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Firefighters

The Lloyd Harbor house still stands after the fire. Photo from Steve Silverman

Five Huntington area fire departments worked together on Wednesday night to fight a fire that caused extensive damage to a home in Lloyd Harbor.

Fire fighters work to put out the flames of a Lloyd Harbor house fire. Photo from Steve Silverman
Fire fighters work to put out the flames of a Lloyd Harbor house fire. Photo from Steve Silverman

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call at 8 p.m. for a residential structure fire on Seacrest Drive in the Lloyd Neck neighborhood of Lloyd Harbor that involved the house’s attached garage and second floor. The Halesite, Cold Spring Harbor, Huntington Manor, Centerport and Greenlawn fire departments assisted the Huntington department About 85 firefighters used ten trucks to get the fire under control in two hours, under the command of Chief Jesse Cukro, supported by Assistant Chiefs Rob Conroy, Brian Keane and Scott Dodge.

Firefighters were able to stop the blaze and contain the damage to the center portion of the home. No residents were home at the time of the fire, and there were no injuries reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Lloyd Harbor Police Department and Suffolk Police Arson Squad.

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A fire tears through Malkmes Florists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Dennis Whittam

A fire tore through Malkmes Florists in Port Jefferson Station on Friday the 13th, destroying the building but not the family business that has been passed down for generations.

Family heirlooms, flower arrangements, antique furniture — all burned to ashes that morning.

“There’s nothing left,” Lisa Malkmes, one of the owners, said about the property damage in a phone interview Tuesday. “We lost the entire building and all of our computers. Everything’s gone.”

Dennis Whittam, a spokesman for the Terryville Fire Department, said firefighters received a notification that morning of a “fully involved structure fire” across Route 112 from the firehouse, at the longtime neighborhood business at the end of Oakland Avenue.

Firefighters on the scene at Malkmes Florists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Dennis Whittam
Firefighters on the scene at Malkmes Florists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Dennis Whittam

A Port Jefferson Fire Department engine was the first truck on the scene and started to attack the flames on the exterior, Whittam said, as Terryville’s ladder truck and other engines set up hand lines and master streams under command of Chief Richard McCarren and Assistant Chief Tom Young. The Selden, Mount Sinai and Coram fire departments also offered assistance.

The fire was out by about noon, Malkmes said, and then the florists quickly had to put together flowers for a wedding happening that afternoon, after the bride’s original flowers burned in the blaze. Everything was finished on time, she said, “because of my employees. They opened their home and we were able to get flowers in quick enough.”

She added that the business put flowers together for two weddings and two funerals over the weekend as well.

Malkmes Florists & Greenhouses has been in operation for decades, and was previously run by longtime community member Harold Malkmes, who died in 2011. Malkmes was a 17-term Brookhaven Town highway superintendent who grew up in Port Jefferson Station and studied horticulture in college before taking the helm at the business, which had been in the family since the 19th century. He passed the reins of the shop to one of his sons, Michael, a Miller Place resident who runs the business with wife Lisa.

The Malkmes name is also familiar to town residents who have visited the community man’s other namesake, the Harold H. Malkmes Wildlife Education and Ecology Center in Holtsville.

Lisa Malkmes said the florists are still open for business. They are working on phone orders and will be putting up a temporary structure soon, with the eventual goal of reconstructing the business.

A fire tears through Malkmes Florists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Dennis Whittam
A fire tears through Malkmes Florists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Dennis Whittam

This is not the first time the family has had to rebuild.

According to Michael Malkmes, who is also a heavy equipment operator in the town highway department, the business dates back to the 1800s, when it was based in Medford. But a fire tore through that original building, destroying it.

“My grandfather decided to rebuild up here on the North Shore,” Malkmes said Tuesday, and a new shop opened at the end of Oakland Avenue in 1912 called Belle Croft Greenhouses, in honor of a historic name for the neighborhood. That became Malkmes Florists in the 1970s under the ownership of Harold Malkmes.

There were still historical and familial tributes around the shop and property when the fire caught: a picture of Harold playing tennis, a sign from when the man ran for highway superintendent, an aerial photo of the shop from the 1930s, family heirlooms like an antique vanity and curio cabinet, and Harold’s service medal from his time in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II, as a tail gunner on a B-25 bomber in Italy.

