01/07/14 9:33am
01/07/2014 9:33 AM

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | One of the two vehicles involved in a Tuesday morning crash on Route 24 in Calverton that sent two people to a hospital.

Two people were transported to a hospital Tuesday morning after two cars collided near the intersection of Route 24 and Long Island Expressway in Calverton.

According to Suffolk County police, one driver was attempting to turn onto the southbound LIE ramp, while the other driver was headed southbound on Route 24. The two cars crashed shortly after 8 a.m., police said.

Sgt. Dave Kopycinski said he was unsure which car was attempting to turn onto the LIE. Both drivers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

“It’s just people not paying attention,” Sgt. Kopycinski said.

Suffolk County police, Riverhead fire department, Wading River fire department, Riverhead volunteer ambulance corps and Manorville volunteer ambulance all responded to the scene.

Route 24 was briefly closed following the crash.


01/06/14 11:05am
01/06/2014 11:05 AM


Riverhead firefighters doused a truck fire Monday morning in Baiting Hollow that charred a Dodge pickup.

Volunteers responded around 10 a.m. to Fox Hill Village, near Giorgio’s restaurant, to a fully involved pickup. About 40 firefighters came to the scene of the fire, which luckily was not inside a garage but rather in a driveway.

“It was easy to contain, but difficult to put out because of the fuel,” said first assistant fire chief Kevin Brooks.

Riverhead fire marshals are investigating how the fire started.

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A Dodge pickup was engulfed in flames Monday morning.

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A Dodge pickup was engulfed in flames Monday morning.

01/02/14 1:16pm
01/02/2014 1:16 PM
TOM LAMBUI PHOTO/LIHOTSHOTS.COM | Firefighters battle a Riverside Drive house fire from the roof Wednesday.

TOM LAMBUI PHOTO/LIHOTSHOTS.COM | Firefighters battle a Riverside Drive house fire from the roof Wednesday.

A fire on New Year’s Day that sent a man to the hospital with second-degree burns on his face was caused after someone in the house took ashes from the home’s wood stove and placed them under the back deck, eventually sparking a flame which gutted the Riverside Drive home.

According to chief fire marshal Craig Zitek, ashes placed outside insulated some embers that must have been in the pile.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people do that type of thing,” he said. “They don’t realize the coals that are left over from the burning woods. And ash is a very good insulator, so when it sits at the bottom of the fireplace or wood stove, those coals can stay hot for two or three days. Maybe longer. And if they come into contact with anything combustible, they will ignite it.”

About 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Riverhead police and fire departments — as well as emergency responders from Flanders, Jamesport, Eastport and Wading River Fire Departments — responded to the scene of the fire, knocking it down in about an hour. Close to 80 firefighters in total responded.

At the time of the fire, three individuals were inside the home, which belongs to artist Rani Carson, whom a neighbor described as retired. Ms. Carson had taught art classes at Suffolk County Community College.

Mr. Zitek suggested that individuals who are removing ash should place it in a metal garbage can, at least 10 feet away from a home.

“This way, if something does ignite, the only thing that’s going to burn is the garbage can,” he said. “We investigate a fair number of these each year.”

Mr. Zitek also suggested dousing the ashes with water outside.

As far as damage to the home itself, he said “unfortunately there’s a lot of damage.” Despite the fact that the fire occurred outside, firefighters had to rip open walls to check the status of wood beams, which — due to construction methods at the time — run all the way from the basement to the attic.

Michael White contributed to this article.

01/01/14 1:38pm
01/01/2014 1:38 PM
TOM LAMBUI PHOTO/LIHOTSHOTS.COM | Firefighters battle a Riverside Drive house fire from the roof Wednesday.

T.J. LAMBUI PHOTO/LI HOTSHOTS | Firefighters battle a Riverside Drive fire from the roof.

A Riverside Drive home owned by a local artist was gutted by fire Wednesday, sending one man to a hospital with burns to his face and requiring 80 volunteer firefighters from five nearby fire departments.

The fire broke out in the back of the two-story home shortly after 11 a.m., said Riverhead Fire Department spokesman Bill Sanok.

“When we arrived, there was heavy smoke coming from the back,” Mr. Sanok said. “The whole back of the building is torched.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by Riverhead Fire Marshals.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Firefighters douse the remnants of a Riverside Drive fire on Wednesday.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Firefighters douse the remnants of Wednesday’s fire on Riverside Drive.

Riverhead police arrived on scene first, followed by the Riverhead Fire Department and shortly after, the Flanders Fire Department’s rapid intervention team.

