Making a lasting impact: Firefighting Rowan freshman aids in hometown recovery efforts

Through his work as a volunteer firefighter, freshman Spencer Arnold helped his beachfront town of Manasquan evacuate and recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Missing a week of school for most students is the perfect vacation, but for Rowan University freshman Spencer Arnold, this break was no vacation. He spent his week away from Rowan helping his beachfront town of Manasquan evacuate and recover from Hurricane Sandy.

For the past two years, the accounting and finance major has served as a volunteer firefighter in Manasquan.  At 18, he already has helped in recovery and evacuation efforts during the Christmas 2010 blizzard and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

Arnold’s experience with his fire company, Manasquan Volunteer Engine Company No. 2 during Hurricane Sandy, was “pretty intense,” he said.

From before the storm hit on Monday, Oct. 29. at 7 p.m. until 5 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30, Arnold assisted in evacuating people who did not heed the warning to leave. Due to a full moon and high tide, water levels in some places reached near 15 feet when the hurricane hit.

Arnold stands over six feet tall. Remarkably, the high water levels reached above his waist.

The Wednesday after Sandy’s destruction, the beachfront was destroyed and the sand moved six blocks inland, Arnold said.

With assistance from the National Guard, Arnold’s fire company spent the days after the storm distributing food and supplies, shutting off gas lines and removing sand from the town.

National Guard responders were referring to Sandy as the “Katrina of the Jersey shore,” he said.

Even today many residents of Manasquan are without power and clean water.  The reconstruction of the town could take up to two years, Arnold said.

So why would a college freshman give up his time and risk his life for others?

“I get pleasure out of helping the community,” said Arnold.

Being a part of the fire company is not only a hobby for Arnold. He can see it turning into a career.

The work, he said, is a way to “impact the community in a lasting way.”