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Terryville Fire Department

Candidates Ruminate on Past accomplishments and Future Challenges

The Port Jefferson and Terryville Fire Comissioner elections will be held Dec. 10.

While Port Jefferson Fire District Commissioner David Okst is running unopposed in the village, Terryville Fire District’s race is contested with two members vying for one seat. Commissioner Bernie Reynolds is planning to retire, which means volunteer member Daniel Gruosso is running against Captain James Guma of Company 1. 

Commissioners are unpaid elected board  members who run the district, which is a connected but distinct entity from the fire department. The district is a taxing entity whose board is elected by the residents in the district. They determine yearly budgets, go out for grants and propose bonds to maintain equipment and personnel of both the district and department.

All districts’ polls are open Dec. 10 for residents to cast their ballots. Residents of Port Jefferson Station or Terryville can cast their ballots at the firehouse located at 19 Jayne Blvd. in Port Jefferson Station from 2 to 9 p.m. Residents of Port Jefferson can cast their ballots at the firehouse located at 115 Maple Pl. from 3 to 9 p.m.

Here is a rundown of those seeking a term at their respective districts.

Terryville Fire District

James Guma is running for Terryville Fire Commissioner. Provided photo

Guma, a current fire captain of Fire Company 1, said he wants to use both his experience running his own business, the Port Jeff Station-based D James Marketing, and his firefighting experience to help run the district.

“I would be honored to further serve our fire community and district as commissioner,” he said. 

Guma has been a longtime resident of the area, having graduated from the Comsewogue School District in 1981, and he currently owns a home in the district. He cites his years as a New York City police sergeant for his knowledge of leadership and his experience in his own business and in helping friends open Due Baci Restaurant in Port Jefferson village, saying he has knowledge of employee management, buying and selling equipment and sending requests for proposals. The district handles over 40 employees, he said.

“Running for this position takes having business strengths,” he said.

In addition, he said he is active in the local community as a civic and chamber member as well as a past president and current treasurer of the Red Knights Long Island Chapter NY-26 motorcycle club.

As a member of the department for over 30 years, he said he has been dedicated to the area not just as an officer but also as a member of the carnival committee and has served as department chairman.

He added that ensuring the safety of the community requires providing the necessary resources to the department, especially since other local departments such as the Setauket Fire Department have started to hire a few paid firefighters. However, he said he does not see Terryville needing to hire paid firefighters any time in the near future. 

“It’s all volunteers and it should be that way,” he said. 

Gruosso has lived in the district for 25 years, having bought the house from his parents who originally lived there. He has been a member of the Terryville Fire Department for four years, having taken a hiatus two decades ago when he had been with the department for two years before leaving to manage a hefty job schedule.

Dan Gruosso is running against Captain James Guma of Company 1. Provided photo

Now that he’s been with the department for a while, and with one of his two sons a member as well, he said he wants to offer up his time.

“I saw it as a good opportunity to give back,” he said.

He currently lives in the district and has seen two sons graduate from Comsewogue. He works as a diesel mechanic and has spent more than 17 years with the Operating Engineers Local 15 union. Overall, it’s a job he describes as “turning a wrench all my life.”

Gruosso is part of the antique fire truck committee, where he does all the mechanical work for both engines on his own time. 

As commissioner, he said he would work to assure tax dollars are used wisely and be a voice for both the first responders and community members. He added that as commissioner he would have the opportunity to show the district mechanic some of what he knows, as he often goes out for schooling on mechanical matters.

“I’m looking to give back my time, and give up some of my knowledge,” he said.

He added he has seen no animosity between the candidates and both remain friends in the department.

Port Jefferson Fire District

Okst, a 30-year veteran of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, ran in 2014 for commissioner and has decided to run again this year. His seat is uncontested.

“I’m happy to do it,” Okst said. “I’ve enjoyed being able to give back to the community.”

The commissioner said he was a longtime member and once treasurer of the department. The district, he added, has gone through a bout of turnover, which has bred new blood on the board of fire commissioners. 

In the past five years, he said the district has used Dormitory Authority of the State of New York grant funds to purchase a new fire boat. The funds were secured in part by Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). This is important for a small district such as Port Jeff, but while the district is reaching out feelers for additional grants, such funds have become more and more competitive and thus harder to come by. 

In the near future, the district is planning on some sort of flood mitigation for the firehouse, which was inundated in September 2018 after flash floods buried the floor in nearly 4 feet of water. 

“It was the worst flood members had ever seen,” he said. 

Okst added they were looking at items such as flood doors in the building’s main floor doorways to help stop such an event from happening again. 

In addition, the district has purchased a building for training purposes, where members can restructure the layout of a room with removable walls while fighting through fake smoke. However, state requirements mandate members train with a bailout harness system, and volunteers have had to travel to nearby departments to use their training equipment. The district is using budget funds to create a bailout system for its training room. 

In addition, the district has resolved to use money from its reserve fund to install a new roof on the annex building, with a cost not to exceed $60,000. The roof, Okst said, is leaking as the building is over 20 years old. They hope to put that project out to bid in the near future.

