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Terryville Fire Department

Terryville EMS members, including, from left, Lauren Maloney, Andrew Hoyt, Tom Fauteux, Daniel Ortiz, Jacob Parrish and Gina Brett. Photo by Kyle Barr

If we are to keep using war terms to describe the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, calling nurses and doctors “soldiers” who are “on the front lines,” whose personal protective equipment are like “tools” or “weapons” in the fight against COVID-19, then the Emergency Medical service members, whether paid or volunteer, truly are the ones who make first contact with the enemy.

Joe DiBernardo, President of the Lieutenant Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation, donates masks to Kyle Matura of the Miller Place FD. Photo from DiBernardo

Though members of local EMS services said they don’t know exactly how to feel about that terminology. If anything, it’s the unknown of every situation that makes the whole thought stick.

“Every patient is a risk,” said Daniel Ortiz, an EMS member of the Terryville Fire Department. “That’s where I guess they say it’s a war zone, because you don’t know what you’re walking into.”

EMS members from all over the North Shore have experienced a heavy time of stress during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, though as the number of cases seems to have plateaued as New York enters the middle of April, these service members, both paid and volunteer, are still asking people to continue their social distancing, as we’re not out of the woods yet.

The emergency service members said they have been wearing much more gear than normal, including masks, head coverings, face shields and eye protection. Every single call they go on is in this gear, since every case is now treated like a COVID-19 situation, despite what might have been said by the caller on the phone.

“We trained for this, and I can honestly say this is the first time in 10 years that I’ve seen anybody suit up other than your annual refresher,” said Terryville member of the EMS squad Andrew Hoyt.

While the Terryville Fire District only covers about eight square miles, the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps. covers nearly 15 square miles, dipping into both the Huntington and Smithtown townships. 

Joseph Vollers, the 3rd assistant chief of the Commack corps., said they have been helping neighboring districts with their call volumes, including Brentwood, which has been a particularly large hotspot for coronavirus cases. With that, they have gone from one to two full crews with a driver and EMT available at all times. Terryville has effectively done the same, moving from one to two ambulances available.

“It’s a pretty big area we have to cover,” Vollers said.

Other fire districts increased the load and numbers of EMTs and paramedics on a shift. The extra hard part has been decontamination, as now after every call both the people on the truck and the truck itself have to be cleaned from top to bottom. 

If the job was stressful before, the understanding that one might be potentially taking the virus home with them after each stress only adds to the level of concern. Most agreed they had never seen anything at this scale. While EMS members knew they had to be aware of contractible diseases, such as tuberculosis, flu, scabies or even bed bugs, the pandemic levels of how far the virus has spread, every single person is approached as if they have SARS-CoV-2. 

David Sterne, the Setauket Fire District Manager, said there were five cases of COVID-19 in the department, with more staying home with suspected cases. Though as of now, four of those cases have returned to work. In Terryville, they’ve had two cases out of the 15 paid paramedic staff and 25 volunteer EMTs.

“It’s stressful for a lot of reasons,” Sterne said. “We’re in their environment where there could be infectious viral loads. If a patient is sick, it could be 10 or 15 minutes to take them to the hospital … everyone fears bringing it home to their families and loved ones.”

Sterne added the district has had to make do with a lack of certain items, such as the coveted N95 masks for their medical personnel. New policy has been these masks, which are normally only supposed to be used once and then thrown away, have been used multiple times. Setauket FD had been concerned at several points with limited supplies, but with support from Suffolk County, Sterne said they are now in a relatively good spot.

But support for the fire departments are coming from all corners and some unexpected places. On Wednesday, April 15, retired FDNY Deputy Chief Joe DiBernardo, who is president of the Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation, worked with y Fire Hooks Unlimited, a company that manufactures tools and supplies for firefighters and police, to deliver 100 N95 masks to the Miller Place Fire Department and 200 to the Setauket Fire Department.

Joe DiBernardo, president of the Lieutenant Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation, center, donates masks to the Setauket Fire Department. Photo from DiBernardo

The memorial foundation is for DiBernardo’s son, Joe DiBernardo, who was injured in the line of duty during a tenement fire in 2005. He died as a result from his injuries in 2011. The foundation works to train and equip firefighters in need.

Now the districts have settled into the routine and have seen a small improvement in the number of calls from mid-to-late March, where the number of coronavirus deaths started to rise with startling speed. 

With suspected coronavirus patients, it wasn’t so much the usual dealing with people having injuries or back and abdominal pains, it was instead situations where a person might desperately need oxygen. While the numbers of people with heart attacks and other sudden traumas have stayed the same, EMT staff said people calling for respiratory issues tripled in the month of March.

Other, more usual calls of non-life threatening injuries dropped off significantly. EMTs said this was largely because people did not want to go to the hospital where the possibility of viral infection was that much higher.

