A fire fighter in New Jersey surveys the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. (Photo courtesy Google Images)
A fire fighter in New Jersey surveys the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. (Photo courtesy Google Images)

CITY HALL — One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that may not ring any more true than in the case of five used vehicles that will make their way from Santa Monica to the East Coast in coming weeks.

The City Council approved donation of the machines — two sedans, a truck, a van and a sports utility vehicle — to the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund, a nonprofit organization helping fire departments devastated by Hurricane Sandy, a vicious storm that ripped through the northeast in October 2012.

All five were intended for the auction block, but the Santa Monica Fire Department decided to hold off after receiving a call for all available vehicles to help departments left with nothing by the storm, said Tom Clemo, deputy chief of operations at the Santa Monica Fire Department.

“They said, ‘We’ll take whatever you have,'” Clemo said.

The five vehicles range from 12 to 18 years old, and had a total Kelley Blue Book value of less than $12,000, according to a staff report.

Still, they’re in better shape than much of the equipment in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, which were exposed to severe water damaged made worse by the high salt content.

The storm left $71 billion in damage in its wake, according to November estimates from officials in New York and New Jersey, wrecking homes up the northeastern coastline.

While people were left homeless and in need of rescue, those best equipped to handle the situation were left without the resources to do so.

Volunteer fire services lost their fire houses and all equipment associated with it, said Brian Farrell, chairman of the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund, the organization that will pay to transport the donated vehicles across the country.

“From the tip of Brooklyn to the tip of Long Island, people lost their equipment,” Farrell said.

Santa Monica’s contribution will help a lot, he said.

Sandy relief is one of the fund’s newest projects.

Terry Farrell, the fund’s namesake, was the middle of six boys in the Farrell family. He died in the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack, a day after his son began his freshman year of high school.

“Everybody loses somebody, but this was so catastrophic and mindless,” Farrell said. “We were doing three to five funerals a day.”

Families of first responders came to Farrell for help with paperwork, and he was amazed at the low pay they had to contend with. His own pension as a retired police officer was more than his brother had made in 2001, with overtime.

Farrell initially meant to establish the fund to provide scholarships for fire fighters on Long Island.

Now, the all-volunteer organization has branches in 10 states and runs a variety of campaigns, including bone marrow and blood donations, scholarships for parochial and vocational schools and a surplus equipment program, to which Santa Monica and other Southern California fire departments have now contributed.

The fund uses only 3 percent of donations to pay for operating expenses like the website and travel costs. Farrell doesn’t have an office, instead working calls from his cell phone.

“Our reputation is really high up there, and I’m proud of that,” Farrell said.

Although the news cameras have left, the need on the East Coast is still great.

Some homes on Staten Island still don’t have power, Farrell said, and people are still scraping by without heaters despite the bitter cold of the New York winter.

Generators, cleaning supplies, fluids, sports drinks, power tools, working gloves and anything else that could be used on a construction site would be helpful, Farrell said. Just no more teddy bears.

While the sentiment is appreciated, “you can’t eat them and they don’t keep you warm,” Farrell said succinctly.

For those interested in donating to the fund, visit the website at www.terryfund.org.



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