Heights' Firefighter Friends Down South Send Help to Area Flood Victims

Two communities hundreds of miles apart have stepped up to the plate to help each other in times of needed.

Seven years ago when the town of Pascagoula, Mississippi was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and the surrounding community stepped in to help them pick up the pieces. They loaned a fire truck, sent monetary donations and supplies and even helped rebuild homes.

The folks in that community never forgot what their friends up north did for them and now they are working to return the favor.

The people of Pascagoula and its surrounding community in Jackson County are packing up an 18-wheeler truck full of supplies and donated items all for the flood victims of Heights’ neighbors in Moonachie and Little Ferry and sending it up here next week. 

Tom Meli, who was the fire commissioner of the Hasbrouck Heights fire department back in 2005 when Katrina hit the south states, says he was quite moved to hear from the people they helped years ago reach out to see if Hasbrouck Heights was okay after seeing the destruction New Jersey suffered from hurricane Sandy on the television.

Meli told them of their neighbors in Moonachie and Little Ferry who were severely hurt by Sandy and Pascagoula offered to help them out by taking up a collection.

“We want to reciprocate and return the favor,” Pascagoula Fire Chief Robert O’Sullivan tells Patch. “Hasbrouck Heights and their surrounding community had really stepped up to the plate and we are trying to do all we can to pay them back.”

The fire chief says it’s great to see how they’ve all come together even though they are such a distance apart. 

O’Sullivan says they have taken up a big collection and plan to send the truck up north on Nov. 15 so it is expected to arrive at the Hasbrouck Heights firehouse on Nov. 17.   Heights fire department will then distribute the items to those affected in Moonachie and Little Ferry.

Back in 2005 when Katrina hit the southern states, Meli says the Heights Fire Department was looking for ways to help. Knowing that a lot of help was going towards New Orleans they looked into Pascougala, Mississippi which they knew had also taken a severe hit from the storm.  

The town was left with nothing, the fire department had no rescue equipment so Hasbrouck Heights had one of its fire engines which was in working condition but was not used by the department sent there on loan. Meli said there was a lot of outpouring from the Heights community and thensome to get the truck down to Mississippi and collect donations to help them get back on their feet.

Meli said the relationship between the two towns grew over the years and they’ve kept in touch and now to hear they want to return the favor is quite emotional.

“They never forgot about us,’ says Meli.

Hasbrouck Heights has been helping the Moonachie fire and EMS since they were hit by the storm. They have been using the firehouse to store their equipment and they've also provided them with a place to stay, shower and eat for those still without power, says First Assistant Fire Chief Pat Hayes.

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