T he FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that provides transportation for the families of injured firefighters. The central focus of the foundation is assisting the families of firefighters in their times of greatest need, in transporting firefighters, family...
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Over the next year and a half, as more people became aware of the project, donations continued to pour in for the restoration of Engine 343. These donations did not only come in the form of money. Many individuals and companies donated equipment that would become part of the rig. The Los Angeles Fire Department donated two specially made chrome axes. They were mounted on either side of the rig. An antique brass nozzle, from the personal collection of an Elkhart Brass employee, was donated and affixed to the rig. A wooden portable ladder used by the FDNY in the 1950s was donated by the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department in Breezy Point. The ladder was stained, the butt ends painted and the entire ladder was polished before it was mounted on the side of the rig. A multiversal was acquired from a Queens engine company and attached to the rig. This multiversal is now used as a stanchion for the display of our nation’s flag while Engine 343 is on display at events. The entire restoration process took about two years from start to finish. Finally, in July 2005, Engine 343 was ready to make its first official appearance.
Make It Official
As one of its first missions, Engine 343 transported Wounded Warriors from Rescue 5 in Staten Island, NY, out to Breezy Point on Long Island, so they could participate in the Adaptive Sports Program. This would become one of many events that Engine 343 would take part in annually.
Throughout the years, members of the foundation would volunteer their time to drive the rig to participate in various events. These events included parades throughout the city, including Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the Salute to Israel Day parade. At first, participation in events around the city was limited because the availability of the rig was not widely known. Organizations would find out about the rig by chance or see it at another event and then request it for their next event.
Over the years, Engine 343 has become more popular and sought after at events. The rig can be seen transporting Santa into Time Square every year for the Widows and Orphans Fund Christmas Party at Toys “R” Us. Engine 343 is traditionally the first vehicle through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel for the annual Tunnel to Towers Run, commemorating Firefighter Stephen Siller’s journey on 9/11. The rig also leads the Father Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance and can always be found at the Fire Family Transport Foundation’s annual Blue Mass. In 2010, Engine 343 even traveled down to Washington, DC, to participate in the Cherry Blossom Parade.
The FDNY command began to see the strong symbolism of this rig and Engine 343 also became involved with many more FDNY events. In fact, then-Chief of Department, Salvatore J. Cassano (now commissioner), decided to make Engine 343 an official rig of the New York City Fire Department. Every year, during the first week of June, the FDNY holds its Medal Day awards ceremony. It has become an annual tradition for Engine 343 to drive the James Gordon Bennett Medal winner (the department’s highest medal for valor) and his family into City Hall Park for the ceremony.
From 2005 until 2007, Engine 343 was stored and maintained at Ladder 102 in Brooklyn. In early 2007, the rig was moved to its current quarters with Ladder 18 in Lower Manhattan.
The Caisson Gets Rolling
In March 2008, Firefighter Victor Isler of Rescue 1 in the Salisbury, NC, Fire Department was killed in the line of duty, along with Firefighter Justin Monroe. Isler was a native of Long Island and a former member of the FDNY EMS. It was requested that Engine 343 be used as the caisson for Isler’s funeral. On that bitter-cold day, Concannon drove Firefighter Isler to his final resting place in a manner fitting his sacrifice. It was one of the foundation’s, and Concannon’s, proudest moments.
Following that event, the decision was made to purchase a second rig, one that could serve as a caisson, since Engine 343 is not properly equipped to do so. In 2010, and again with individual donations, the foundation purchased a 1946 Mack for that purpose. The foundation is in the midst of the extensive process of the restoring this rig.
One of the foundation’s biggest fundraising events is the Iron and Steel motorcycle runs. These runs deliver a piece of World Trade Center steel to destinations where there is a ceremony to dedicate the steel. On average, about 400 motorcycles and a supporting cast travel with Engine 343 to locations such as Shanksville, PA, Fort Benning, GA, and Arlington, VA.
Next month, Engine 343 will be on the floor at the Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, MD. On Saturday, the final day of the Expo, the New York-to-Baltimore Iron and Steel run will arrive at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The 1946 Mack being restored as a caisson will also be there.
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For more information, see the foundation website at www.firefamilytransport.org. The FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation is a non-profit organization. Anyone who would like to make a donation may do so by mailing it to the foundation at P.O. Box 157, Fort Tilden, NY 11695.