One Atlantic City fire station remains closed nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, due to severe flood damage, sustained during the storm.
Atlantic City Fire Chief, Dennis Brooks, said, "It was a mess! It was full of mud, full of debris, the beds were overturned, the exercise equipment was knocked down, it was stinkin'! There was seaweed and all kinds of stuff in the station."
The Atlantic City Fire Department's Station No. 5, located in the Chelsea Heights section of the city, has been closed since Sandy. Brooks explained, "The water came up to the firehouse within 15 minutes - 10 to 15 minutes. There was no water to two feet of water, that's how quick it happened. There really wasn't a lot of warning."
A new roof, electrical system, and hot water heater are sitting inside the station, waiting to be replaced by a contractor - along with new beds, exercise and kitchen equipment, and all of the firefighter's lockers. Brooks told NBC40, "Yeah, I want to get this station open. I want to get back to our normal operations - it would be nice. It's been a year, we've waited a long time."
Atlantic City firefighters aren't the only ones who want to see Station No. 5 reopen. Chelsea Heights residents say they feel safer, knowing that their local firefighters are operating out of their own building.
King David, a concerned Atlantic City resident, said, "We felt a sense of safety; because if you’ve ever been to Chelsea Heights, it's like a whole different part of Atlantic City. And to know we had a fire station right here in Chelsea Heights that can assist us right away...is great. And I’m hoping that they do bring it back to us...we need it."
Fire officials say all the firefighters from Station No. 5 are now working from a temporary station at Bader Field.
Sally Calabrese lives around the corner from the closed station and said, "I feel more secure now... but it's nothing like having it in your neighborhood, right across the street."
Officials say they expect the station to open soon. Chief Brooks said, "There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have acquired all the materials, everything is there - we are just waiting for the bid to be awarded. Once they actually start the work, it should wrap up pretty rapidly, probably within a month, I would think."
David said, "We need this back open."
Though the Atlantic City Fire Department is expecting to layoff 51 firefighters due to a loss of funding from the SAFER grant, now that the government shutdown is over, officials hope their application may now be approved, making those layoffs unnecessary, but they have yet to hear anything.
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