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Port Jefferson Fire Department

Not even the rain could keep Santa from coming to town on Sunday, Nov. 27, during this year’s annual Santa Parade in Port Jefferson village.

Amid a steady downpour, dozens lined the village streets in rain gear and under umbrellas. Marchers along the parade route walked the duration of Main Street, starting from the Port Jefferson train station to the intersection of East and West Broadway, then ending at the Village Center. 

Port Jefferson Fire Department featured several of its vehicles. Dancers twirled and fairy princesses trotted along, avoiding the puddles. Santa Claus, the rock star of the evening, rode in a stylish stagecoach pulled by a horse.

The festivities finished in the warmer, dry Village Center, where Santa greeted the children in attendance, asking them what they would like for Christmas. A children’s choir on the second floor filled the hall with songs.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, which coordinates the parade annually. Barbara Ransome, the chamber’s director of operations, explained why the event was held through the rain.

Sunday was the only possible date for the event to be held, and Ransome decided that hosting the parade in the face of bad weather would be preferable to complete cancellation. “I’m glad we didn’t cancel in spite of the rain,” she said.

The chamber director of operations added, “We’ve been doing this for as long as I know. I was very surprised to see so many umbrellas on Main Street — it really worked out pretty well.”

Two elected officials representing the village government, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and trustee Rebecca Kassay, joined the parade procession. Snaden also expressed a pleasant surprise at the sizable turnout despite the conditions.

“Having the weather the way it was, I really thought it would just be empty streets when we walked down,” she said. “I was really impressed to see so many families brave the conditions to see Santa.”

Kassay described the experience as bringing together the various facets of the community’s heritage. 

“To see so many people coming out in their raincoats and under umbrellas to celebrate this tradition in Port Jefferson was a truly heartwarming thing to be a part of,” she said.

— Photos by Raymond Janis

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The newly configured Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees held its first public meeting on Tuesday, July 5.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow took her seat alongside her colleagues on the board for the first time. After completing her first full day in office, the trustee discussed ways in which she intends to familiarize herself with the mechanics of the village and learn more about the concerns of her constituents.

“I continue to take information in and I’ll continue to seek information from the residents, not because I am not campaigning anymore but because I am really interested in what they have to say,” she said. 

Sheprow will jump headfirst into her first term of office, already securing two important assignments from Mayor Margot Garant: commissioner of communications and commissioner of recreation. Outlining her rationale behind these appointments, the mayor said she intends to tap into Sheprow’s professional experience in public relations and repurpose those skills in service to the community.

“We put her to work as commissioner of communications [because] we want to put her public relations experience and career to work for us,” Garant said, adding, “And also as commissioner of recreation, so that she can help the recs department and because she was a former member of the recs committee.”

As well, Garant congratulated reelected Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who began her second term this week. 

Kassay reported that she received a request to explore code changes related to the planting of bamboo as the roots of this woody grass can cross property lines and create conflicts between neighbors.

“This would address the planting of new bamboo as well as sort of being more clear about when someone has bamboo and it starts creeping over to another property line,” she said. “This is a big issue as far as property values can go and can help prevent neighborly disputes in the future.” 

Trustee Stan Loucks delivered an extensive report on the status of the recreation department as it enters the height of its busy season. He announced that two tennis courts at the country club have been opened for pickleball and will remain minimally open throughout the summer until construction begins at the East Beach bluff.

“We anticipate that the construction of the lower wall along the bluff will be starting sometime in August or early September and if any part of this construction requires working from the top, in other words, working from those tennis courts, then we’re going to have to close those courts,” he said. Loucks added that East Beach and its parking lot will also be closed off during the construction period.

Although golf membership at the country club has exceeded 630 members this year, Loucks said there are no plans to cap membership. He advised community members that while tee times are scarce between 6 and 11 a.m., there are plenty of remaining slots available after this time frame.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden used her report to address an ongoing issue related to the recently renovated public bathrooms at Rocketship Park. According to her, the bathrooms were vandalized just four days after they were opened, prompting the board to enforce a closing time for public use of the facility.

“The conclusion we all came to was that because of the vandalism that happened four days after opening our brand new, expensive bathrooms … it is best to keep them closed at 7 p.m. and to have a sign to say that they are closed at 7 p.m. due to the vandalism that is occurring,” she said. This signage will assure that the public knows “when they’re closed and why they’re closed.”

