People of the Year –– The volunteers of the Merrick Fire Department

(Page 3 of 3)

It was nerve-wracking to fight a fire in floodwaters, Schenfeld said. The water, he said, “kept getting deeper and deeper.” Compounding the problem were the numerous oil tanks and diesel generators that were leaking across south Merrick, spilling fuel into the water, which could have ignited at any time.

A department on the run

“The storm made everyone feel helpless,” said Gargan, who is a New York City police officer. “You can’t fight Mother Nature.”

Thankfully, not a single Merrick firefighter was injured during the storm. “As a chief, my main concern was my guys getting hurt,” Gargan said.

In the weeks afterward, the department responded to more than 300 calls, often reporting malfunctioning carbon monoxide systems and electrical short-circuits as the lights were turned back on. The biggest post-storm call was a fire at the flooded Dakota Design Center on Merrick Road, where flames broke out when electricity was restored to the business district. Fire gutted the structure, but its exterior walls remained standing –– thanks to the Fire Department.

Our community cannot possibly repay the debt we owe the department’s volunteers. But we can begin by offering them our sincerest thanks.

We cannot imagine Merrick without its Fire Department –– and the heroism those volunteers displayed in our time of greatest need. They were an obvious, and easy, choice for 2012 People of the Year.

Page 3 / 3