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Seaside Heights Fire Co: Post-Sandy Looting Reports "Baseless And Irresponsible"

Firefighters secured items that were necessary or useful in support of the disaster response and for the good and welfare of volunteers, according to the statement.

The Seaside Heights Fire Department is fighting back against claims that its firefighters “looted” or “broke in” at an Army-Navy Store and a local 7-11, calling those reports "baseless and irresponsible."

In a Facebook post Saturday, the department said it is "deeply troubled and disappointed by ongoing media reports wrongly insinuating" wrongdoing, and that the truth "involves facts that have not been accurately reported."

Soon after Sandy wreaked havoc in Seaside Heights, the Emergency Management team of the Borough of Seaside Heights assessed the broad scope of the damage, according to the statement.

"The team noted the reality that most of our first responders were homeless, many residents were still held up in their homes or at the firehouse, and plans were in the works for a robust influx of hundreds of first responders and emergency response vehicles from other jurisdictions to rotate in and out of Seaside Heights," the statement said. 

Based on that assessment, Emergency Management decision-makers briefed its human resources - the firefighters, EMS volunteers, and law enforcement officers who were at the firehouse and police department sleeping on cots in cold rooms - to expect to be on the island for at least one week, and possibly several weeks, according to the statement.

"We were instructed to make preparations to stockpile food, water, coffee, clothing (e.g., hats, pants, shirts, socks, gloves, boots), and supplies (e.g., flashlights, pocket knives) that were expected to be available at the 7-11 and Army-Navy Store," it said.

Once the order was given by Emergency Management, firefighters - accompanied by law enforcement officers - responded to both locations and secured items that were necessary or useful in support of the disaster response and for the good and welfare of volunteers, according to the statement.

The items removed by first responders from the Army-Navy Store included boots, hats, pants, shirts, coats, and flashlights, but novelty items (reported to be golf balls, shot glasses, Betty Boop plates, and GI Joe figurines) were not included, the statement said.

"It is baseless and irresponsible - arguably even defamatory - for anybody to assert otherwise," the statement said.

Before departing from each location, reasonable steps were taken to secure the entry points of both buildings, the statement said. 

All of the items were then delivered to the firehouse and secured in one of the empty truck bays.

"Members of the fire company and the Seaside Heights Police Department - most of whom only had the clothes on their backs - were invited to take needed clothing and supplies in anticipation of a long mobilization on the island. And in the first week following the storm, many residents who had not initially evacuated were offered clothing and supplies from the stockpile," the statement said.

"As first responders from multiple outside jurisdictions began to check in at the firehouse they, too, were invited to take clothing and supplies from the truck bay. These first responders included dozens of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel from all over New Jersey."

"Our message to the Monday morning quarterbacks is this: protecting lives and property is not a game. Hurricane Sandy made the experience very real for us. At all times, members of our fire company acted reasonably and in good faith when we carried out orders to secure food, clothing, and supplies from both stores,"the statement said.

"When we implemented orders to enter the 7-11 or Army-Navy Store we did so as part of the larger emergency management operation that was underway. Neither our members nor the organization acted independently when carrying out orders to enter both stores. Thus, if you have an image in mind of individual first responders secretly climbing through broken windows and loading their personal vehicles with boxes of golf balls and Betty Boop plates, as laughable as it sounds, erase the image. That is not what happened."

Hurricane Sandy devastated many New Jersey communities, and Seaside Heights was not spared, the company says. Images of the destroyed amusement piers captured the country’s attention, and the image of the beaten Jet Star rollercoaster lying in the ocean merely 50 yards offshore became an international symbol of Sandy’s powerful force.

"The firefighters of the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company responded to Sandy in the same way that they have responded to every emergency call for nearly 100 years - with unreserved bravery and dedication to their mission," the statement said.

"On the evening of October 29th, while the hurricane was furiously ripping up the boardwalk and flooding our streets and homes, about two dozen members of the fire company courageously risked life and limb - literally and without any exaggeration whatsoever - to rescue dozens of residents from their homes and apartments," it said. "These residents had failed to heed warnings to evacuate; they made the wrong choice and needed our help. Our firefighters accepted the mission to assist them, even while our own homes and apartments were being ruined by water, wind, and sand."

During the first few days and weeks after Sandy made landfall, there was no electrical power in Seaside Heights, the statement noted. Street lights were out. Stores were all closed. Debris and beach sand blocked streets. Natural gas was leaking on virtually every street and on the boardwalk.
"Urban search and rescue teams walked street by street searching for survivors and any potential dead among us. The bridge was closed - access to the island was limited to approved emergency personnel. There were no less than a couple hundred residents from Seaside Heights and neighboring communities, many of them with pets, who were in need of water, food and shelter until they could be evacuated off the island," the statement said.

I"t was a dark period for us, as it was for most New Jerseyans who were going through a similar experience in their own hometowns. But despite all of this, our members stayed on the island - WE NEVER ABANDONED SHIP! We never put a “CLOSED” sign on our firehouse door," the statement said.

"Lastly, we wish to emphasize that we proudly stand by the Emergency Management team. Your planning and training, and your guts to make difficult choices ultimately saved many lives."

