PLYMOUTH TWP. — “Chaotic” was the word Deputy Fire Chief Andy Novak of Plymouth Township’s Fire Rescue Tilbury Station used to describe the events surrounding Tropical Storm Lee flooding in September 2011.
“We came here with a boat,” he said of the trip from the station’s temporary headquarters at the township building on Main Street to the West Nanticoke section of the township, which was mostly under water.
The entire first floor of the Tilbury Station on East Poplar Street was flooded.
“We had to take the boat to check on an elderly woman who lived above the Quick Cook Diner,” Novak said. “We went over tractor-trailers that were under water. We also had to help another guy who was stranded on the second flood of his house without his insulin.”
Novak and many of his fellow volunteer firefighters were on hand Sunday during the station’s annual open house. The event gave visitors a chance to tour the remodeled station and explore the township’s fire trucks and other emergency apparatus. Fire companies from surrounding communities as well as the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the American Red Cross participated in the event.
More than a quarter of a million dollars was spent renovating the station, said Novak inside the ballroom of the station. “We go new floors, walls, ceiling, tables, chairs and a new bar in here.” Renovations to the station also included replacing the kitchen and appliances, as well as pumps and generators used during the flood.
Even though most of the firefighter’s homes were also damaged in the flood, they were still helping others. Only a day after the water receded, the station served as an evacuation center, with its members handing out cleaning supplies and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to flood victims, said Novak.
Novak credited township EMA director, Chris Krout, with rounding up help from fire companies from surrounding counties. “Every morning I’d get a call from Chris and he’d ask me what we needed,” he said.
First Lt. Pete Kuscavage recalled how the township couldn’t have recovered without the help from so many volunteers and fire companies, some of which came as far as Honesdale and Lake Wallenpaupak. “The whole town had to be washed down, which took about a week and a half,” he said. “It was a sight to be seen.”
The open house gave residents an opportunity to see where their donations go, said Kuscavage. “It helps them understand what we do.”
Children who attended the open house got the chance to meet Smoky the Bear and jump in a bounce house. Sporting a red fireman’s helmet, 5-year-old Braden Karpinski of West Nanticoke said he wants to be a firefighter just like his uncle Barry Lore, a member of the Tilbury station.
“We come to this every year and I think it’s nice because it supports a good cause,” said Braden’s mom, Cheryl, 33. “These guys aren’t paid,” she said, pointing out that Lore is her brother. “They’re risking their lives for our township and they volunteer their time and services to protect our community.”
Karpinski, who’s lived in West Nanticoke her entire life, said she, her husband, Craig, 33, and Braden always attend the fire station’s fundraisers, such as the annual Spaghetti Dinner and Horror Hall.
“I’ve known these guys my whole life,” she said. “They’re like family to me.”