Exclusive: Off-duty FDNY Firefighters Help Tear Down Hurricane Sandy Ravaged Houses in Breezy Point

NY Daily News - November 16, 2012

by Henrick Karolisyn and Joe Kemp

'Operation Breezy Gut and Pump' aimed at cleaning up beleaguered Queens neighborhood

A Queens neighborhood ravaged by Hurricane Sandy needed help with the first step in rebuilding their tight-knit community -- tearing apart the homes the storm damaged.

And scores of off-duty firefighters have been working around the clock in Breezy Point to make sure that job gets done.

"We know how to gut houses -- we do it in fires all the time," said Firefighter Phil Pillet, 50, who started the massive effort -- "Operation Breezy Gut and Pump" -- to clean up the shoreline neighborhood following the Oct. 29-30 storm.

About 200 volunteers, most of them firefighters, have worked on nearly 100 homes in the area. Another 70-plus remain on the list, which grows each day.

"They came and took the sludge out of my basement," said longtime resident Janice Murphy, 68. "They worked all day . . . . They saved our house."

Pillet, a 23-year FDNY veteran from Ladder Co. 56 in the Bronx, had to drive as far as Delaware to collect all the tools and supplies that volunteers would need to rip apart waterlogged houses. During the trip, he got on the phone with fellow smoke eaters, including Kevin Adams, 42, to launch the humanitarian operation.

"We just started helping people who did not know what to do about their homes," said Adams, who works at Ladder 48 in the Bronx. "This never happened like this before. So, people didn't know where to begin."