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Sound Beach Fire Department

Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

Whether it is nurses taking care of COVID-19 patients, or Stop & Shop supermarket employees providing food for their community, the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce felt it was only appropriate to gather residents to salute frontline heroes and essential workers last Saturday.

“To all of our essential workers, and to all who have helped our community in the midst of this difficult time, thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Gary Pollakusky, president of RPSB chamber. “You’ve helped keep things together, and now life is returning back to normal.”

A leader in the pandemic has been Stony Brook University Hospital. The doctors, nurses and physicians have spent countless hours volunteering their time, playing a pivotal role to help stop the spread. 

Carol Gomes, chief executive officer and chief operating officer at SBU Hospital, credits her team as the overall backbone in response to COVID-19 in Suffolk County — which has had the lowest mortality rate across the downstate region. 

“We have weathered an incredibly difficult storm, but our health care heroes rose to the occasion, not once, but twice during surges and continue to do so every day as the pandemic still does continue,” Gomes said.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

According to the hospital, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 200,000 Suffolk County residents have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 3,000 have lost their lives. 

“We grieve with the families that have experienced loss but, as more people become fully vaccinated, we remain hopeful for brighter tomorrows,” she added.

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) also made an appearance at the event to express his gratitude toward the frontline heroes and essential workers. 

According to Palumbo, during the pandemic, government officials were able to continue working using Zoom. However, firefighters and police officers did not have that same option, making them true frontline heroes.

“You had to suit up and go into the belly of the beast, so when we use the phrase ‘frontlines,’ a military phrase, you were all absolutely the tip of the spear,” he said.

The ceremony concluded with a car caravan past the honorees through Rocky Point to Rocky Point Funeral Home.

Members from the Sound Beach Fire Department held their annual Memorial Day service. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Gone, but never forgotten.

In light of Memorial Day Monday, May 31, the Sound Beach Fire Department held their annual service to remember and mourn the losses of all the men and women who died in the name of freedom. 

Chief Darran Handshaw said the department also uses the day to remember their brothers and sisters who are no longer here.  

“Over the years, many organizations use this day, as we do, to remember and honor their own deceased members,” he said, addressing the crowd. “So today, the members of the Sound Beach Fire Department and our families, in our own way, observe Memorial Day.”

Handshaw added that this is the department’s 91st year. They wanted to remember and pay homage the members who helped build the foundation of the department that has been around for almost a century.

During the hour-long event, a dozen people sat inside the firehouse, as they listened to members read the names of nearly 50 people who impacted the department in one way or another. 

Eight-year-old Rocky Point Cub Scout Mason Ulscheimer kicked off the event with the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Family members of the deceased people came up to the podium to say the names of their loved ones, and tears were shed as the department’s honor roll was recited. 

“We all should reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and on those who die for those freedoms,” said Second Assistant Chief Alex Riley. “To any families of our fallen heroes who are here today, we say, ‘Thank you.’ We owe them and their loved ones our heartfelt gratitude and so much more.”

The event ended with Handshaw, Riley and First Assistant Chief Bill Rosasco placing a wreath at the department’s 9/11 memorial.

Members of the Sound Beach Fire Department, like Captain Greg Ferraro, give blood in memory of one of their own. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Almost five years after his death, an ex-captain of the Sound Beach Fire Department’s memory is still helping to save others. 

Jim Ford passed away on June 2016 after serving in the department for more than two decades. A beloved member of not only the department, but also within the Sound Beach community, Ford always was there to help. His wife, Nancy, still participates and volunteers with the auxiliary.

“Jim filled many shoes out of the office and in the office,” said Bill Rosasco, first assistant chief. “He loved it. He loved doing it. He loved being here at the firehouse.”

On top of his many roles, he founded and ran the department’s January blood drive, so it was only fitting to name it after him in 2018 — the first drive after his passing.

And on Saturday, Jan. 16, his memory was brought back at the firehouse at 152 Sound Beach Blvd., getting people together for something good. 

Ever since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, blood donations have been at an all-time low, according to the New York Blood Center. Schools, businesses and community centers halted blood drives early on, in fear of too many gatherings and the uneasiness of the virus. 

