Firefighters Perform Heroic Hurricane Water Rescue

Riverhead Fire Chief said brush truck was saved.

As Riverhead residents evacuated their homes and fled to safety in the face of Hurricane Sandy, heroes risked their own lives to save others.

Riverhead Fire Department Chief Tony White said a call came in during the height of the hurricane on Monday regarding an active structure fire, with occupants inside the house, at a location on Overlook Drive in Aquebogue.

Racing to the scene, firefighters were met with flooding that was already 18 inches deep. Too high for pumper trucks, firefighters called for a brush truck.

Firefighters, White said, initially went past the house because there was no number outside. "The number on the house was on the front lawn, under water," he said.

Realizing that they'd gone too far, rescuers turned the truck around and, unable to see the terrain because of the flooding, hit a drop off at the end of the roadway. 

"The truck actually got stuck," White said. "Conditions deteriorated very quickly. We ended up going back to get them out with the boat -- not only our own people, but the occupants of two separate houses."

And, as it turned out, White said, "The house was not on fire."

White said residents had been told in advance that a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas had been ordered. "But a lot of people were refusing to leave," he said.

Putting his men in danger was difficult, White said. "It's very hard to stand in the street and know your guys are stuck and the wind is up to 50 miles per hour and the water is rising six inches every couple of minutes. You try to do the right thing, but you end up thinking, 'Oh, God, what did I do?'"

The brush truck was saved, dug out with the help of Riverhead Town, which used a payloader to help.

White said the truck did see damage, with some lights and wiring that needs to be replaced. "But at least it wasn't destroyed," he said, adding that the truck will be out of commission for at least a month.

The Riverhead Fire Deparment responded to approximately 50 calls during Hurricane Sandy. "We had to bail a few people out of cars," he said, reminding that no one should ever drive through flooding or pools of standing water.

But in the end, despite the damage to the truck, White said, "Luckily, everyone is okay."

Maura November 01, 2012 at 11:35 AM
They should make those that refuse to leave sign waivers understanding that NO ONE will be dispatched to get them or even check on them until approximately 72 to 96 hrs after the storm passes. Why should our brave men and women be put in obvious harms way because people are too stupid or crazy to evacuate. I am tired of my husbands life being put in danger because some idiot doesn't want to suffer the inconvience of an evacuation...do they really think they can do anything to protect their homes from a 500 mile wide raging storm pushing billions of gallons of water ahead of it...what are they thinking when they stay...or are they thinking???
eric November 01, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Sounds like the homeowners should be arrested for falsly reporting an incident. Sounds like they knew that unless they said their house was on fire the fd wouldnt come
Angel November 01, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I agree with Eric! The homeowners falsely reported a fire and in doing so endangered a lot of lives
Dana November 02, 2012 at 02:49 AM
OK what about the people on that road who HELPED the firefighters off the truck and onto safety? The people who's property was damaged in the rescue effort by the town? The people that watched those same firefighters smoke cigars around the truck? Maybe there are two sides to every story and you are only choosing to report from one. Maybe one should consider the side to those who didn't evacuate before you make them sound like they are at fault
marie November 03, 2012 at 12:56 PM
really Dana....false report of a fire..refusing to leave when told to evacuate for their own good and you are worrying about property damage to save firetruck... hopefully you will never need that brush truck for a real fire....
Dana November 04, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I hope I never need that truck either, and I am not worried about property damage. However, I do know first hand what really went on during this event and as I've said before, there are two sides to every story
Dana November 04, 2012 at 12:39 AM
All I'm saying Is that the media has portrayed this story how they like, at the cost of the people on Overlook Dr, making them seem like vicious, selfish monsters. And it seems like it worked, based on your comment. So thanks, people close to me where part of the rescue effort in the middle of the storm trying to save the truck and without them the situation would have been much worse. How did the firefighters get off the truck? i bet we cannot report on the person that did that. But hey, I guess we are heartless jerks then.
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