“There’s a lot of tears,” Michael Malkmes said. “We’ve been there for eons so it’s kind of a shame.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“The building was built in 1912, so the wood was probably a little dry — that’s why it cooked the way it did,” he said. “Once [the fire] punched through the roof, it was just like a chimney.”

But just as before, the family florists plan to rise from the ashes.

“We’re definitely going to rebuild,” he said. “Our customers have been coming there for years.”

Two Smithtown High School East coaches were trapped in a bucket truck during a homecoming football game. Photo by Steve Silverman

Two Smithtown High School East football coaches got stuck 30 feet in the air on Saturday when their hydraulic lift malfunctioned during a homecoming game.

Dix Hills firefighter Jacquelyn Stio helps coach Tim Kopiske to safety after the Smithtown High School East football coach got stuck in a malfunctioning bucket truck at a homecoming game. Photo by Steve Silverman
Dix Hills firefighter Jacquelyn Stio helps coach Tim Kopiske to safety after the Smithtown High School East football coach got stuck in a malfunctioning bucket truck at a homecoming game. Photo by Steve Silverman

The Dix Hills Fire Department came to the rescue that afternoon on the turf of the coaches’ rival, Half Hollow Hills High School East, where they were suspended in a truck’s bucket, according to Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs’ Council. The volunteer firefighters brought their 75-foot ladder truck to get the coaches down, as well as other fire engines, three ambulances and first responder and paramedic units.

Personnel from the Dix Hills Rescue Squad were already on the scene with an ambulance, as they were standing by during the first football game of the season.

Silverman said the rescue was a brother-sister effort: firefighter Matt Stio climbed up and helped coach Tyler O’Neill onto the ladder and down to safety, and then sister Jacquelyn Stio scaled the ladder to do the same for coach Tim Kopiske.

The entire operation was quick, Silverman said. It was just three minutes before the firefighters were on the scene, and the coaches were brought back down to terra firma within another 15 minutes.

No one was injured.

North Shore natives travel to Washington with hopes of swaying lawmakers to renew health care benefits

John Feal speaks at the September 11 memorial ceremony in Commack last week. Photo by Brenda Lentsch

The 9/11 first responders who have fought for years to get health care support are heading back to Washington, D.C., in hopes of ushering in the renewal of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act. And for one Nesconset resident, change cannot come soon enough.

Parts of the bill will expire next month, and other parts in October 2016.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would extend the programs of the original Zadroga act indefinitely. It was introduced to Congress in April and currently has 150 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“When this bill expires, our illnesses do not expire,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, in a phone interview. Feal, of Nesconset, has been walking the halls of Congress for the past eight years to help get this bill passed.

He is also a 9/11 first responder who worked on the reconstruction at Ground Zero, and lost half of his foot in the process. He suffered from gangrene, but he says his injuries “pale in comparison to other first responders.”

President Barack Obama signed the current Zadroga act into law in 2011 and established the World Trade Center Health Program, which will expire in October if not renewed.

The WTC program ensured that those whose health was affected by 9/11 would receive monitoring and treatment services for their health-related problems. It consists of a responder program for rescue and recovery workers and New York City firefighters, and a survivor program for those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Zadroga act also reopened the September 11th Victims Compensation Act, which allows for anyone affected to file claims for economic losses due to physical harm or death caused by 9/11. That will expire in October of next year.

Feal said he was asked by television personality Jon Stewart to come on “The Daily Show” in December 2010, but the Nesconset native said he did not want to leave the real legislative fight in D.C. Instead, he helped get four 9/11 responders to the Dec. 16, 2010, episode, who helped shed light on the ongoing battle these responders were dealing with in Congress.

“He was definitely one of the reasons the bill got passed,” Feal said of Stewart. Stewart accompanied Feal and many other first responders when they traveled to Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and took part in a mini rally.

The bill did not pass the first time it was presented to Congress back in 2006. A new version was drafted in 2010 and passed in the House of Representatives, but was having trouble getting through the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The bill received final congressional approval on Dec. 22, 2010, and was enacted by the president on Jan. 2, 2011.

“As we get older these illnesses will become debilitating,” Feal said. “Not extending this bill is criminal. People will die without it. It’s a life-saving piece of legislation.”