Sound Beach Fire Departmen’ts ex-captain, Jim Ford, who passed away nearly five years ago, is still making an impact at the fire house with an annual blood drive in his name. Photo from Stefanie Handshaw

The Sound Beach Fire Department usually hosts two blood drives in honor of their own. January is dedicated to Ford, while July memorializes Ex-Capt. John Drews Jr. But because of the pandemic, the July drive was canceled. 

The drive this past weekend was the first since the pandemic began.

“We wanted to still run this blood drive,” said Chief Darran Handshaw. “Even though we shut the department down for all the other meetings, we still wanted to do this because we know how important it is.”

Handshaw said that everyone on the board wanted to make sure the January drive went on, despite the department shutdown. 

“This is an emergency,” he added. “We need to get blood out there.”

He said that to make this month’s blood drive work, they took precautions including temperature monitoring, social distancing and a fogger machine that can decontaminate the room before the event and after. 

But the drive wouldn’t be happening without Ford’s spirit. 

“This would be something that Captain Ford would be here helping out with, even during [the pandemic],” Handshaw said. “It’s an honorable effort for an honorable man, so we’re going to do something honorable that serves the community for him and his death.”

Saturday’s event had more than 20 appointments, a dozen walk-ins and 31 pints of blood were collected, according to Margaret DeTurris, president of the department. Each pint of blood can help up to three people — so these 31 pints will impact 93 lives. 

“Jim was a great example  of wisdom and honor,” Handshaw said. “In my eyes, that inspired a lot of us to behave well and do the right thing for the community. He’s missed every day.” 

The Sound Beach Fire Department is actively seeking volunteers to serve as firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The department provides free training for those positions. To join contact the chief’s office at 631-744-2294.

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The Wading River Fire Department building on North Country Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local fire departments are gearing up for their annual commissioner elections, and most districts in the local area, save Wading River, are looking at uncontested races.

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. The commissioners determine yearly budgets, go out for grants and propose bonds to maintain equipment and personnel of both the district and department.

TBR News Media reached out to the local fire departments to talk to the commissioner candidates. Candidates talked about how COVID-19 has caused budgetary concerns, and along with current ongoing projects, how they try to recruit new members during a time of a pandemic.

Mount Sinai Fire Department. Photo by Kyle Barr

Mount Sinai Fire District

The Mount Sinai Fire District is holding an election Dec. 8 for a five-year commissioner seat. Incumbent Joseph Tacopina is running uncontested for a seat he’s held since 2002.

Tacopina said in a phone interview he has been with the Mount Sinai Fire Department for 35 years. Since he’s been commissioner, he said the board has worked to keep the percentage yearly tax increase below the New York State tax cap. Still, the district’s five-year plan does not include any big-ticket items, he said, and instead focuses on things like replacing the boiler in the main firehouse and other capital improvements.

“We’ve been streamlining processes through the department, but there are budgetary constraints based on COVID, so some of the projects we were looking to do are minimal in scope,” he said.

The pandemic has brought forth a host of new costs to the district, things that they previously wouldn’t have had to pay for. Tacopina said there were costs associated with sanitizing the firehouse and firefighter equipment, and they have had to spend much more on cleaning supplies and other PPE. At certain points, the district had to close the building to nonessential service for small time periods because of positive infections among volunteers or staff. It has also made recruitment for volunteer-starved departments like Mount Sinai that much harder.

“All these additional costs are not budgeted — we have to spend on sanitizing equipment so we can have our members respond without infecting everybody,” he said.

The election is set for Dec. 8  at the main firehouse located at 746 Mount Sinai-Coram Road from 6 to 9 p.m. The district is also asking residents to vote on a proposition that would make it so an active member can become a participant of the service award program at age 17, instead of 18. The annual cost of the program would increase from $265,200, or $2,160 per participant, to $288,400, or $2,060 per participant.

Tacopina said the district is attempting to allow younger people in their youth programs to become active members sooner to allow them earlier access to firefighter training. Currently young members must turn 18 before joining such training, which usually only allows them a small period for which to train and then work on trucks. Doing this would allow firefighter training for the summer before, so once they turn 18 they’re already ready to become full-fledged members.

“This way before they go to college, we have them for that summer as well,” the commissioner said.

Miller Place Fire Department. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Fire District

Miller Place has one commissioner term up for election. Incumbent commissioner Larry Fischer is seeking another five-year term starting Jan. 1 next year. 

