HIGHLAND PARK – The Highland Park Fire Department, which until recently was forced to operate in a temporary shanty of plywood rooms, is getting a little help from two local beverage distributors: Great Lakes Wines and Spirits and Eastown Distributors are each donating $5,000 to help the long-suffering department buy new firefighting equipment and uniforms. The total $10,000 donation will be presented to the fire department on Monday, Nov. 4.
“Firefighters truly are heroes of our community, they put their lives on the line every day, and we’re proud to support them and help them do their jobs safely,” said Syd Ross, co-owner of GLWS. “As a local business, we see first hand the outstanding work our firefighters do. They do their jobs bravely, professionally, and they ask for nothing in return, so this donation is a small token of our thanks.”
“Highland Park’s firefighters have done so much for our community, even when they had so few resources themselves. Our firefighters work hard and they put our families ahead of themselves every day for many years. We are pleased we can repay some of their sacrifices and show our thanks,” said Paul Quasarano, Eastown president.
The Highland Park Fire Department attracted widespread attention in the region when its old building was condemned eight years ago, deemed uninhabitable in large part because lack of funds prevented much-needed upgrades. Forced to move out, the three dozen firefighters, three fire trucks and one EMS vehicle moved into a makeshift facility with plywood rooms and a trailer for a kitchen. Though the HPFD has now relocated to a new facility built using federal stimulus funds, it — like many fire departments across the state — continue to struggle amid declining local revenues and still relies on donations, including receiving furniture from a 9/11 firefighters philanthropy based in New York.
“Highland Park firefighters are honored to serve our citizens and we’re grateful to local businesses like Great Lakes Wines and Spirits and Eastown Distributors for the strong support they show to our community,” said Highland Park Fire Chief Derek Hillman. “This donation will help us get much-needed equipment that will help us do our jobs even better and keep our firefighters safer during emergencies.”
Highland Park firefighters respond to an average of 1,000 runs a year, including 150 structure fires, car accidents, medical calls and hazardous material calls. The HPFD provides coverage for about 12,000 residents.