Pa. volunteer firefighters to aid in La. flood relief

Firefighters will collect toiletries, cleaning products, bottled water and other goods for those impacted by the flooding


By Liz Hayes
The Valley News-Dispatch

ARNOLD, Pa. — Arnold No. 2 Volunteer Fire Company will be part of a Louisiana company's efforts to assist residents devastated by historic flooding.

Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc., a business that manufactures fire trucks just outside Baton Rouge, is organizing relief efforts for its employees, a local sheriff's department and the surrounding community, which was inundated by flood waters after storms dropped more than 2 feet of rain over southern Louisiana earlier this month.

Although Holden-based Ferrara's 330,000-square-foot facility was spared from serious damage, some of its employees weren't as fortunate, said Craig Ledoux, Ferrara's human resources director.

Of the company's 420 workers, “We have 54 employees that (flooding) affected them in some form or fashion,” Ledoux said. For some, that included the loss of homes, vehicles and the majority of personal possessions.

One of the luckier employees was J.D. Ferrante, an Arnold native, former Arnold No. 2 firefighter and son of Don Ferrante, Arnold No. 2's former chief.

“He's one of the fortunate ones whose home didn't get flooded,” Don Ferrante said.

But his son knows plenty of people impacted through his work, community and the East Baton Rouge Parish fire department, where he's a member. Ferrante said some of the fire stations lost equipment in the floods.

“Things we take for granted, they're struggling for,” Ferrante said, adding his son was offering his home as a place to shower or nap for friends with damaged houses.

Hearing about the devastation prompted Ferrante and his fellow Arnold No. 2 firefighters to start collecting toiletries, cleaning products, bottled water and other goods with plans to deliver them to Louisiana later this week. They'll continue to accept donations through today at the Drey Street firehall.

Arnold No. 2 Chief Chris O'Leath said they learned Ferrara was organizing a collection of donated items and wanted to participate. Not only did they feel connected through J.D. Ferrante, but they had good dealings with Ferrara after the company sold Arnold No. 2 a fire engine last year.

“They've been real good to us through the (sale) process,” O'Leath said. “Anything we can do to help them out.”

O'Leath said they've heard reports of people having difficulty getting basic necessities because stores were damaged and closed.

Don Ferrante said he canceled a planned trip to Wisconsin and instead will head to Louisiana on Thursday with a trailer full of donations. If they collect more items than they can fit, Ferrante said he may plan a second trip over Labor Day weekend.

Although he welcomes the opportunity to see his son's family, Ferrante suspects it will be a rushed visit because he likely won't find a hotel room anywhere near the flood-damaged region.

Ledoux said Ferrara began the collection last week initially to help impacted employees, but so many donations are coming in from across the country they also plan to assist a local sheriff's department, where an estimated 100 employees were impacted by flooding.

“Our priority first is our employees,” Ledoux said. “But we feel very sure we'll have a good bit left over.”

Donations also will be distributed to the community at large in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes, which Ledoux said are home to a large percentage of the estimated 100,000 people in need of disaster relief.

“We did the same thing in Katrina,” Ledoux said of the 2005 hurricane. “It's nothing new to us. We just had a tremendous outpouring of support. It's not just our company — it's everyone in Louisiana.”

“Anything we can get down there to help their efforts,” said O'Leath. “We've been in contact with J.D. throughout the process of everything going on down there. He's family to us.”

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