Fischer, a 31-year member of the department, has served five terms on the board of fire commissioners. It’s been a long road, though the ongoing pandemic has led to a host of new challenges. 

He said the department has been mostly shut down for all non-call and emergency response activities. The department has had to greatly limit the number of training sessions, which along with limitations at fire school, has limited the availability of new recruits to get the training they need.

Still, the important thing, Fischer said, is that they’re still answering calls, which even before the pandemic, close to 70% of calls were for EMS. Like other districts, the pandemic has put an added cost on the district from having to purchase PPE and sanitizing equipment. Just this past week, the department hosted both rapid and the three-day COVID-19 tests for department members.

“We want to make sure our members are safe, especially our EMTs” he said. “I salute the EMTs who are really on the front lines of this.” 

Within the past year or so, the district updated their 20-year-old phone system. Though they had applied for a grant in 2019, the department ended up having to pay out of pocket, and that equipment was finally delivered at the beginning of this year.

Though the commissioner is hope for a return to something resembling normal next spring and summer following the release of a vaccine, that will not be the end to issues in the area. He shared his concern for the ongoing opioid crisis, which data has shown has only been accentuated because of the pandemic. He hopes that they can be allowed to go back in schools sometime in the near future to provide some training and awareness for students related to opioids.

The election is held at the main firehouse at 12 Miller Place Road Dec. 8 from 4 to 9 p.m.

Sound Beach Fire District headquarters at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. Photo from Google Maps

Sound Beach Fire District

The Sound Beach Fire District is hosting its election for a five-year commissioner seat. Incumbent Richard McKay is running for his seat unopposed.

McKay was appointed three years ago to finish the term of a previous commissioner who vacated his position. With several decades of experience as both a firefighter and EMT, he previously served as a commissioner for another department and said he originally did not expect to be elected again.

“I told them I’ll try it out for the year, but we did really well — all the commissioners play nicely in the sandbox — so now I’m running for a full term,” he said.

He said the main purpose of the district and commissioners is to maintain service without putting the onus on taxpayers. Last year Sound Beach residents voted to approve a $2.9 million bond to complete repairs and work at the main firehouse that hasn’t seen work in years. Most of the work is repairs and maintenance, McKay said. Repairs and fixes include a makeover of the parking lot, new epoxy floor finishing in the ambulance bays and apparatus room, sprinkler and fire alarm system replacements and window replacements on both floors. 

“The floors inside the firehouse are crumbling and in one part of the building a wall has a crack in it,” he said. “Almost every window leaks.” 

While the district has made budgets that have gone under the state tax cap for the past several years, this is the first time they will pierce the tax cap due to paying off the bond.

The other big issue the district faces is a lack of volunteers, McKay said. It’s especially hard nowadays to get people to dedicate the necessary amount of time for both training and to be on call.

The election is set for Dec. 8 at the firehouse located at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. from 2 to 9 p.m.

The Rocky Point Fire Department building in Shoreham. Photo by Kevin Redding

Rocky Point Fire District

Rocky Point is hosting its election Dec. 8 to elect a commissioner to a five-year term. Incumbent commissioner John Buchner is running unopposed.

Buchner did not respond to a request for an interview by press time.

The election is set for Dec. 8 at the district building at the Shoreham firehouse, located at 49 Route 25A, between 3 and 9 p.m.

The contested fire commissioner race in Wading River is set for a vote Dec. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

Wading River Fire District

Wading River remains one of the few contested elections for commissioner this year. The seat is for a five-year term starting Jan. 1, 2021, and ending Dec. 31, 2025. 

Incumbent commissioner of 15 years Jim Meier is facing off against previous commissioner Tim Deveny.

Meier, a third-generation firefighter and 41-year member of the department, said he is running again to continue the work they are doing in upgrading equipment and boost declining membership. He also boasted there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the department, meaning they have maintained a continuity of service throughout the pandemic.

“It’s all about the safety and the financial end,” he said. “We have a board that’s working together well right now.”

He said the district has purchased two ambulances and a new ladder truck in the last two years using capital funds without having to rely on other financial institutions. He also boasted about other grants the district has received in the past several years, including a $200,000 grant for radio systems in 2015. 

