Neville Island Fire Department delivers donations, trucks included, to N.Y. firefighters

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Members of the Neville Island Volunteer Fire Department used a bright yellow firetruck, rather than a sleigh pulled by reindeer, to deliver aid to fellow firefighters in Breezy Point, N.Y., who were affected in October by Superstorm Sandy.

On Dec. 8, a caravan left Neville Island with a 1981 Jayco foam pumper firetruck, a utility box van, a vehicle on loan from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Moon and two pickup trucks owned by local firemen.

All of the vehicles were overflowing with clothing and food donated by residents of Neville Island and nearby west communities.

After a 12-hour drive, the caravan arrived in Breezy Point, where all of the trucks and equipment of the volunteer fire company had been destroyed by the storm.

The community is in Queens.

The Neville Island firetruck and the company's utility box van did not make the return trip home. Both vehicles were donated to the New York firefighters.

"They were overwhelmed. You could see it on their faces," said Neville fire Chief Michael Pugh. "They appreciate everything you give."

Before the storm, Neville firefighters had purchased a firetruck from a Moon company to replace their 30-year-old yellow pumper. A buyer of their old truck may have paid $3,000 to $5,000, Mr. Pugh said. But then the storm hit, and Neville volunteers watched news coverage on television.

"Breezy Point is where they had all the fires," Mr. Pugh said. "When we saw it in person, it was even worse than what you saw on television. It's unbelievable."

The oceanfront residential community was slammed by the storm Oct. 29. When a fire broke out the following morning, firefighters could not respond because the storm had flooded roadways. They watched helplessly as winds spread the flames, destroying more than 100 homes and a church.

Neville firefighters were not content to stop with a donation of a fire truck. "We put out a few fliers around town and advertised on the marquee at our fire station, asking for donations of clothes and food," Mr. Pugh said.

The response was overwhelming, filling the firetruck and utility truck to overflowing. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart loaned a van filled with donations from the community. And the chief and another firefighter filled their pickup trucks with donated items.

"We didn't have room for one more item," he said.

After delivering their presents, the Neville fire fighters turned around and drove 12 hours to return home.

The Neville company has 20 volunteers, three pumper trucks, a utility van and five boats.

"We get called out to river rescues all the time," Mr. Pugh said. "Usually it's boats that have broken down, but this year we were called out for a woman who jumped off a bridge." The volunteers rescued her and she survived the jump.

Although Neville Island has fewer than 2,000 residents, the volunteer fire company also gets support from the companies and industries located in the community.

Mr. Pugh has been a firefighter for 29 years. Like many firefighters, he follows in the footsteps of family members. His late grandfather, Robert Moore, and his late father, Tom Pugh, were both firefighters.

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Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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