 

First responders from SCPD and Terryville FD helped deliver a baby at a Port Jefferson Station home. Photo by Dennis Whittam

By Anthony Petriello

A miracle occurred in the early morning hours Aug. 9 as first responders helped deliver a baby girl at a Port Jefferson Station home. Sixth Precinct Officers Jon-Erik Negron, Brian Cann and Karl Allison responded to a 911 call on Lisa Lane. Upon arrival, they found a full term expectant mother, Keri Fort, in active labor and in need of assistance.

“The Suffolk County PD was the first to get to my house and got us all calmed down-it was kind of a crazy scene as you might imagine,” Fort said in a Facebook message. “They were a perfectly well-oiled machine with little talking to each other. They all knew what to do without a word, concentrating on me and telling me what to do next. My mother dialed 911 at 2:20 a.m. and sweet little Stella was born at 2:44 a.m.”

According to police, Fort’s water had broken already when they arrived, and her contractions were approximately five minutes apart. Shortly after, Terryville Fire Department paramedics Kevin Bader, Gina Brett, and Chris Meyers arrived on the scene to assist and take control of the situation.

“It was a collaborative effort,” Cann said.

Working together, officers and paramedics were able to deliver the baby girl, named Stella Blue Fort, in the residence at approximately 2:44 a.m., and transfer the mother and baby girl to the St. Charles Hospital Labor and Delivery unit by ambulance in good health. Fort and her daughter have since been released from the hospital and returned home.

This is not the first time Negron has had to spring into action to help bring a baby into the world while on duty. Last August, Negron helped save a newborn in Mount Sinai after a mother gave birth unexpectedly at home, and the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. In June, Negron was named the baby’s godfather by the parents.

A fire broke out at 201 Main Street in Port Jefferson during the early morning hours May 5, putting a serious crimp in plans for caffeine addicts far and wide.

The location, which houses Starbucks on the ground floor and Barito Tacos & Cocktails on the second floor, caught fire early Saturday morning, according to an 8:30 a.m. May 5 Facebook post by Port Jefferson Fire Department Chief Brennan Holmes’ office.

“A good stop was made and damage to the building was minimal with little extension,” the post said.

The department was aided by members of the Terryville Fire Department. Starbucks was open as of Monday morning, May 7.

Firefighters work on a blaze at a Port Jefferson Station home Feb. 5. Photo by Dennis Whittam

A fire at a home on Clematis Street in Port Jefferson Station at about 4 a.m. Feb. 5 required response from four local fire departments, according to Dennis Whittam of the Terryville Fire Department. With assistance from Port Jefferson, Setauket and Selden, Terryville Fire Department battled the blaze.

 

“Under the command of Chief of Department Tom Young, the fire, which had extended to the attic, was brought under control without incident,” Whittam said.

The fire is under investigation by the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshal’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department’s Arson Unit.

This post was updated Feb. 5 to include video shot by Dawn Farrell Brown.

A fire burns at a Port Jefferson Station home Feb. 5. Photo by Dennis Whittam

Terryville Fire Department's Main Fire House

The Terryville Fire Department will hold an Open House on Friday, Oct. 27 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Join them at the Main Fire House, 19 Jayne Boulevard, Port Jefferson Station for free health screenings, child IDs, Halloween costume contest, candy and much more. live firefighting demonstrations at 6 p.m. Meet your volunteers and see the fire trucks. For more information, please call 631-473-1224.

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Video shows the second blaze of the night March 9 being battled by the Terryville and neighboring fire departments. Video by Port Jefferson Fire Chief Charlie Russo

Three fires were intentionally lit March 9, with the first starting just before 1 p.m. and the last starting at 9:15 p.m. at the site of the former industrial air-craft part manufacturer Lawrence Aviation off Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson Station, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

“Police were called to a fire at an abandoned home on the property at 12:55 p.m,” the department said in a statement. “Several hours later, police responded to another structure fire on the property at 8:50 p.m. At approximately 9:15 p.m. police responded to a fire at a third structure. The fires were intentionally set. There were no injuries.”

The Terryville Fire Department responded to the calls and extinguished the fires with help from neighboring departments. Two firefighters were transported to a local hospital for precautionary reasons, according to the department.

The department responded to the first fire on the property at a vacant house at about 1 p.m. according their Facebook page.

“Hours later they responded to the same sight for another fire, that was well involved,” the post said. “Moments later they were notified of a third fire on the Lawrence Aviation property, which is a Super Fund Site.”

The second fire was in a vacant private dwelling on Willis Avenue Extension off of Sheep Pasture Road, just north of the Lawrence Aviation Property.

“Our department responded to the same location earlier in the day for a bedroom fire which was quickly extinguished,” the post said. “The second fire in the evening was unrelated to and more extensive than the first and had started in a separate section of the home…at approximately 9:30 p.m., while units were still operating at the house fire on Willis Avenue Extension, we were alerted to an additional structure fire, this one reported to be on the property of the defunct Lawrence Aviation Property.”

Suffolk County Police Department Arson Section detectives are investigating the incidents.

A site is declared a Superfund site if it has been contaminated by hazardous waste and is designated for cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because it poses a threat to human health and/or the environment.

Brookhaven Town restricted development at the polluted site in July 2015 using a special zoning district. Lawrence Aviation dumped harmful chemicals at the site over years, contaminating soil and groundwater. The EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have been working for several years to undo the damage through the federal Superfund program, which cleans up such contaminations of hazardous materials, but it could still take two more decades to completely clean local groundwater.