Mike Ritacco February 09, 2014 at 02:08 PM
I know " someone" who was a part of this and from day one the story is hardly true one bit This is a huge cover up by the officials involved certainly a district chief at the time goes by "JHL JR" even more corrupt then you can imagine! And plenty of others plus the store owner had stuff in there he can't speak up and possibly If someone contacts me I can get the real story out there and tell the truth. If your interested write back on here with a email address or phone Number and maybe we can work something out.
grace February 09, 2014 at 02:19 PM
hi ya @ mac i have to disagree respectfully sir.. one could argue warm dry clothes could help someone kinda like a life raft hey @ mac you see ritaccos out...lol
grace February 09, 2014 at 02:21 PM
@ mac i am so tired of the corrupton and dirty dealing in ocean county, i am trying to believe in something/some people ya know?
Mac February 09, 2014 at 02:41 PM
perhaps west of the Parkway grace - no hope left east of the bank outposts robbed to create smoke and mirror bacon factory covers - even though the Amboys corruption led to the Ritacco trophy that Christie couldn't topple, even the Amboys' are holding their noses over the Seaside lowlife
charlotte February 09, 2014 at 02:49 PM
“If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.” ― Albert Einstein Mike - Call the Feds.
Marynary February 09, 2014 at 03:01 PM
Grace, Seaside has had a reputation for years of doing things in their own unique way and this time got caught. If FEMA had not looked at things and submitted a report most of the details would not be public information and we would only have the official Seaside Heights version. It is obvious that some group over there took advantage of the situation and public misfortune to take property that was not theirs to take. Normally called pilfering when done at a disaster.
Mac February 09, 2014 at 03:04 PM
wtg charlotte - great point
Project Bluebeam February 09, 2014 at 03:43 PM
Government takers getting taken by the government...classic!
charlotte February 09, 2014 at 03:58 PM
@Mary Seaside's "uniqueness" has not been without innocent victims. TY @Mac.
Heywood February 09, 2014 at 04:01 PM
Looters should have been shot on sight.
Marynary February 09, 2014 at 08:06 PM
That is why some refer to it as Suicide Heights, Charlotte.
Mark February 09, 2014 at 11:14 PM
I guess that's why Vollies are often called "land pirates"
Reach Man February 10, 2014 at 03:14 AM
. . . so I ask again, why do people say it's an island when it's a peninsula?
John Cobb February 10, 2014 at 04:52 AM
Reach Man, get a life you troll.
Mac February 10, 2014 at 09:46 AM
ah MFMW, so you say Gilmore's two pet poodles will be playing leap frog together in the new sheriff's office instead of just playing footsie under the Mathis Bridge - Vicari must be soooooooooooo jealous
WMS826 February 10, 2014 at 10:18 AM
It's theft...taking things you did not need or have a dire use for at the time is theft. I could understand taking batteries and flashlights, sterno etc but these items listed were never needed. You all had jackets and warm clothes at your homes which you were able to get to and recover. Wash them if need be at the tide trailer in the AP lot which was parked there. Stockpiling items inside your firehouse meant you did not need them immediately or even at all.
grace February 10, 2014 at 10:41 AM
once again i will repeat myself..i believe it was necessary to do this in order to save lives! catastrophe was what it was like there! i am thankful they did this and it took courage to do it! just look at the repercussions,,brave were the oem and firefighters and responders THANK YOU!! may god bless you and keep you
Hannibal King February 10, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Ahh George Gilmore the puppet master the man behind the curtain nothing happens in the county and Seaside heights especially without him knowing about it .
grace February 10, 2014 at 10:50 AM
@wms826 many had lost their own homes to go back to
Mac February 10, 2014 at 11:19 AM
grace. you seem like a nice lady and I applaud your efforts to support the entrenched crud of the Jersey Shore which has been unquestionably certified as Seaside Heights and Seaside Park - frankly the only way to rid ourselves of these lifelong communities of corruption is to either neuter its population or have everyone in Ocean County flush at once and let the Ciba-Geigy pipelines they feed off of blow them permanently out to sea - both of these pits of sleaze would fit in perfectly next to our off-shore garbage dump that sends it's bonus back to the Seasides every August with red tides and more reproduction pills
Heywood February 10, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Seems like they fiddled when the boardwalk burned.
grace February 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM
@ mac thanks! if i knew how to make one of those happy faces i would !
grace February 10, 2014 at 12:20 PM
ah figured it out : ) @ Mac
Mac February 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM
@grace - you go girl
John H. Lightbody February 14, 2014 at 02:51 PM
To Mike Ritacco post dated 2-9-14 @ 1408. I am very interested in your comment as you obviously have no idea what you are speaking of, I would like to hear all about the corruption and indiscretions you are aware of. As per your post you can contact me at 732-606-2960, we can discuss your complete knowledge that I am sure has evidence to support. I do find it interesting no one has responded to your statements, which tends to suggest that you probably mouth off on a daily basis with no fact to support and the bloggers ignore you.
Chief Wahoo February 14, 2014 at 06:49 PM
Lightbody. But you didn't ignore Mike Ritacco.
John H. Lightbody February 14, 2014 at 07:07 PM
Correct, since he has something to say and is making allegations about me, I followed the directions on his e-mail and provided my phone number for him to call and provide the "infromation" he has. However; as expected he did not call. While you are making observations please note that I am using my real name and number and not hiding behind an alias. JHL
John H. Lightbody February 14, 2014 at 07:09 PM
PS: If you would like to call and discuss anything with me you are welcome to also. If you know who he really is please let me know, and I will reach out to him. All the best, JHL
I'm always right! February 14, 2014 at 08:16 PM
Hey JHL why don't you start by telling everyone why you we're let go from the prosecutors office after so many years? Your to coward to tell the truth on what happened in seaside that day. Everyone knows your a compulsive liar. You've hidden behind your family name not created by you and you think your hot sh*t but no one can stand you hence you didn't get district chief when you were suppose to and it was over ridden lmao
Heywood February 16, 2014 at 10:32 AM
Too many entrenched names and families in Ocean County, double dippers too, like the new Sheriff, former TR police chief. Get these slackers off the payroll.

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