Snaden also informed the public that the village has renewed its intermunicipal agreement with the Port Jefferson School District to allow constables on school grounds. She added that the roadway closure at the intersection of Route 25A and Arlington Avenue remains ongoing.

Garant recognized the village employees who worked to facilitate a smooth election day last month. She also acknowledged all of the candidates who ran for the village board and commended them for their continued commitment to the service of the village.

“I thank you for your involvement, for engaging, for getting out and knocking on the doors,” the mayor said. “You make a difference and we hope that you stay engaged.”

Garant also highlighted the monumental act of heroism on the part of a group of Port Jeff high school graduates. As reported on June 30 in The Port Times Record, these grads left their high school commencement ceremony to help extinguish a fire on Arlington Avenue.

“Brave is not even the word,” Garant said. “Community service is an understatement. … This really says what Port Jefferson is all about.” She added, “The fact that we do have a fire department that helps train our kids and that they are ready to serve under any circumstances is just absolutely amazing and encouraging and amazing to me.”

Amid picturesque weather, a convoy of fire trucks, tractors, music and dance groups and assorted vehicles marched through the streets of Port Jefferson for this year’s annual Fourth of July parade. 

Hosted by the local fire department, the procession included a large collection of first responders. Joining PJFD were fire departments and ambulance corps representing Terryville, Setauket, Mount Sinai and Centereach, among many others. 

Also in attendance were dance groups that twirled and danced between fire units. In a strong display of patriotism, various community groups, volunteer organizations and hospital employees made appearances as well.

Hundreds of spectators lined the village blocks to watch the spectacle as it unfolded during the late morning. The parade lasted nearly two hours in its entirety.

— Photos by Raymond Janis 

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Photo from PJFD

It takes a team.

On Oct. 28, at approximately 7:05 p.m., Port Jefferson Fire Department rescue personnel joined Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers to respond to a report of two kayakers in distress in Port Jefferson Harbor.

According to PJFD, the department was alerted initially by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound of a possible kayaker in distress. 

With help from the Grand Republic — of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry — two victims were located on the west side of the inlet at the entrance of the harbor clinging to the jetty. 

Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, said that when two victims were spotted, the ferry captain moved the boat to where a rescue swimmer from Marine 6 entered the water and made contact with a man and woman on the jetty. 

“We used the searchlights on the boat and were able to spot them,” Hall said. “We were happy to come on the scene and help out at the appropriate time.”

Photo from PJFD

Hall said that the boats captain, Michael Purce, helped keep the boat steady as the roughly 30-minute rescue went on. 

PJFD 1st Assistant Chief Soeren Lygum said that when the Coast Guard put out the alert, all three agencies sprang into action within seconds apart. 

Captain Christian Neubert was one of nearly a dozen first responders who helped rescue the duo in the inlet. 

“It was a dangerous situation out there because of the strong current,” he said, adding that it was also high tide, so visibility was difficult because of rocks below the waterline.

Due to those jetty rocks, PJFD Inflatable 14 was deployed from Anchorage Road and used to transport the victims from the jetty to Marine 6. 

Neubert swam into the cold waters to help pull them into the department’s inflatable rescue boat manned by Ex-Chief Brennan Holmes and firefighter Joe Pisciotta. Ex-Chief Charlie Russo operated Marine 6 alongside Lieutenant Geoffrey Markson.

The victims were brought to the boat ramp by Russo and Markson where they were evaluated by Port Jefferson EMS.

Although exhausted, both individuals refused medical attention and ultimately were uninjured. 

“This is a scenario we practice so our rescue personnel are well trained for it,” Lygum said. “Everyone involved did a great job and it’s always a good day when everyone goes home safe.”

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

Royal spirit was in the air this past weekend when the 2021 homecoming festivities began.

Students, faculty, administrators, board of education members and community residents headed down to Main Street in Port Jefferson village to watch the student-run parade filled with festive floats.

Vehicles sporting floats from each grade level at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, Port Jefferson Middle School and even one from Edna Louise Spear Elementary School made their ways down the street as bystanders cheered the Royals on. 

