Superstorm Sandy did no favors for Parsippany. But if we are honest, we must note that the worst of the October mix of rain and gale force winds hit places such as the Jersey Shore. And one of the towns hit hardest was Long Branch.
"Their fire department was practically wiped out," said Bryan Crawford, a fire captain for the Mt. Tabor Volunteer Fire Company
Knowing that fellow firefighters were in need, Parsippany's District 1 found out that the Long Branch Fire Department was in need of fire hoses and a fan. The Tabor crew happened to have a cache of extra hoses and a fan it was no longer using.
Asked why he and his colleagues were being so generous, Crawford, who is something of a fire department historian, referred to the past.
"There is this tradition of brothers helping brothers," he explained.
On Tuesday, members of MTVFD, with Patch riding along, traveled by fire engine nearly two hours each way to deliver the items to their brothers in Long Branch.
LBFD Fire Chief Angelo Ciaglia used a now-familiar phrase to explain why the donation means so much to his department.
"To put it in perspective, it's about brothers helping brothers," he said. "It helps us out quite a bit. We do the best we can with the money the town gives us. Obviously with the times we are in, the economic situation, Sandy rebuilding... the money's just not there."
Ciaglia noted that his fire company of 500 has 24 paid firefighters with four or five men or women on call for three days of 24/7 duty at all times. Additionally, Long Branch has a core of volunteer firefighters who provide supplementary coverage. He said a captain and four lieutenants from the uniformed fire division run day to day operations.
"Last year we ran 2,400 calls," he said. "A lot of them are 'smells and bells,' alarm [malfunctions], things like that. It's very hard for volunteers to keep up with 2,400 calls, so the paid department handles a lot of calls, mostly at night.
"The uniforms and the volunteers... we work very well together. Thank God. Bottom line, it's brothers helping brothers."
Sandy's mark is still evident in Long Branch, which is right off of the Atlantic Ocean. Some businesses are still boarded up; others are in operation. Ciaglia suggested a tour of the town and nearby Sea Bright, a shore town he said has about 100 off-season residents off.
"They are really in dire need," the chief said. "Where are they going to get the money?"
And he said that describes Long Branch to a tee. Ciaglia said money for Sandy cleanup, in the absence of much aid, had to come from the town's general fund, which leaves little left for other municipal needs.
He added that seeing what Sandy wrought and the difficulties some New Jerseyans are having in their efforts to get back to normal makes the generosity of MTVFD even more meaningful and appreciated.
The Par-Troy firefighters wave off the thanks.
"It's an honor to us to be able to help," said District 1's Nick DiGiacomo. "We're glad to be able to do it."
As the Mt. Tabor fire engine headed back toward Parsippany, Crawford took a detour through Sea Bright. The sights reinforce Ciaglia's observations—the shore areas clearly were devastated by the superstorm. Recovery, though underway, is still not near completion.
What will get New Jersey through, likely, is the spirit that motivated a volunteer fire company's 140-mile round trip—what they call "brothers helping brothers" can also be called "being a good neighbor."
Next up for MTVFD is its own fundraising event: The District 1 company hosts its annual Easter plant sale at its Tarn Drive firehouse in Mt. Tabor starting Saturday morning. The event runs both days this weekend and then again Wednesday through Easter Sunday next week.