New Jersey: 2021 Hurricane Ida Floods Fire Station
After a New Jersey fire station was flooded, FIRST ONSITE mobilized teams from across the country to get it back on its feet.
On August 27, 2021, after making landfall in Louisiana, Hurricane Ida moved northward, triggering a fierce storm system that tormented the Northeast with oppressive wind and rain. When it hit Raritan, New Jersey, the storm raised the town’s namesake river to unprecedented levels, flooding the township’s 7,000-square-foot fire station with mud and river water.
The Raritan Township Fire Company is responsible for the life and property of over 25,000 residents, many of whom were also affected by the destructive weather. Getting the firehouse back up and running was imperative, and time was of the essence. “Being an organization that is relied upon by so many when emergencies arise, we were left in an extremely difficult and vulnerable situation,” remembers Joseph Lostumbo, head trustee of the fire department.
Paul Carnovale, a FIRST ONSITE insurance partner who happened to be a member of the all-volunteer fire department, contacted the restoration team to see if they could help. Despite being swamped with other Hurricane Ida-related jobs, FIRST ONSITE Project Director Paul Harkins took special care to prioritize the operation, quickly mobilizing crews from across the country to address the emergency.
“While all this was going on, most of our teams were dealing with the hurricane in Louisiana,” Harkins recalled. “It’s a huge undertaking to get equipment set up fast, especially considering our office in New Jersey was underwater as well, but within hours, we were pulling trailers out of there.”
The restoration team assessed the damage and deemed that the building needed extensive structural drying, climate stabilization, selective demolition, heavy cleaning, as well as sanitizing and odor-combating efforts.
The fire company temporarily relocated to a nearby abandoned firehouse and the FIRST ONSITE team got to work. Over the course of the two-week restoration project:
- Mud and sewage water were extracted from the building.
- Floors were scrubbed and disinfected.
- The structure was dried and deodorized.
- Affected contents were removed and sanitized.
- Firefighting equipment was catalogued and sent for professional cleaning.
- Interior walls and flooring too damaged to repair were demolished and replaced.
- Storage trailers filled with river water were emptied and washed.
- Fire truck and volunteer parking areas were cleaned and leveled.
- Electrical, plumbing, and masonry work was restored.
- Soiled gravel around the firehouse exterior was removed and replaced.
- Lawns were cleaned of debris.
- New grass seed was planted and covered in protective hay.
Harkins and the FIRST ONSITE team continued to update the fire department’s president and board of trustees with daily field reports and status updates along the way.
Jon Vanwart, VP of insurance sales at FIRST ONSITE, stepped in to manage client relations and assist the fire department to ensure its claim was properly documented and presented. The insurance adjustment team was kept up to date on changes and help the claims process run more smoothly.
Ultimately, the Raritan Fire Company was so impressed with the emergency restoration work the FIRST ONSITE team delivered, the board decided to hire the team to perform additional renovations beyond the scope of restoration.
The “attention to detail, active communication, transparency and collaboration was second to none and more than we could have asked for.” Lostumbo said of the FIRST ONSITE team. “We are extremely grateful for FIRST ONSITE’s dedication to this project, allowing us to once again do what we do best: protect our community.”
Said Harkins: “One of the best things about FIRST ONSITE is that we have the resources to respond to this kind of situation. With the size that we are and the fact that we’re so well put together, it’s a very comforting feeling that we can get crews out the same day that a contract is signed.”