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Terryville Fire Department

Photo by Nicole Waldemar

Zebra Tech employees, who are also first responders, gathered on Friday, Sept. 10 at 9:45 a.m. to remember their fellow service members who lost their lives during September 11, 2001.

During the event, Zebra Emergency Response Team members came in uniform, including Scout Master Jeff Weissman, Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Darran Handshaw, Terryville Fire Department Ex-Captain Martin Sebel, Rocky Point Fire Department firefighter David Singer, Middle Island Fire Department Ex-Chief Craig Tunjian, and Sayville Community Ambulance 2nd Assistant Chief Liz White.

Weissman spoke about how his scout troop worked with Symbol (now part of Zebra Tech) employees at the building to gather 180,000 bottles of water that were trucked into Ground Zero to support the rescue and recovery efforts.

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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.”

Stock photo
Councilman Jonathan Kornreich

Please join Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich for a Special Recycling Event this Saturday, April 24th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Terryville Fire Department, 19 Jayne Blvd, Port Jefferson Station. Residents can recycle electronic waste, safely dispose of medication, and shred sensitive documents.

E-Waste Collection Recycle your old electronics. Please do not bring carbon monoxide/smoke detectors, light bulbs or batteries.

Paper Shredding  Please remove any rubber bands, binders, clips and any hard covers.

Shed the Meds! Dispose of your pills and prescriptions. They will be safely and securely collected by the local Sheriff’s Department.

*This event is for Town of Brookhaven residents only.

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The Port Jefferson and Terryville Fire Comissioner elections will be held Dec. 8. File photo by Kyle Barr

The two local fire departments are gearing up for their annual elections, both with one fire commissioner seat apiece up for vote. In both fire districts, incumbents are running unopposed and looking to retain their seats.

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.

Port Jefferson Fire District

The Port Jefferson Fire District is hosting its annual commissioner election, with current commissioner board chairman, Tom Totten, running uncontested for his seat. He has been chairman since 2006.

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

The vote will take place Dec. 8 at the firehouse located at 115 Maple Place between 3 and 9 p.m.

Terryville Fire District

The Terryville Fire District’s annual commissioner election also includes a separate proposition asking residents to approve expenditures for communications enhancements districtwide.

This year Board of Fire Commissioners chairman, James Rant, is running unopposed to retain his seat. Rant is a 36-year member of the department and has been commissioner for 10 years. He’s now seeking a third term.

In a phone interview Rant said he originally ran back in 2010 to offer his experience and knowledge to make sure people’s tax money is spent “as prudently as possible.”

This year, the pandemic has introduced numerous new strains on the department’s emergency services, an event which practically no entity from hospitals to governments had any playbook for dealing with a worldwide virus. Rant said the district and department had to scramble to procure the necessary personal protective equipment along with disinfecting supplies, all of which were an added cost in both supplies and manpower. Now, however, the commissioner said they are prepared for the current surge.

“We’ve been holding our own — obviously there was no playbook,” Rant said. “We did prepare for the surge we’re having now. We have cleaning supplies, gloves and other equipment coming up into the fall and winter season. We’re in pretty good shape.”

As far as the additional proposition, voters are being asked to authorize the district to purchase and upgrade its communication equipment and systems at a price not to exceed $783,000.

Rant said the district has been preparing for this big expenditure for the past few years, and the purchase will not impact residents’ taxes. 

“It’s moving us along with the times in terms of communications,” he said. “Good communication for a fire department’s operations is crucial.”

The purchase includes new radio technology both in the field and at base. Technology will also allow the district to adjust temperature and turn on/off lights, which will reduce energy waste and potentially save money.

The district had previously been planning to potentially place a cell tower at the station 1 firehouse on Jayne Boulevard, which would have brought in some revenue to the district, but Rant said that the decision was made a few months ago to drop those plans.

The commissioner said the issue was if the district allowed a cell tower to go up at that location then companies would need 24/7 access, and they “weren’t willing to submit our neighbors in the middle of the night have work trucks and power tools going on.”

The vote will take place Dec. 8 at the main firehouse located at 19 Jayne Blvd., Port Jefferson Station, between 2 and 9 p.m.

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 Port Jefferson Station-based LI Tower Partners. 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.

This article was amended Oct. 15 to correct the company that is constructing the tower.

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. 8. File photo by Kyle Barr

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.