ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: Fresh off rescuing trapped residents in Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt, several Pascack Valley firefighters are headed to the barrier islands first thing in the morning to aid in the rescue and relief efforts there.
The Pascack Valley Task Force convoy is set to leave for the Shore at 8 a.m. for 24- to 48-hour shifts along the lower islands, following a request by Bergen County’s Office of Emergency Management. The task force is replacing another — including firefighters from Mahwah, Fair Lawn, Leonia and Tenafly — that went to Toms River and Seaside Heights on Wednesday.
River Vale’s fire department is sending a full crew with an engine.
Westwood Fire is doing the same.
Emerson is sending a full crew with a ladder truck.
Crew members were told they must be self-sufficient — meaning they must bring their own food and water, paid for by the respective departments.
They’ll connect with New Jersey fire officials in Toms River to be given their assignments.
The returning crew helped uniformed services secure houses and inhibit looting.
“Unless you see it for yourself, you can’t imagine the amount of destruction that is down there,” Mahwah Fire Lt. Marc Bracciodieta told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
During the day, the firefighters moved from house to house, looking for survivors and securing the buildings. It included evacuating people who want to leave, turning off electric and gas utilities, and marking the buildings with orange spray paint so their condition can be seen at a glance.
Utilities, including circuit breakers, are turned off so they don’t ignite when gas and power are eventually restored.
At night, the task force patrolled inside perimeters set up by local police to deter looting.
Coast Guard patrols have also been working along the shore to intercept boats carrying looters coming by sea to sack people’s homes.
The firefighters are also providing relief to people who stayed behind, handing out clothes and blankets to people sitting around bonfires, as well as backing up local fire departments still responding to brush fires and alarms from fire and carbon monoxide detectors.
When not out working, the crews have been sleeping on concrete floors in local firehouses and sharing any food they have, Bracciodieta said.
It’s been an intense week for the Pascack Valley Task Force: More than 20 members from Emerson, River Vale, Washington Township and Woodcliff Lake sprang into action Tuesday night after a tidal surge broke through a berm, sending surging floodwaters through Moonachie and two of its sister towns.
But they were ready: Some trained with Bergen County’s OEM last fall after Hurricane Irene sent a jolt through the valley. They also routinely conduct drills, aware that it often takes far less than an historic storm to suddenly flood area neighborhoods.
STAFF WRITER Mary K. Miraglia contributed to this story
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