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Cpl. Zachary Wiener, a combat engineer with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy Whitaker, a corpsman with 8th ESB, 2nd MLG sweep the floor of the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department in Breezy Point, N.Y., Nov. 8. Wiener, a native of Chicago, and Whitaker, a native of Cincinnati, helped clean the volunteer fire department with the team, and the volunteer firefighters were extremely grateful for the help.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Whiting

Marines integrate with Breezy Point first responders

14 Nov 2012 | Lance Cpl. Scott Whiting

A 20-minute lunch turned into an afternoon of cleaning as Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group helped clean the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department in Breezy Point, N.Y., Nov. 8.

After a morning of performing access clearance, moving large debris from neighborhood streets, the Marines looked for a warm place to eat lunch. From there, they found a group of people in desperate need of help.

“We originally were just looking for a place indoors to eat,” said Sgt. Justin Armstrong, a combat engineer with the team from Apple Valley, Minn. “The people offered their building to us to use, so we asked if there was a way we could repay them for their hospitality.”

Armstrong said after speaking with the fire crew, they requested a hand straightening out their building, which was greatly damaged after Hurricane Sandy struck the area. The fire department had been overlooked for a while, because of the small size of the building. The Marines, however, were up to the task.

The Marines assisted with carrying ruined furniture and gear outside of the building, including a large freezer.

“We’ve been so busy putting out fires recently that we haven’t had time to fix our own place,” said Ricky Savage, one of the department’s fire engine drivers. “It’s a tremendous help. So much of this wouldn’t have happened for a long time had it not been for these Marines.”

Savage explained the volunteers have spent time getting their own houses and families back in order, and the department unfortunately took a backseat to everything else.

“Everyone is scattered right now, either responding to a fire or dealing with their own homes,” he said. “The extra hands really help us out here.”

Tim Dufficy, one the firefighters, also said it makes a big difference to have help. Dufficy said a lot of times, the place may only have three people or so in it at any one time, so being able to have more than 20 people cleaning the department puts them way ahead of where they thought they would be.

The volunteer fire department is a vital part of the town. With the main department being approximately three miles away, the small-knit community relies on the volunteers to be first responders until the other firefighters can arrive on scene.

“In some ways, these guys have it tougher than I do,” said Armstrong. “Whenever I go out on an operation, I’m well-protected and in full (personal protective equipment). These guys run into burning buildings and put their lives on the line every time they fight a fire. I’m just happy we were afforded the opportunity to help out the volunteers the community counts on.”

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