The West Caldwell Fire Department responded to 85 Hurricane Sandy-related calls, Chief James Alvine announced Friday.
The storm’s strong winds hit the township in the late afternoon of Monday, Oct. 29, knocking down dozens of trees and power lines and leaving the majority of the businesses and residents in the dark, in some cases for more than a week. Downed wires, telephone poles and transformers posed a threat days after the storm had passed.
"In my 39 years of being on this fire department, I have never seen such destruction in our town during a storm,” Alvine said in a release. “Thank God no one was hurt."
According to the chief, the first call came in around 3 p.m. on Oct. 29 when a tree fell onto a house on Westview Road. The fire department never stopped responding throughout the rest of the storm.
"There were times where it was so dangerous that we were fearing for our own lives just getting to the fire scenes,” Alvine said. “We literally had every vehicle out on the road responding to calls, as there was a point during the storm that we did not return to the firehouse for hours.”
Fire calls picked up again after the storm when the power was being turned back on.
During the storm, a transformer fell on a van behind apartments on Bloomfield Avenue Monday night. On Thursday, when power was restored in the area, the transformer blew and caused a fire in the van. Meanwhile, two other fires were reported on downed wires in the township.
Alvine said the new firehouse was used as a command center for both the fire department and the West Essex First Aid Squad, which lost power at its headquarters.
"We had crews sleeping over for three or four nights until things calmed down,” he said. “We also had the West Essex First Aid Squad operating out of the firehouse during the week until they got power back at the squad building.”
The firehouse also became a place for residents to warm up and charge their laptops and cell phones.
The chief said preparations made before the storm paid off.