Taking relief on the road

Firefighters deliver $250,000 worth of donations to Texas

BEACON FALLS — Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Capt. Cal Brennan stood on the ramp leading into the company’s 40-foot-long trailer and looked over the sprawling piles of donations on the garage floor at the firehouse in amazement.

“It’s truly humbling. Definitely didn’t expect it, it’s nice to see the community come together,” said Brennan last Wednesday afternoon as his fellow Beacon Hose members swiftly sorted through donations — which seemingly grew exponentially by the minute — of bottled water, pet food, diapers, canned goods, baby food, cleaning supplies and more.

After seeing the devastation and flooding Hurricane Harvey left in its deadly wake in the greater Houston area, Brennan and a few Beacon Hose members decided they should do something to help relief efforts. Through family in Texas, Brennan got in touch with a fire department in Galena Park, Texas, a suburb of Houston, and arranged to bring donations down.

Beacon Hose put out a call for donations last Tuesday on social media. Word of what the company was doing spread like wildfire through social media and the news media, and by last Wednesday afternoon a steady stream of cars flowed through the firehouse as people from throughout the state answered the call.

At one point, the lines of cars stretched from the back of the firehouse all the way up the Route 8 Exit 24 off-ramp.

“We’ve been thrown back by the response that we’ve gotten,” Brennan said. “Not even the residents of Beacon Falls, but we’ve had people from across the state.”

Mike Sautter, of Wolcott, was among the people who dropped off donations last week. He said what happened in Texas is a total nightmare.

“If there’s a little something we can do for them, you do it,” Sautter said.

After hearing about what Beacon Hose was doing on the news, Sautter went to the store to buy donations and headed to Beacon Falls. A crumbled receipt listed the items Sautter brought with him to donate, including diapers, toilet paper, tooth paste and pet food.

“What they’re doing, it’s giving us a way of getting some help to these people,” said Sautter of Beacon Hose’s effort. “I can’t picture losing my home like that.”

Brennan originally hoped to receive enough donations to fill the company’s 40-foot trailer. But, as the donations poured in, it became clear there would be much, much more.

Over a 32-hour period, the company estimated it received $250,000 worth of donations — enough to fill the company’s 40-foot trailer, another 40-foot trailer from Citizens’ Engine Company No. 2 in Seymour, a 53-foot tractor trailer donated by Clancy Relocation and Logistics out of New York, and about half of a 53-foot tractor trailer the Thomaston Fire Department used to collect donations.

After all that, Beacon Hose still had donations leftover and dropped off the remaining items at Echo Hose Hook & Ladder Company 1 in Shelton, which conducted its own donation drive.

“This is humbling to see the amount of stuff that people are bringing in, especially for the short period of time,” Beacon Hose Chief Brian DeGeorge said. “We really didn’t expect it to blow up like this.”

With the two 40-foot trailers filled with donations, the crew from Beacon Hose and Citizens’ left for Texas shortly after 12:30 a.m. last Thursday. Brennan and Beacon Hose firefighters Adam Daniels, Mike McGee, Tim Hanks, and Ryan Caulfield, and Todd Nihill and Marquis Croston from Citizens’ made the trip.

They arrived in Galena Park, Texas late last Friday night after a 47-hour trek that took them through the remnants of the hurricane. After spending the night at the Galena Park Fire Department, they spent the next few days dropping off donations at locations throughout the greater Houston area before arriving back home in Connecticut on Tuesday.

The firefighters volunteered their time — taking time off from work — to make the trip to Texas. Beacon Hose wasn’t officially deployed to assist in the relief efforts.

DeGeorge said he couldn’t be prouder of the company and the volunteer firefighters for taking the initiative to help a community 1,700 miles away.

“It just shows the class of people we got down here and that they’re just here to help people, and it really doesn’t matter how,” he said.

Brennan summed it up simply.

“We’re trying to bring a little small town America to the great state of Texas,” he said.