show of love for the firefighters and fire responders.” 
Hamburger November 26, 2012 at 10:12 AM
"people driving like idiots". Probably true, but are these the words that should be coming out of our Fire Chief's mouth?
Wanttoknow November 26, 2012 at 11:18 AM
At least he's honest.
delete me November 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM
I think "driving like ignorant douche-knuckles" would have sufficed.
Outsider November 27, 2012 at 07:33 AM
There is nothing wrong with that comment. There was absolutely no reason for people to be out driving that night with those weather conditions. If you are stupid enough to go out, then you have to pay the price.
Hamburger November 27, 2012 at 01:12 PM
be that as it may, it was unprofessional phrasing for a city official
Eddie November 27, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Corbett ran a great department. Every member and every resident should be proud to have such wonderful people who dedicate themselves to helping this city's residents. No deaths, no major injuries. Anyone with a shred of knowledge in these things knows the disaster that could have happened.
Hamburger November 27, 2012 at 09:45 PM
The fire dept did a great job
delete me November 28, 2012 at 06:21 AM
"unprofessional phrasing for a city official"? you should have heard some of the unprofessional phrasing I was called by persons in our previous admin! "idiot" would be a compliment.

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