“With all that saving we can purchase new rigs to keep us going,” he said.

The station 2 firehouse on Hulse Landing Road has been closed for nearly two years now, saying the chief of department originally closed it for mold issues, among other building problems, and they “haven’t been able to reopen it.” That building is now being used for storage, save for a single emergency vehicle, while apparatus and equipment that was housed there has been moved to the main firehouse along North Country Road. Members that used to report to the second firehouse now respond to the main one.

The biggest issue, Meier said, is a lack of enough volunteers to man that station. He said despite additional travel time for some members to get to the station, the move has actually improved response time, as with a single alarm, instead of people responding to two separate houses, more people are available right next to the necessary equipment.

“Most people from that end [of Wading River] were getting older or moving out,” Meier said. “As bad as it is to have the station closed, it’s helped our response time.”

Deveny, a 23-year member and past commissioner from 2004 to 2014, said he is running again because of the issue with the station 2 firehouse, which he said was a major disruption in service to the eastern portion of the Wading River hamlet.

“Public safety — that’s what it’s all about,” Deveny said. “In this day and age when EMS calls are escalating, you take away from the people on the east end?”

He disagreed with the current board saying there are not enough volunteers to staff the station 2 building, saying that as he has worked there, they had 16 people who responded there and were “locked out” in February of last year. He said problems such as the mold issue have already been rectified, and some volunteers taking the trek to the main firehouse has meant a drive time of 10 minutes or more. He added people on his side of town “still don’t know they closed that station down.”

“I’m so angry I can eat glass,” he said. “You can’t put a price on human life.”

The candidate also criticized the district for piercing the state tax cap two years in a row, saying the district needs to work on its financial situation. He said the department did not require a ladder truck when other nearby departments could provide such equipment in a pinch, adding there were no large houses in Wading River that would require that apparatus.

The election is set for the main firehouse located at 1503 N. Country Road, Dec. 8 between 2 and 9 p.m.

Sound Beach firefighter Cheyenne Enlund shows dedication in her volunteer work despite trying times at home. Photo by Stephanie Handshaw

By Peggy Spellman Hoey

Family has always been important to firefighter Cheyenne Enlund, so it is no coincidence that when she joined the Sound Beach Fire Department’s Explorer program as a teenager, she soon found a new extended, adoptive family of brothers and sisters. It’s a family that she never let down despite trying times at home, friends and public officials say.

“Even with her father passing, she kept going and going, and she never quit,” said Chief of Department Michael Rosasco.

Enlund, a 24-year-old Sound Beach resident, has been credited by officials for continuing to take an active role, volunteering her time with the fire department all while juggling a full-time job at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, where she now works as a patient care technician. But what makes her stand out is that she showed dedication to her volunteerism during the illnesses and subsequent deaths from cancer of both her parents, first her mother, Linette, two years ago, and then her father, Patrick, just last year. It’s that dedication that earned her the department’s 2018 Firefighter of the Year award.

She’s very giving, always caring for other people — she puts others before herself, she’s an all-around amazing person.” 

Molly Searight

“She’s a beautiful person,” said Suffolk Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who nominated Enlund for The Village Beacon Record’s Person of the Year after learning of her story while attending the fire department’s award ceremony.

Normally, firefighter of the year is an honor reserved for a firefighter who makes a save during a working house fire. However, because the hamlet can be relatively quiet, the department in the past has also chosen individuals who go above and beyond the minimum requirement in their service, according to Rosasco.

“She was always very clearheaded,” he said. “She was always very cheerful, even though you know it was hurting her. She was always a good ray of sunshine for someone when you saw her.”

Enlund joined the fire department’s Explorer program in her early teens and worked her way up through the ranks to become a full-fledged firefighter, now serving as chief rescue truck driver. Other roles in the department have included organizing the department’s picnic, competing on the muster team, and advising junior firefighters in the Explorer program.

Friend Molly Searight, 19, first met Enlund five years ago when she trained under her guidance in the explorer program. There, Enlund served as a female lead, teaching young women the ins and outs of fire training and first aid, often offering even the tiniest pointers to help her inexperienced charges improve their first-responder skills.

Searight describes Enlund as “strong willed” and the type of person who “persists through everything” and “tries her hardest” at whatever tasks she faces.  

