Demolition of the eastern section of the Setauket Fire Department headquarters. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

The headquarters of the Setauket Fire Department continues to transition into a rescue center for the 21st century with its construction project dubbed by the department as “new era.”

David Sterne, district manager, said a new apparatus bay on Old Town Road is now completed and ready to use. The structure connected to the original firehouse on Route 25A can fit modern day trucks, something the 1930s building couldn’t do. The closed cabs of current fire trucks make them much wider than emergency vehicles used in earlier decades. Trucks will also now exit and enter on the Old Town Road side instead of Route 25A. Sterne said the new entranceway has a bigger driveway apron, which provides safer entering and exiting than the old entrance.

“It is a good example of how things can be accomplished when we are all willing to work together.”

— David Sterne

After waiting nearly a decade for a bond approval, a $14.9 million bond was approved in April 2014, and renovations began on the Main Street firehouse June 4, 2016. Sterne said the approval of the bond in 2014 was due to a collaboration of the fire district, fire department, community members and the Three Village Civic Association discussing the needs of both the district and its residents.

“It was a community effort to get this passed,” Sterne said. “It is a good example of how things can be accomplished when we are all willing to work together.”

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, was part of a community advisory committee that included Stony Brook architect John Cunniffe and the late civic leader Bob de Zafra. Reuter said the planning for the new firehouse was “an excellent example of the value in involving the public.” He credited Sterne’s organized process and the cooperation of H2M architectural firm and the fire commissioners for making the committee members input meaningful.

Reuter said the committee advocated for reuse of the existing firehouse on Route 25A, the continuation of brick as the primary building material and landscaping the southeast corner, which will include trees and other plantings.

“It will be good to see that work take shape now that the firehouse is operating with a new garage and work is underway on the original building,” Reuter said.

The apparatus bay also includes a bail-out window for volunteers to practice mandated drills with life rescue ropes. The structure has a break room and a gear room that is separate from the apparatus bay, making it safer for firefighters to dress for a fire. Sterne said previously volunteers would put on their gear in the bay, which posed potential hazards with trucks in the vicinity.

“I think everyone understands the importance of building for the future in a responsible manner.”

— David Sterne

South of the building a spillover parking lot will be available for when a large number of volunteers respond to an emergency, attend a meeting or community members use the facilities.

When the new bay was completed, work began on the 25A side. Sterne said the facade of the western portion of the Main Street building, the original 1935 structure, will remain the same, and there will be bunkrooms for both male and female firefighters. The eastern section of the old building will be replaced with a two-story structure that includes offices, meeting and training rooms.

With the future in mind, Sterne said the construction fits the needs of the fire district while being environmentally friendly. Solar panels will be used for hot water, a white high-efficiency roof is included in the apparatus bay, and there will a high-efficiency cooling system.

“I think everyone understands the importance of building for the future in a responsible manner,” Sterne said. “We felt that it is important to have an efficient building … efficient in the sense of being environmentally responsible, as well as a more cost-effective, fiscally efficient building to operate. Building a building that will be kinder to the environment for years to come and costs less tax dollars to operate was imperative to us … the whole community.”

Sterne said the goal is for the firehouse to be completed by November 2018, and the fire district plans to commemorate the completion of the project with a ribbon cutting ceremony and community celebration.

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