How to Help the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department
We need your help. Please help us rebuild by making a 100% tax deductible donation to the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department today through this page or by sending a check made out to "Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department" (mail to Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department, 1 Fireman's Plaza, Breezy Point, NY 11697).
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Some have not heard the story of the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department ordeal the night hurricane Sandy stuck New York. Still at the disaster area we call home, few have had the opportunity to share their experience. We assure you the following is not an exaggeration in any way.
We all knew another ‘monster’ hurricane was headed in the direction of Breezy Point. Being veterans of Irene the year before, we had no doubt of the destructive power of Mother Nature, but as a community that’s lived on the beach for more than a century we felt it was nothing we couldn’t handle. However, after the first high tide in the early morning, there was no doubt this hurricane would be different. By noon, which was almost low tide, the Atlantic Ocean to our south and Jamaica Bay to our north was higher than Irene at high tide.
Around 5:00 pm the firehouse was told that approximately 75% of the Rockaways had not heeded the evacuation order given by the mayor. We also learned that the FDNY was pulling out at 6:00 pm and by 7:00 pm the Marine Parkway Bridge – our only link to the rest of the city, would be closed. A hard decision had to be made, all 25 volunteer firefighters decided to remain in Breezy Point and help the residents that had stayed behind to weather the storm. I want to emphasize this was not a choice made lightly or out of bravado. The waves were already crashing into homes. The volunteer firefighters of Point Breeze (and other volunteer fire departments) stayed at their post knowing full well the grave risks they faced.
Soon after the bridge closed, the waters suddenly rose higher and faster than anyone expected, gushing into the firehouse and forcing the evacuation of the firefighters and the dozen or so souls they had already provided refuge for. With water already up to their chests, the volunteers and the residents made their way to the Breezy Point Club House behind the fire house which had a slightly higher elevation. Their reprieve was short lived, as the surging flood waters soon overwhelmed the Club House and the fire fighters were forced to put the now more than three dozen civilians they had rescued onto the stage while they performed life-saving operations in the water below, watching the eerie glow of a fire developing on the horizon to the south east.
Out of options, with waters rising and the Club House filling with choking smoke, the volunteers and their charges were led in prayer by their Chief, Marty Ingram. Eyes were rolled and comments were muttered as we all held hands and recited the prayers learned at church during better times, but despite the doubts and reservations anyone might have felt the effect was almost immediate. The rising waters seemed to level off, and after another round of prayers, to recede enough to evacuate the smoke filled Club House and return to the fire house in the hopes of escaping the black cloud and baseball sized embers engulfing them. With an army of (now) true believers holding hands, Chief Ingram led the group in one last prayer, a Hail Mary, in the hopes the fire trucks would defy all engineering by starting despite being submerged in sea water, which they did.
The firefighters quickly evacuated the 40 or so rescued civilians and turned their eyes toward the now massive fire to their south. With FDNY stuck on the other side of Jamaica Bay due to the closed bridge, and the other volunteer firehouse losing all of their vehicles, the volunteer firemen from Point Breeze Fire Department and a truck from the nearby Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department began the fight against the largest residential fire in FDNY history on their own. Firefighters began battling the blaze in chest deep water dodging sinkholes and open manhole cesspool covers. Point Breeze Fire Department was singlehandedly able to knockdown a fire on the bayside at Bayway walk, which would have ultimately led unto another multiple home conflagration in the community. They were able to rescue more trapped civilians and contain the fire until the FDNY could eventually support them with what would ultimately be a six alarm call, bringing more than 300 firefighters to Breezy Point.
Although the embers would burn for a long time after, the major flames were extinguished more than half a day after the first glow was seen on the horizon from the Breezy Point Club House, leaving behind a swath a destruction that consumed 111 homes. Yet despite the destruction, and in stark contrast to the material damaged suffered by Breezy Point that night, there were no fatalities. Thanks to the bravery of the men of the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department and the other volunteer fire responders in Breezy Point, no resident or volunteer was killed. In a night full of miracles, it was that last one that meant the most.
Complete Transparency: This platform does charge a fee of 5% but other than that, every cent will go directly to the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department.
The PBFD would like to thank Robert Kelly for leading this online initiative. Your commitment to Breezy Point is commendable.