“She’s very giving, always caring for other people — she puts others before herself,” Searight said, adding, “She’s an all-around amazing person.”

Anker said she is most impressed by Enlund’s dedication and outreach in the community.

“I feel that she is so deserving of recognition, and I am sure that she does not want the recognition, but those [people] are the type who should be recognized — people who are helping people for the right reason,” she said.

 

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Sound Beach Fire District headquarters at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. Photo from Google Maps

Sound Beach residents were invited to a public information meeting Sept. 24 at the Sound Beach Fire District headquarters to provide public comment on a proposed bond resolution to fund repairs and renovations to the building.  

The scope of work for the fire district headquarters would cost $2,920,000, officials said. Repairs to the parking lot and concrete apron replacement would cost $750,000, while $250,000 would go toward epoxy floor finishing in the ambulance bays and apparatus room. Window replacements on both floors of the building would cost $400,000. Other repairs include a sprinkler system replacement and a new fire alarm system. The last major renovation on the building was 30 years ago. 

The tax rate impact for homeowners would approximately be $4.53 per 100 of assessed value. Homeowners would see a $91 tax increase. 

The referendum vote for the proposed projects will be held on Oct. 15 from 2 to 9 p.m. at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. If passed, construction could begin during fall 2020. 

The night of Sept. 11, 2019 was one of solemn remembrance. Community members, Boy Scouts and firefighters gathered in ceremony in both Shoreham and Sound Beach to show that fateful day would not be forgotten.

The event was attended by members of the Wading River, Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai fire departments, as well as Boy Scout Troops 161 and 244, as well as several county, town and state officials.

Many of those younger people who gathered at the 9/11 Community Memorial site in Shoreham with their families were not even alive on that day in 2001. Yet those from the Rocky Point Fire Department and 9/11 Memorial Committee who spoke asked all to remember those several local residents and rescue workers who died 18 years ago. They also spoke of the hundreds who have died after the 9/11 attacks from health issues gained while at the site of the towers and in the weeks afterwards working in the rubble.

In Sound Beach, local residents gathered with the Sound Beach Fire Department gathered community members together in recognition of the historic date. The ceremony was led with opening remarks by Chief of Department Michael Rosasco and Chaplain McKay, who also led with closing prayers.

Events were held across the North Shore last week in honor of Veterans Day.

State and local officials gathered to remember all those who served, and celebrate those still serving at local parks and memorials.

Events included a Veterans Day service at Sound Beach Veterans Memorial Park. Resident Debbie Goldhammer presented Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto and all of the veterans in attendance with a themed painting and three hand-painted rocks from her client David Weinstein, a quadriplegic who couldn’t be in attendance but wanted to thank his local veterans.

Heritage Park in Mount Sinai displayed its annual Parade of American Flags. Members of Mount Sinai Boy Scout Troop 390 — Brian McCrave, Trevor Satchell-Sabalja, John Lamparter, Kim DeBlasio, Joseph McDermott, Matthew Lamparter, Brandon McCrave, John DeBlasio and Jake DeBlasio — helped assemble the flags.

A speech and presentation of wreaths ceremony commemorated the day at East Setauket Memorial Park.

Huntington Town officials paid a special tribute to all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces in a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. The ceremony placed special recognition to this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I with a flowered wreath laid at the flagpole memorial.

In addition, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) held a moment of silence for two Huntington veterans who have recently died.

Dominick Feeney Sr., a longtime Huntington Town highway supervisor and former organizer of the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade,  served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He died Oct. 15.

Northport resident Alice Early Fay, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and Korean War and received many awards including the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the National Campaign Medal.  She was a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board and was chairwoman of the committee that built the town’s Women Veterans Memorial in front of town hall. Fay died Nov. 2.

Stock photo

Give blood and save a life! The Sound Beach Fire Department, located at 152 Sound Beach Blvd., Sound Beach is holding its 20th annual blood drive in memory of John Drews Jr. on Friday, July 7, from 3 to 9 p.m. All donors will receive two Mets tickets. Donor requirements include a valid ID, age requirement of 16 to 75 years old (over 75 need a doctor’s note) and a minimum weight of 110 pounds. Eat well and drink fluids before donating. No new tattoos for the past 12 months. Walk-ins are welcome. For more information, call John at 631-336-0626.