St. James firefighters celebrate 100 years of service

St. James firefighters celebrate 100 years of service

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The streets of St. James were filled with volunteer firefighters from across Suffolk and Nassau counties as they turned out to honor the St. James Fire Department’s 100th anniversary on Aug. 27.

Mid-afternoon, first responders from more than 20 departments and their emergency vehicles began lining up at Smithtown High School East and down streets along Woodlawn Avenue for the St. James FD’s 100th anniversary parade. The parade kicked off after 5 p.m., and spectators lined Woodlawn and Lake avenues to cheer the firefighters on.

At the end of the parade, participants and residents gathered at St. James Elementary School for a party that featured a battle of the bands, refreshments, activities and music. The night was capped off with Fireworks by Grucci.

Chief of Department Frank Sapienza said the committee had been working on the event for 10 years. Sapienza, who has been with SJFD for more than 20 years, added, “It was one of the best times I’ve had with the department.”

According to the St. James Fire District’s website, while a department was organized in the hamlet in 1909 as the Eagle Hook & Ladder Co. by T. Edward Ellis, interest in the company declined by the early 1920s.

After a Christmas holiday fire in 1921, residents formed a committee and initiated a drive to raise money for a new firehouse and equipment. The new department was formed on March 8, 1922. The first piece of equipment the committee purchased was a Model T combination pump and ladder. The cost was $1,500, and it was stored in a metal garage at the intersection of North Country Road and Lake Avenue where the firehouse sits today. The property belonged to Lawrence Butler, who donated an engine floor, when the firehouse was built in 1923. Volunteers built the second floor, and an additional wing was added to the building later.

According to the district’s website, in the department’s early days, volunteers would raise money by organizing annual carnivals that would kick off with a parade. The week-long events featured circus and vaudeville acts nightly until 1935 when the fire district was formed and volunteers were no longer responsible for raising money for new equipment.