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When the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department (WHBVFD) was seemingly drowning in Sandy’s storm waters, hurricane veterans came to the rescue.
A Mississippi volunteer fire department wanted to “pay it forward” and help out the hurting beach community, just the way they were helped after Hurricane Katrina swept through their town in 2005.
The southern men were recognized at WHBVFD’s annual dinner Thursday.
Katrina took five trucks from the Gulf Park Estates Volunteer Fire Department crew. They additionally sustained 11 feet of floodwater in two fire stations along with countless damages.
During their recovery, a Virginia department donated a fire truck to help get the group back on its feet. When news of Sandy made its way down south, the Mississippi team wanted to lend a hand.
“We were in the same situation they were,” said David Peto, chief of the Gulf Park Estates Volunteer Fire Department. “We wanted to pay it forward and do the same thing someone did to us.”
Peto searched for ways to help after the superstorm ravaged West Hamilton Beach and stumbled upon a volunteer website. He listed the department’s name and was contacted within a few days.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.
After Katrina, the Gulf Park Estates crew received donations from “all across the country,” coming in from as far as the West Coast. When Sandy hit, they knew they had to step up, and passed along the traveling truck.
“It’s good to know you’re able to help another community going through the same thing you went through,” Peto said.
The Larimer Volunteer Fire Department in Pennsylvania also donated a fire truck to West Hamilton Beach, and the local group additionally received two new ambulances.
“We have rebuilt, and we are 100 percent whole,” said Mitch Udawitch, a WHBVFD official.