Man chronicles firefighters' 67-hour shift digging out N.J. township
January 1st, 2011
08:37 PM ET

Man chronicles firefighters' 67-hour shift digging out N.J. township

The epic snowstorm that hit the Northeast last week was matched with an epic effort from first responders, including a group of firefighters in Neptune, New Jersey, population about 5,100.

The Hamilton Fire Company crew that worked the night after Christmas were all volunteers, said iReporter Bhak Tanta-Nanta, a firefighter who filmed a 67-hour shift that spanned three days.

That fire crew and other first responders had to deal with abandoned vehicles, waist-deep snow and residents upset that snow on their streets hadn't been plowed fast enough.

Among the difficulties Tanta-Nanta, a five-year volunteer, and his crew mates faced were:

– A house fire that the crew had to trek to from another street. Did firefighters have issues with the waterhose freezing? “We had issues getting to the house,” Tanta-Nanta said.
– Thirty inches of snow in some areas.
– Six hours of sleep over a three-day period.

Neighbors assisted first responders, digging an almost two-block-long trench so they could pull an injured elderly man from his home.

Firefighters had problems getting to the man’s home. “We could not reach the house but neighbors had been walking to the street [to flag down EMS crews], so they had already made a little path,” Tanta-Nanta said.

At one point, neighbors and children helped dig trenches with the firefighters, Tanta-Nanta said.

‘The whole neighborhood came together. It was really cool to see.”

When asked why he volunteers, Tanta-Nanta said, “I don’t know. We give back to the community. That’s what we do.”

soundoff (251 Responses)
  1. Todd Smith

    New Jersey's governor should be ashamed. Isn't this why we pay taxes? So our government can provide services? I guess this is how republicans are going to fix the country; by letting the people struggle

    January 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tina

      I just love it when aa natural disaster is blamed on the government.

      January 2, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. cf

    @ Greed... Not sure what to say to you. As a member of a volunteer Fire Department, I'd like to know where you think we are overpaid. Did you miss the "No more Food Stamps for Fire Fighters" skit? Some volunteer departments pay once a year, some don't pay at all. Full time departments start with low pay, and raises come with time (as with any other job). As for the claim of "90% of day spent on lawnchair", that's a mistake. I've had to staff a full time department many times during a busy season. I didn't see any lawnchairs. What I did see (and do every day), is a full staff of workers with an endless list of work to do. Maybe years ago there was more free-time. But with newer technology came newer equipment that requires alot of maintenance. Time between runs is spent washing trucks, doing inventory, attending training, and much more. Your father was a Fire Chief? He must be pretty ashamed to have you as a son who will talk trash like this about other firemen. This will be my only post to you, and you hardly deserve this.

    January 1, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tina

      Bless you cf, you are a jewel. We need more real men like you.

      January 2, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. MissAnthrope

    @RUFFNUTT: you and your flamethrowers!!!

    January 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. big AL

    @Mel Your absolutely right. But sometimes you just want to banter with clueless and mindless wannabes that can't spell or know how to use spell check.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. MissAnthrope

    Once again, big AL: Amen!

    January 2, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. big AL

    @MissAnthrope I'm a realist, what can I say! Thanks for the Amens!

    January 2, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    Hey greed,
    Is your MBA in one handed typing?

    January 2, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. big AL

    Greed can't even spell MBA. LOL!

    January 2, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |

    all joking aside, it is nice to hear a story where people are helping each other out and some are thinking of others instead of themselves.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. David Stump

    High praise to those firefighters and all the other citizens who helped us through a few dificult days.

    To "me", "greed is good" and others who share their viewpoint: I have worked for a number of bosses. The ones with the highest efficiency ratings were those who demanded that the job be done right but also were lavish in acknowledging what was done. A job well done deserves recognition even when it is not over and above and even more so when it becomes more difficult than normal. Giving credit where credit is due builds unit morale and people who are proud of what they do always do a better job. One of our biggest problems today is that far too many bosses think like you two do.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. tomcat

    Ya know when a person starts blowing smoke about his war history and how great THEY are, most times they are lying fools. Most Vets, FF, EMS and PD try to stay out of the spot light. I dont know one that goes around tooting their own horn or disrespecting others.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick From Canada!

      Why would you be so negative about the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and services?? Some of you Americans are so Cynical!