Kicked off with an appearance from the Port Jefferson Fire Department, Royal cheerleaders marched along and football players roared as they got ready for their big homecoming game. The fun continued at a celebration in front of the high school with a recognition ceremony of senior football payers and cheerleaders before the afternoon game against Bayport-Blue Point.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

A farm complex broke out into flames Tuesday; Left: Seven Seas Construction helps combat the fire in Strong’s Neck. Photo from Setauket Fire Department

By Julianne Mosher & Rita J. Egan

When a fire broke out at a horse complex in Setauket Tuesday morning, more than a dozen different fire departments came together and helped.

One of those volunteers was Thomas Lund, owner of Seven Seas Construction Co. in Port Jefferson. 

Lund, who is also a volunteer firefighter with the Port Jefferson Fire Department, said he was aware of what was going on a town over and was gearing up to drive to work in Strong’s Neck when the fire broke out. 

“The fire happened to be sort of along the way. So, I figured I would bring the barge over,”  he said. “I knew they were bringing the fire boat, and I figured I could be a solid platform for them to work off of.”

While dozens upon dozens of fire trucks headed to the flames, along with the fire boat in the harbor, Lund said the team ended up using the water pump that he uses for dock building with his company. 

Photo from PJFD

“We were able to supply water until the fire broke out there,” he said. “At the very least we could give a hand because I knew it would be a big operation — a very small part of it, but I figured we could at least do something to help and we were able to, so it was great.” 

He added that for about 45 minutes, he and his fellow fighters stretched a line from his equipment on the deck, connecting it to another line at the dock. 

“It was a big operation from the start,” he said.

The fire initially broke out at 10 a..m Sept. 21 at 23 Brewster Lane, according to Setauket Fire Department Chief Scott Gressin. The SFD received mutual aid in excess of 16 surrounding departments.

The chief said a 19,000 square-feet structure, that was once used as an interior horse-riding arena, had heaving smoke and fire could be seen coming from multiple sides as firefighters arrived on the scene.

Gressin said the first approach was an offensive one; however, considering the fire load inside of the building, the first responders had to take a defensive approach.

There were no horses in the structure as it has not been used as a riding arena in some time. Gressin said horses in a nearby stable were under no threat. Two firefighters with burns were treated and released from the hospital.

Wednesday morning firefighters and investigators were still at the site. 

“It continues to be an active fire scene with a hazardous material incident involving buried propane tanks,” Gressin said. “I have multiple agencies working to mitigate the problem.”

Photo from PJFD

He said the SFD is coordinating with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services. At this time, he cannot anticipate when the investigation will be completed.

Brookhaven’s Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman said the origin and cause investigation was concluded Tuesday. He said the reason was human error as an electrical conductor that shouldn’t have been energized was. Two electricians who received electrical shocks were transported to the hospital. Mehrman did not have their present status at press time.

Mehrman said the intensity of the fire caused two 1,000-gallon propane tanks to leak. Even though they are underground, the valving is above. He said HazMat technicians are on the scene to control the flow. The fire marshal said neighbors are not in any danger because the propane is being burned off which means no gas is accumulating.  

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Dozens of people came together to remember September 11, 2001 last week during the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial early Saturday morning.

Port Jefferson firefighters, EMS and juniors lined up to salute three wreaths placed at the foot of the monument, while the names of Town of Brookhaven first responders who perished during the attacks were read. A bell rang every time a name was said. 

Port Jefferson School District music teacher Christian Neubert and students Kasumi Layne-Stasik and Andrew Patterson paid tribute to those who lost their lives with several moving musical performances. 

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Photo from Port Jefferson Fire Department

While members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department were out helping residents during Hurricane Ida, they had their own issues back at the village’s firehouse. 

According to the Port Jefferson Fire Department, water from the storm made its way into the firehouse, flooding the inside and submerging its antique Engine 3 in three feet of water. 

The 1946 American LaFrance’s engine crank filled with water and might have been completely ruined if it weren’t for the help of a fellow fireman.   

Danny Gruosso, a volunteer with the Terryville Fire Department and resident of Port Jefferson Station, said that this isn’t the first time he’s worked on the vintage truck known as, “The Frog.”

