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Volunteers from afar help clean up flooded Schoharie firehouse (with photo gallery)

Monday, October 17, 2011
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Volunteers help clean up the Schoharie Fire Department building on Sunday. Firefighters from all over the area came together to clean up the station, which had eight feet of muddy water from Tropical Storm Irene last month.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Volunteers help clean up the Schoharie Fire Department building on Sunday. Firefighters from all over the area came together to clean up the station, which had eight feet of muddy water from Tropical Storm Irene last month.

— “I got an invitation for a party here today,” announced a volunteer from the Ballston Spa Fire Department with a grin as he approached the registration table that sat in front of the Schoharie fire station. The large, upbeat crowd gathered there Sunday morning gave the station an air of celebration, but this party was all work and no play.

Volunteer firefighters from throughout the region responded to a call from the Schoharie Fire Department, to help clean out their firehouse on Grand Street, which was submerged beneath eight feet of floodwater as a result of Tropical Storm Irene.

The company’s firetrucks and turnout gear were salvaged before the Schoharie Creek invaded the building during the storm, but everything else was lost. “We just didn’t have the time to get it out and evacuate everybody from Schoharie,” said volunteer firefighter Matt Brisley, whose own home, six doors down from the fire station, was severely damaged by the flood.

Until Sunday, the Schoharie fire station looked much like it did days after the flood. Moldy drywall was still on the walls, river mud still covered parts of the floor, and ruined supplies lay scattered about. “A lot of the equipment had been emptied out early on, but what most homeowners did a month ago, that’s what we’re doing now,” said Brisley. “We really didn’t have the time or the manpower to come down here [and clean it out] ourselves, because we were still pumping out cellars for a couple of weeks.”

By 9:30 a.m., 92 volunteers had shown up to help gut the fire station and winterize it. Some shoveled mud and debris, others stood on ladders removing a drop ceiling. Sounds of demolition filled the air.

Helpers hailed from many fire departments, including those in Central Bridge, Cobleskill, Jefferson, Rural Grove, East Glenville, Ballston Spa, Greenfield Center, West Albany and Windham.

Bill Coffey, assistant chief for the Greenfield Fire District, heard about the cleanup effort on the news and decided to come out and lend a hand. “We lost power for like 10 seconds throughout the whole [storm]. We had a lot of wires and trees down, but nothing detrimental,” he reported. “We lucked out.”

Schoharie’s fire chief, Marty Pierce, was amazed that so many volunteers were willing to donate their time to help salvage the fire station. “The support has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “The phone has been ringing off the hook.”

Pierce hopes to meet with FEMA representatives soon to determine if the fire station can be saved. “We haven’t got any answers yet, but we’re a patient bunch of people,” he said. “It’s not just us that are affected in the village, obviously.”

Currently, the Schoharie Fire Department is operating from a temporary location on Fort Road. “We’re going to try to reuse the existing boiler [from the Grand Street fire station] and put it into our temporary station because there’s no heat where the trucks are now,” said Pierce.

Although the boiler may be salvageable, much of the equipment from the flooded firehouse is not. Pagers, firefighting gloves and some hose will need to be replaced.

Pierce is dealing not only with the flood damage at the fire station, but with personal issues related to the flood. Although he says his home didn’t sustain much hurricane damage, his wife was injured several weeks ago when flood debris being transported by a truck dislodged, came through her vehicle’s window and hit her in the head. “She’s coming around,” Pierce said. “She’s walking now. She’s still got a lot of pain in her head. It’s going to be a long road for her.”

The Schoharie County Fire Chiefs Association will host a pancake breakfast fundraiser to benefit Pierce and his family, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Cobleskill Fire Department, 610 E. Main St. Donations to benefit the family can be sent to the Schoharie County Fire Chiefs Association, P.O. Box 690, Schoharie.

The Gallupville Fire Department in the town of Wright will hold a dance at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Gallupville firehouse to benefit the Schoharie Fire Department’s rebuilding effort. Cost of admission is $10.

The Schoharie Fire Department is also accepting donations to help restore their station. Donations may be sent to the fire department: P.O. Box 428, Schoharie.

 
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