      January 2, 2011 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Andre C

      I had to drive through that town to go home from work. This would normally be a 5 min commute which turned out to be 2 hours because of all the blocked roads. The storm occurred on Sunday and 5 days later some streets were still not plowed. The people who were PAID to remove the snow was not getting it done so for these guys to step up to the plate under those conditions is short of a veteran in a war, especially the hours they put in what if someone chronicles the ordeal...this was the worst blizzard our area had ever seen, and I'm sure the residents of Neptune are indebted to these guys!

      January 2, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jersey Girl

      Guess we should leave the smoke blowing to our 'what's the big deal' Governor. He seems to have that down pat and he gets paid for it. Like to see him pick up a shovel...for snow, that is....after the would be a shame for an ambulance to be delayed because of snow. Sorry.... I forgot, he was in Florida

      January 2, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • bill

      why don't you get off your a$$ and volunteer then you can tell us about your war stories. It's estimated that volunteer firefighters save communities $37 billion a year in labor costs (CBS). Yes I am a volunteer firefighter and yes I would love to share my war stories with you.

      January 2, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • snowbird

      I'm betting this started with a journalist and not him. Though you are right, most will stay quiet, because it is "what we do" (I am a former EMT and still volunteer doing fundraising..and no, I'm not tooting my horn), though there are situations, such as this, that get a lot of media and because he answered someones questions doesn't mean he is bragging.

      Unless you have experience as a FF, EMT, Police officer etc, you have absolutely no idea, regardless of what TV shows people, what it is really like....because TV doesn't show what it is really like.

      I did what I did because I wanted to, so much so, now that I am able again as my children are older, I am going back into training and doing it again, the difference this time is I will have more time to do so.

      What these people were faced with before, during and after this storm was incredible and what we need to do is THANK those that are willing to give of themselves for perfect strangers. Those that complain and those that don't do a darn thing about it to help, have absolutely no right to even comment....they are cowards.

      January 2, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • michaelfury

      January 2, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ray S.

    Funny, no articles about the thousands of sub sailors working for 3 months straight on a deployment, or the soldiers on 12 month tours to Iraq. Come on, this is considered a big sacrifice?

    January 2, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • JOn

      The Keyword was volunteer as in they get paid nothing for risking their lives and missing family events to directly help complete strangers.....

      January 2, 2011 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • enuffisenuff

      Yes Ray it is a sacrifice. These folks are VOLUNTEERS. If they didn't VOLUNTEER, Neptune would not have a fire department. So much focus has been on NY and what went wrong. I'm glad to see something on other communities who do not have the same resources and must VOLUNTEER to ensure their community has the services it needs. Thank you to these people who make personal sacrifices for NO COMPENSATION, just the satisfaction of helping ohers.

      January 2, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      You are a freakin idiot...

      January 2, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
    • jer

      Do we have to compare everything to everything? Give me a break man. What this guy and others do is absolutely admirable.

      January 2, 2011 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      These people are volunteers who worked 67 hours, no pay , very little sleep, I personally would like to THANK them for caring and going above and beyond their call of duty. I wouldn't have wanted to be in freezing weather, snow , etc. Without the volunteers what would have happened to this little town? And they still have to listen to people get upset, cranky etc and they do it all foe free!

      January 2, 2011 at 5:24 am | Report abuse |
    • WDrad

      As a vet of 3 foreign wars myself, there doesn't need to be 24/7 coverage about current active members. Everyone knows what they do and what it takes. This is about a community coming together and not being typical lazy Americans which is actually news, especially for people up north.

      January 2, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • CFinan

      Recognizing the heroic efforts of one group does not diminish the heroic efforts of another.

      January 2, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • firefighterswife

      To you, LisaKate, what kind of remark is that about military and firefighters know what they are signing up for??? Who the heck are you??? Do you have a family member who is either a veteran or a firemen?????? I do and yes we all know what they signed up for. People like you give the rest of us a bad name. I am a veteran, my husband, my brothers, my father, and my grandfather all proudly served this country. We did so so that people like you could exercise the freedoms that our ancestors fought for. Because of them, you are able to say the stupid things that you do. My husband is a volunteer firefighter for Neptune. He not only volunteers his time but our time. And we do so proudly. When he and his crew roll up to a fire scene or an accident scene, the first thing they want to do is make sure that the people are safe. These firemen put their lives on the line to save others. Maybe you should think of that the next time you come upon an accident or a fire scene. If it were you in that situation wouldn't you want the First Responder to be someone who is giving 100%?? What if it were your mom or kid in that accident?? Yes, these men and women know what they have signed up for and yet they still do it. Instead of sounding like an ungrateful fool, maybe you should thank them. I for one am a proud wife of veteran and a fireman. God bless them all!

