About 14 miles away from its longtime home on the barrier island, a Seaside Park fire truck that served residents well for decades sits seemingly abandoned. Technically, it’s not abandoned – it’s for sale – and the story of how it ended up parked on the side of the road in Lakewood for years is emblematic of the many injudicious consequences of Superstorm Sandy.
The 1983 Mack bucket truck can be found in a gravel lot on Route 88 in Lakewood, just off the Garden State Parkway and down the road from a string of gigantic car dealerships. There are just under 18,000 miles on the clock and, presumably, it remains for sale. The aforementioned gravel lot belongs to a small used car dealer who came to own the fire truck in the storm’s aftermath.
“They said, ‘I’m sorry you did the right thing,'” recalled Fire Chief Michael Tumolo, of the insurance adjuster who delivered bad news about the truck.
The classic fire engine wasn’t lost in a flood or consumed by the ocean’s wrath. Instead, firefighters in Seaside Park took it over the bridge before Sandy hit in order to make sure it would not be destroyed in the oncoming storm. After the system moved out, members of the volunteer department headed back to the island to rescue stragglers and make sure the town was secure.
“We spent about a week pulling 170 people out,” said Tumolo. “We also went around making sure the water was shut off and the gas was shut off. After seeing what happened in Camp Osborn, I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen here.”
The aging truck suffered a breakdown in the midst of the storm response, with mechanics determining an axle needed to be replaced, as well as some other work – a major project for an aging fire truck. An insurance carrier offered $28,000 for the value of the truck, however the deductible was $25,000.
“If it had stayed and gotten ruined, it would’ve been covered for a replacement,” said Tumolo. “They said, ‘I’m sorry you did the right thing.’”
The truck had an immeasurable amount of sentimental value – lives saved, homes preserved, teamwork developed and friendships built. But it also had a unique value in and of itself.
“It was one of only 16 of these trucks left in the country, from what I was told,” said Tumolo.
The truck was eventually purchased at auction by the used car dealer in Lakewood, who would go on to (unsuccessfully) try to sell it back to Seaside Park for $35,000. The borough, nor any of its firefighters in their personal capacities, bit on the offer – and so the truck has sat parked on the side of the road for the better part of the last decade.
“There are so many of us who would love to have that truck back,” Tumolo said.