“I think there’s people afraid to go to the hospital,” said Gina Brett, the Terryville EMS coordinator. “They say, ‘I don’t want to go to the hospital for knee pain, because I might get very sick at the hospital.’”

District officials said that despite the load, they’ve managed.

“Overall it hasn’t been exceedingly stressful where we can’t function,” Vollers said. “Our crews have been amazing at overcoming all stresses, with 2, 3, 4 calls back-to-back, they’ve done a great job.”

Despite the stress, the service members agreed their communities have been excellent in their care and even compassion. The Commack Fire Department, for example, recently held a drive where community members donated over 500 items, both nonperishable food and medical supplies. 

Otherwise, EMTs said the best thing for people to do is continue social distancing to help flatten the curve. Another suggestion is after calling 911, people should meet the EMTs and paramedics outside the home in order to best reduce first responders’ interaction with anything that may be contaminated. 

“It is an incredibly long time to have that level of awareness and vigilance,” said paramedic Dr. Lauren Moloney, an associate medical director for the Stony Brook University paramedic program. “God knows how long it’s going to go on for. That’s the hardest thing — trying to find what is your date you’re trying to get through.”

This article was amended April 16 to amend the nature of Fire Hooks Unlimited’s operations.

This article was amended April 17 to correct the name of the Commack volunteer ambulance corps.

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The cell tower has been proposed for the southwestern portion of the property. Photo from Google maps

The Terryville Fire District is moving ahead on plans for a cell tower at its main firehouse, one they say could make the difference in emergency situations. 

The fire district has proposed creating a 120-foot monopole cell tower at the southwest portion of the property. Steve Petras, the district manager, said they are working with East Patchogue-based tower construction company Elite-Towers LP, which on its website says it specializes in working with municipalities to build these towers in conjunction with cell service providers (www.elite-towers.com). While Petras said they have not yet confirmed which provider would be on the tower, he mentioned AT&T was currently at the top of the list.

The cell tower, which district officials called a “mobile communications tower,” will include apparatus to extend the reach of the fire department’s radio equipment. 

So far, the final engineering reports have yet to come in, according to Petras. At its last meeting, March 26, the Town of Brookhaven voted unanimously to waive the site plan requirements and building fees for the cell tower, due to the district being a nonprofit. The fire district would still need to bring such a plan before the Town Planning Board in public hearings.

In May of last year, residents living near the Terryville Fire Department’s Station 2 firehouse on Canal Road vehemently protested the proposed cell tower. That tower had been proposed for the rear of the property, closer to the trees on the north side of the facility. 

Residents had complained that it would be an eyesore and decrease their property values. Leaders of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association joined in the protest, saying the fire district had not properly advertised its intentions to residents.

District officials disputed that, saying they had placed a legal notice in the March 16, 2017, edition of The Port Times Record on proposals for a cell tower on Canal Road and Jayne Boulevard as well as broadcasted those plans on all the digital signs outside each firehouse.

“When we sat down at those meetings, nobody from the community came out,” Petras said.

However, the new proposed location for the cell tower is enclosed, not by residential homes, but by retail businesses. 

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said he has not been contacted yet by the fire district, but the civic has not yet taken a stance on such a cell tower at the Jayne Boulevard location and would have to talk to the few people residing in the area, such as those living in the Fairfield Gardens on Terryville Road. 

However, of the three firehouses that could house a cell tower, “that’s the most desirable one,” he said.

The district manager said the fire district’s main justification in building a tower is two pronged. One is to eliminate dead zones within the district, while the other is to open up more potential revenue to the district to try and help keep taxes down.

The first point could mean the difference between a quick or slow response, or life and death.

“We’re having a hard time communicating with portable radios,” Petras said. “All our apparatus is outfitted with 4G, but we’re getting really bad reception in some areas — that’s a life safety issue for us … that’s unacceptable.”

The district manager said he did not yet know how much revenue the district would receive from the cell tower, and, depending on which service picks it up, the fire district would not have to spend time or money on building it or its maintenance.

Terryville Fire Department's Main Fire House
Captain James Guma of Company 1. Provided photo from James Guma.

Terryville Fire District election results are in, and Captain James Guma of Company 1 has been elected to a five-year term as commissioner.

Guma won over his opponent, department volunteer member Daniel Gruoso, with a total of 275 ballots, counting both numbers at the polls and absentee ballots, according to District Clerk Frank Triolo. Gruoso garnered a total of 200 votes both in-person and absentee, but he also gained 21 affidavit votes. Guma received four.

“I would just like to thank all my supporters, and I’m looking forward to a great five years,” Guma said. He also thanked his opponent for his continued service to the community as a member of the department.

Gruoso also thanked his opponent for a good race, adding “Jim will do a good job.”

 

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.