      January 2, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rhiannon

    I would like to take the time and say thank you to all who does good deeds within our world regardless of pay of their job, volunteers and such. I am thankful for the goodness of the world and so shall everyone who lives upon our world.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. HMDQ

    Great story.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. James Wu

    To do who served with honor, may god bless you. I know many who served and are serving in the military. To Mr. Greed is Good. One of the, a Chief in the USN, told me about the 3 words on top of the doors of the United States Military Academy, Duty, Honor, Country. One word is above the others. Honor. You, sir, do not have honor. Nor do those who disrespect our fellow men and women in uniform. I shall end with a message.

    I am The Voice.
    I will lead, not follow
    I will create, not destroy,
    I will believe, not doubt, I am a force for good, I am a leader.

    I have lived by that saying ever since I heard it. It pains me to see, that, boys as young as 17 go to war and die for your right to desecrate them. Many people in my njrotc unit will join as soon they graduate from High School. I know some will not comeback but I take pride to have served with them as fellow men.

    January 2, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      Hi there... interesting story. Couple things I'd like to say about the comments...

      1)The 3 words you are referring to James are actually "Honor , Courage, and Commitment". If a Navy Chief was referring to Annapolis(Naval Academy), Honor Duty and courage are the Army's core values and they are posted at West Point(Army).... just thought you should get those straight.

      2) to Ray- i actually spent 3 years stationed on the USS Memphis (SSN 691) a first flight 688 class fast boat out of Groton Connecticut. And actually our deployments were for six months not 3, but i still don't see how any of that has any bearing on this article. This is a story about volunteer EMS workers and its a nice story. I don't get how you all of a sudden coming out of nowhere with "what about our military"... huh??? What does that have to do with the price of tea in china???

      But even if this article somehow was linked to our military... no one trashed anyone or said anything negative.. they just said "kudos to the volunteers" ...

      and like others have said.. i'll say as one of those folks that did sign up and go overseas... THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DOD... i myself have been aided by Volunteer EMS workers and the guys showed up at my house at 3 in the morning in 20 degree weather in there PJ's to help me out and didnt just do it but did it happily and as well as any paid fire department could have... these guys/gals live full lives and have full time jobs and do things you and i take for granted like grocery shopping or going to a movie with a radio or beeper in their pocket ready to drop everything and run to the aid of who ever needs it at the drop of a hat... come on man thats a hell of a thing... money couldnt possibly repay that but anyone who's snie about that is just a jerk... and i think you should have the guts to say who you are and put a sign outside your house so all the volunteer ems workers in your area know who you are.. lets see what happens when your kitchen catches fire... bet your tune will change then..

      listen guys.. thank god for ALL our uniformed men and women wherever they are and whatever they do.. they are the glue that keeps us together, strong and operating.. without them,(Cops, EMS, Nurses, Doctors, Soldiers, Sailors , hell i even put teachers in that group).. this whole country of ours would be a disaster... they are civil servants and all deserve our respect, admiration and most of all ,Thanks for what they do. Next time you see one during the course of your day at a grocery store or out a restaurant, take the time to go over and say thank you and shake there hand or give them a hug, And if they are out having dinner or a drink take care of there tab , that's the least we can do and i guarantee you that will put a smile on there face for a while. that is why those folks do these jobs... not because of the money but because of the satisfaction it brings them to know that every call they go on , or every mission they get deployed on or bullet they dodge is positively impacting and helping their fellow human being. Maybe because when they were kids someone did it for them, so you see, we teach by our actions. Our children see selfless acts like these and that not only helps them today but teaches them a valuable lesson they will take with them for ever and in turn teach to their kids... God bless them all.

      January 2, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
    • k

      Joey- Really great post, thank you Sometimes on these boards lots of people have opinions but not the experience, but you've been there and I respect what you say and appreciate your clear, insightful way of saying it. You made my day, sometimes these boards can kind of suck up my faith in americans, but if there are more like you it must not be so bad. Thanks again, all the best.

      January 2, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • MarkinToronto

      Joey- Wow. I rarely come on here, as I can't stand the self rightous, self centered egotistical comments left by 75% of responders . I'm glad I did today. Your response was eloquent, insightful, and the fact that you obviously have the experience to back it up, I found it very touching. We need more people like you in this world, as it would definetly make it a better place. Thank you for writting this. You truly made this Canuck's day!

      January 2, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • James Wu

      I was talking about west point. And to me uniform means the military and our police firemen and emts. They also wear one too

      January 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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