Photo from Port Jefferson Fire Department

Being a member of the adjacent department and a heavy equipment diesel mechanic by trade, Gruosso was asked before the COVID-19 pandemic to check the vehicle out since it was having some issues.  

“Then I get a phone call on Friday after the storm that the truck was underwater,” he said. “They called me in a panic, and I said, ‘Don’t touch it, leave it alone. Leave it in the parking lot and I’ll be down there soon.’”

Gruosso headed down to the firehouse and pulled the engine’s filters out. He drained the oil and refilled it, flushed it and cleaned it. After a three-day-long process, he was able to save the motor. 

“I was thankful that the storm was low tide because if that would have been saltwater, it would have been bad,” he said. “I still have a couple more things to just look over, but for the most part, she’s ready to rock and roll.”

A tedious project, he was happy to help out. 

“Between the two departments we’re like a family,” he said. “We always look out for each other, and we have a lot of respect for each other. It’s a good thing.”

While the antique engine survived this storm, Gruosso said he’s ready to help again if Port Jefferson sees more flooding during the rest of this season.

“I told them, if we’re going to get another storm, I’m coming down. I’ll take the day off and personally drive down here and drive it back to my house,” he said. “It won’t fit in my garage, but I live up the hill and I’ll put it in the driveway with my other trailers.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The North Shore of Long Island was hit hard when the aftermath of Tropical Depression Ida swept along the East Coast.

While the storm pummeled the Island Wednesday night, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Suffolk County. Severe flooding headed down Main Street, E Broadway and the side streets of Port Jefferson, causing damage to local stores, the Port Jefferson Fire Department and Theatre Three.

Photo from PJFD

On Wednesday night the fire department responded to numerous water rescue emergencies, and multiple victims were rescued from their vehicles by its High Water unit. They were joined by the Terryville Fire Department and Mount Sinai Fire Department.

According to the PJFD, in some cases, civilians were found on the roof of their vehicles, or trapped within a floating vehicle. Additionally, a landslide took place on Dark Hallow Road, which left the road essentially impassable with nearly 4-feet of mud and debris.

As a result of the landslide, eight families were evacuated from their apartment building due to unstable conditions of the land.

While fire department volunteers made their ways out to help others, they, too, were victims of the storm. The firehouse on Maple Avenue suffered extensive flood damage.

“Our firefighters did an excellent job coordinating multiple rescues,” said Chief of Department Todd Stumpf. “We have a lot of cleanup ahead, but we are fully in service and able to respond to all emergencies.”

Photo from PJFD

He added that fortunately no injuries were reported during the storm.

Down the street, Theatre Three said they had more than three-and-a-half feet of water inside as of Wednesday morning.

Executive artistic director Jeffrey Sanzel said that the theatre has had its fair share of floods throughout the years, and even though they were more prepared for Ida than others in the past, it was still a hard hit.

“This will be two or three days of cleaning,” he said, “But we’ll get it done and you won’t know what happened.”

Water record-setting levels heading too close for comfort to the stage downstairs. Sanzel said water knocked over and carried one of the dumpsters outside, as well as damaged dozens of costumes, furniture and a beautiful, donated upright piano that is now ruined.

Other businesses like Ruvo and Lavender Fields had flood damage and are currently in the midst of cleaning up.

“Port Jeff was hit again with a flash flood of over 7’’ of torrential rainfall,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “While it hit hard, we remain resilient and continue our work with the state emergency office and state agencies on our flood remediation efforts.”

Frederick J. Gumbus “Pop”, 97 years old of Port Jefferson, died May 9.

He was born May 5, 1924, in Stony Brook, the son of Anetah and Joseph Gumbus.

Fred served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-1945 and was stationed in Okinawa. He was a tail gunner who flew a B24 bomber. Fred was a retired machinist – Mill Right for LILCO.  Fred was a 73-year member of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, where he was an ex-captain and honorary chief of Hook and Ladder Company 1.

Left to cherish his memory are his daughters Betty and Carol; his sons Fred Jr, John, Henry and Frank; 12 grandchildren; 25 great grandchildren; and many other family and friends.

His parents along with his wife, Geneva, who was his high school sweetheart, preceded him in death. His son Joseph passed away shortly after.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home May 16. He was afforded full military honors at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. Visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.