Jennifer McNamara, a Blue Point resident and president of The Johnny Mac Foundation, is also actively involved in the fight to keep responders health costs covered. Her late husband, John McNamara, passed away in 2009 from stage IV colon cancer.

He was a New York City Firefighter and worked more than 500 hours at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11. He worked with responders to get support for the Zadroga bill before he died.

“I made him a promise to continue to lend support to get this legislation passed,” Jennifer McNamara said in a phone interview. When her husband passed away, she said there weren’t as many responders getting sick as there are now. “People are dying more quickly, and more are getting diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses.”

The two big issues that McNamara said she feels need to continue to be addressed are monitoring these diseases and coverage of costs once someone is diagnosed. McNamara said she believes that if there were better monitoring programs earlier on, her husband could’ve been diagnosed before his cancer was stage IV, and he could’ve had a better chance.

“These people did tremendous things for their country,” McNamara said. “They shouldn’t have to guess about whether they are going to be taken care of.”

Community members gathered to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States. During memorial events across Suffolk County, ceremonial shots were fired, victims’ names read aloud and flowers laid down.

Suffolk and Nassau County fire departments tried to smoke their competition on Saturday, Aug. 15, at New York State’s annual Motorized Drill, at Fireman’s Memorial Park in Ridge.

Fifty drill teams competed to earn the title of state champion at the event, which featured eight challenges including the 3 Man Ladder; the Motor Hook and Ladder class B and C contests; the Motor Hose class B and C contests; Efficiency; Motor Pump and Buckets.

While two teams, the Central Islip Hoboes and the West Sayville Flying Dutchmen, were crowned co-champions, the Miller Place Extinguishers didn’t place in the competition. Other local teams like the Selden Slowpokes competed in the event, but they also didn’t place in the competition. The Rocky Point Rum Raiders didn’t attend the event.

The Extinguishers placed sixth in the 3 Man Ladder challenge, but took the 23rd place in the B Ladder challenge. They then came in 29th place for the B Hose and Efficiency challenge. The team didn’t participate in the C Ladder and C Hose challenges, but they came in 14th for the Motor Pump and 28th for the Buckets portions of the competition.

According to Michael Heller of the New York State Drill Teams organization that helps plan the event, the eight obstacles in the competition are similar to those used to train firefighters. Although the competition is entertaining, Heller and Chief Michael Matteo of the Selden Fire Department said that the event helps with teamwork and relationship building.

“When you join a team — a competition team — everyone has their role to play, so they all work together as a team to accomplish the goal,” Heller said. “Firefighters on a team are used to working well with each other, and understand working with each other. Teamwork is critical when you’re in a fire to understand what a person is doing and what to do next.”

These competitions began in the 1800s, according to Heller and Matteo, but Matteo added that there are few places where 40 or more groups of people in New York State can get together, compete and congratulate their fellow competitors for their participation in the event.

On September 6, 1872 the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York was established in Auburn, which led to more organized competitions among the fire departments.

“They started with only the old fashion where it was all pull carts and steam engines and things like that, and then they moved into the motorized,” Matteo said.

The competition was the biggest event that the Selden Fire Department hosted thus far. They have held smaller events for the fire departments in the past, like the Selden Invitational Firefighter’s Drill.

Matteo also said there were around three teams that came back to compete in the Motorized Drill competition, as participants had been lacking in previous years, and few times there were repeat competitors. Additionally, there were around seven teams that could have taken first place after the Buckets challenge, the last part of the competition, but didn’t have as many points as the co-champions, making for a highly-contested day. According to Matteo, this typically doesn’t happen, but said it was nice to see.

“It’s just a great thing for the fire service,” Matteo said of the competition. “Ninty-five percent of firefighters are volunteers, so we’re giving our time when we’re not working one or two jobs. We’re taking away [time] from our families and we’re going out there.”

Fire district offering $1,000 reward

The Lake Grove playground that was set on fire on Sunday, July 26. Photo from Centereach Fire District

The Centereach Fire District is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for burning down a playground at Eugene Auer Elementary School.

