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Fire department replaces others' engine lost during Superstorm Sandy

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Mitch Udowitch, a former captain and current treasurer with West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, N.Y., says goodbye to Larimer Volunteer Fire Department chief Bill Hardy (bottom) as he leaves in the attack one fire truck that was donated to them by the Larimer Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday April 10, 2013, in Larimer. The donated truck will help replace the three fire trucks that the department,that is located in the Queens neighborhood of the city, lost during Hurricane Sandy.

Superstorm Sandy ravaged West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department in Queens, N.Y., flooding the fire station with 5 feet of water and ruining all of its rescue equipment.

A fire engine donated Wednesday by North Huntingdon's Larimer Volunteer Fire Department will help to replenish the New York department's fleet.

“We lost all the equipment in the firehouse,” said Mitch Udowitch, treasurer of West Hamilton Beach department. “It's amazing how people throughout the community came to help — and the country.”

Donations of equipment have poured in from fire stations across the nation, including Hooversville and Berlin in Somerset County, Udowitch said. Fire departments in Mississippi and Georgia donated equipment.

The fierce storm battered the eastern seaboard on Oct. 29, trashing three fire engines, a brush truck and two ambulances at the Queens department.

During the storm, the West Hamilton Beach crew rescued two women trapped in a house, Udowitch said.

“Hamilton Beach is approximately 20 to 40 feet below sea level to begin with. ... The hurricane hit land at a full moon and high tide,” he said. “It just kept coming.”

The brick-and-cinder block fire station in Queens survived the storm but needed a new roof and some interior work. The storm left the department without electricity for six weeks.

Bill Hardy, chief of the Larimer fire department, saw photographs online of inundated New York fire departments and offered to help the West Hamilton Beach company.

“We'll do whatever we can to help them out,” Hardy said.

Larimer got a new fire engine in August, which replaced the donated truck.

Udowitch and John Abouricheh, another firefighter from the Queens department, picked up the 1986 engine in North Huntingdon Wednesday and planned to drive it back to New York. Udowitch said the department plans to use Larimer's donated truck to respond primarily to brush fires.

The Queens department operates solely with donations — without tax revenue, he said.

“Between these guys and Somerset County, I can't say enough,” Udowitch said. “(With their donation), these guys complete what we needed.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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