LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- Captain Bill Sheehan of Hackensack Riverkeeper talked with Stephanie Willoughby about the recent fire that has temporarily sidelined the organization. Sheehan joined Willoughby at East Main Media Studios’ facility in Little Falls, NJ, which has been recently reconfigured to accommodate safe and socially distant production in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hackensack Riverkeeper is North Jersey’s leading clean water advocacy organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, and restoring the Hackensack River Watershed, whose mission is carried out through a combination of advocacy, action, education and enforcement strategies. Sheehan has previously appeared on TAPintoTV discussing the mission of Hackensack Riverkeeper. 

Sheehan described how he learned about the fire that took place on May 16. Sheehan received a phone call from his program director, who said, “You better get up to Hackensack, the building’s on fire,” Sheehan recalled. “I was totally astonished by this message.” 

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He jumped in his car and drove over to the office on Main Street in Hackensack. “I could see a column of smoke in the air from miles away,” Sheehan said. “When I got up to Hackensack, there were three different fire companies there,” he continued. “The flames were shooting through the roof...it was a pretty devastating moment.” 

Luckily, no major injuries were reported and no one was in the building at the time. The fire originated in the building next to his, but their offices sustained a vast amount of water and smoke damage. “All of the contents of the building are gone,” Sheehan said. “Right now, Hackensack Riverkeeper is the proud owner of an empty box on Main Street,” he said. “We’re trying to put it back together.”

With help from his staff, they are planning to rebuild and recover, but they are in need of donations to move forward. “We’re going to have a lot of expenses and some of them are going to be unplanned expenses, because I’ve been around long enough to know that you can’t plan for everything.”

“The optimistic part of my life, I say to myself: this is a way to start over,” said Sheehan. “And when we go back into the building, hopefully it’ll be more efficient and it’ll serve our purposes even better,” he said, and added, “but we have a long way to go.”

To support Hackensack Riverkeeper and help get them back on their feet, either donate via their website, or visit their GoFundMe page.