On Sunday, July 26, Centereach firefighters responded to a call for a fire behind the Lake Grove school, according to a press release from the fire district. The plastic playground was fully engulfed, but the fire quickly put out. However, the playground was destroyed.

“This wasn’t just any playground,” Fire Commissioner Julia Wilson said. “The community pitched in, joined together and raised money to erect it.”

The Suffolk County Police Department is investigating the Sunday night incident.

The board of fire commissioners unanimously voted to offer a $1,000 reward at their meeting last week. Anyone with information related to the crime, is asked to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS (8477) or submit the information electronically at www.tipsubmit.com.

Incident shut down part of Main Street on Friday afternoon

Firefighters exit Renarts, where there was a heavy smoke condition on the second floor on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke at Renarts that shut down a part of Main Street on Friday afternoon.

An employee of the shoe store near Wall Street called the fire department at about 12:45 p.m. after going upstairs to grab a pair of shoes for a customer and discovering smoke on the second floor. There was a little bit of smoke in the first room and a lot of smoke in the second room, he recalled at the scene on Friday.

“I was coughing a lot,” Paul Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t even stand up for a minute.”

He ran down to place the call to the fire department, which responded in five minutes, he said. The chief got to the scene in less than two minutes.

Rodriguez said fire officials told him there was an “electrical problem” that was being handled.

Chief Robert Berry told reporters at the scene there was no fire, but a “heavy smoke condition” on the second floor. Officials are still investigating what caused the smoke condition but by about 2 p.m., it was safe to go back into the store.

There were no injuries.

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Village ready to kick off parade and fireworks on July 4

Antonio Febles, 3, and sister Sofia Febles, 7, from Port Jefferson Station get into the spirit despite the rain at the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s July 4 parade last year. Photo by Bob Savage

Port Jefferson is going to be a sea of red, white and blue on Saturday, July 4.

To kick off the day, the Port Jefferson Fire Department will hold its annual Independence Day parade, rain or shine.

The event will start at 10 a.m., with participants marching down Main Street from the Infant Jesus Church at Myrtle Avenue to the harbor, turning left on West Broadway toward Barnum Avenue, and then finishing at the firehouse on Maple Place.

According to the PJFD, roads along the parade route and participant lineup areas will be closed at 8:15 a.m. that day, including Main Street going as far south as North Country Road; Reeves Road; and High Street between Main and Stony Hill Road. Detour signs will direct drivers to the ferry and downtown area.

Later in the day, weather permitting, Port Jefferson Village will continue its annual tradition of setting off fireworks between its East and West beaches in a salute to the nation’s freedom and its Founding Fathers.

The free fireworks show will kick off at 9 p.m.

A resident parking sticker is required to park at the village beaches.

The fireworks are also visible from the neighboring Cedar Beach on Mount Sinai Harbor.

Firefighters douse a blaze that overtook a two-story office building on New York Avenue in Huntington village on Tuesday. Photo from Huntington Fire Department

Huntington Town firefighters doused a blaze in the village that ravaged a two-story office building on Tuesday night.

Firefighters douse a blaze that overtook a two-story office building on New York Avenue in Huntington village on Tuesday. Photo from Huntington Fire Department
Firefighters douse a blaze that overtook a two-story office building on New York Avenue in Huntington village on Tuesday. Photo from Huntington Fire Department

The fire broke out at 191 New York Ave. at about 7:45 p.m., according to Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

The building near Prime Avenue, called the Huntington Law Center, housed a number of law practices, including the Ten Haagen Financial Group and prominent local lawyers Jim Matthews, Jim Gaughran and John Leo.

The Huntington Fire Department responded to the call. The Centerport, Halesite and Huntington Manor fire departments assisted at the scene. The Cold Spring Harbor and Greenlawn fire departments provided standby coverage.

Huntington Fire Department Chief Robert Berry said about 65 local firefighters showed up to douse the blaze. Firefighters didn’t leave the scene until 10:30 p.m., he said.

The cause of the fire was unclear, but the heaviest part of the blaze was in the rear of the building, Berry said in a Wednesday phone interview. There was no damage to adjacent buildings.

“The whole second floor is destroyed and the first floor had severe water and smoke damage,” Berry said.

The town has placarded the building, meaning it is uninhabitable, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter. There is “major structural damage to the roof,” he said.