Jamesport and Eastport Fire Departments followed suit, and a Wading River Fire Department ambulance reported on scene as well.

The home is owned by artist Rani Carson, whom a neighbor described as retired. Ms. Carson had taught art classes at Suffolk County Community College.

Mr. Sanok said three people were able to escape from the home safely, including the injured man.

The injured man was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of second-degree burns, said Lisa Corwin, assistant chief with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Fire squads had to take to the roof to cut holes in the roof and a second floor wall to allow the fire to ventilate as they fought it, Mr. Sanok said.

The fire was under control in about an hour and volunteers were still on scene as of 1 p.m.

Neighbor A.J. Lacombe, who lives across the street from the damaged home, said he was alerted of the fire by his barking dog and saw quite the surprise upon looking across the street.

“I went out to see the police were here, then came the firefighters,” he said. “I saw the flames over the fence, about six feet tall.

“It was a matter of minutes and it went right up.”


12/20/13 12:00pm
12/20/2013 12:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Fire Police Patrol 2nd Lt. Justin Winter, Jr. redirects traffic outside the scene of a kitchen fire this fall.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Fire Police Patrol 2nd Lt. Justin Winter, Jr. redirects traffic outside the scene of a kitchen fire this fall.

As fire trucks rushed into the parking lot of a Riverhead apartment building, volunteer firefighter Paul Sparrow stood along a stretch of Roanoke Avenue, halting vehicles with a glowing traffic baton to allow the engines through.

“Everybody likes the flashy jobs … but we try to bring a little order to the fire scenes,” said Mr. Sparrow, a 40-year Riverhead Fire Department vet.

While Mr. Sparrow and fellow members of the Fire Police Patrol Company might not undertake the most glorious of assignments at fire scenes, members of the department’s smallest company play a key role for their comrades. They not only keep the scenes safe, but also check other firefighters for signs of fatigue, provide support for the chiefs and use their years of experience to watch the progression of a fire for any signs of trouble.

For years, however, the Fire Police Patrol has seen fewer new volunteers, attributed in part to an aging population both in town and within the company.

In an effort to boost the company’s sagging membership, the department recently changed its rules for the first time in decades, allowing additional qualified members — including those not physically capable of interior firefighting — to apply to join the company.

So far, fire officials say, it’s working.

“Up until two years ago, our numbers were going down,” said Fire Police Patrol Captain Baycan Fideli. “This [change] will give us an enhancement.”

The Fire Police Patrol was founded in February 1922 and absorbed the Merchant Hose Company into its ranks a year later. While many other departments use varying members of their ranks to fill out fire police units, Riverhead’s is a distinct company with a distinguished history that includes several “Firefighter of the Year” honors.

“We’re unique on Long Island,” said Mr. Fideli, a nine-year veteran of the department and the company.

In the company’s earliest years, Fire Police Patrol members would join their fellow volunteers in fighting fires.

“Fire Police were on the hose just as much as anybody else,” said ex-captain and longtime Fire Police Patrol member Jim Creighton.

Mr. Creighton, still an active member after 51 years, said fires burned for longer decades ago because of inferior fire-prevention technology.

“Many calls went on for six hours,” he said. Fire police would join rotations to man the hoses to give other volunteers a break, he said.

Today, Fire Police Patrol volunteers serve as the logistical backbone at a fire scene. They man the perimeter, keeping the general public away from potentially dangerous areas and preventing vehicles from injuring volunteers.

It’s something the chiefs know they can count on.

“They hit the ground running,” said first assistant fire chief Kevin Brooks. “If you’re going to a working structure fire and the chief has to worry about who’s going to do traffic, you’re so far behind the eight ball you don’t stand a chance.”

Though members of other Riverhead companies are also getting older, those volunteers often wish to stay within their own units and don’t transition to the Fire Police, fire officials said.

While most companies in the department have a minimum of 30 members, and some are maxed out at 35, Fire Police Patrol has just 15 members in its ranks, Mr. Brooks said.

Part of the problem comes from the requirements to join the fire department. All volunteers, fire police or not, are required to be certified as “Class A” firefighters by state standards. Prospective firefighters must take a lung capacity test to see if they’re qualified to work the interiors of fire scenes.

But that requirement has hampered recruiting for the Fire Police Patrol. While some members still do interior firefighting work, the majority of the company’s responsibilities could be completed by someone without interior certification.

Two years ago, the chiefs met with members of the fire police to brainstorm solutions. After working on a deal, the district’s board of fire commissioners signed off on an unprecedented change last month.

Fire Police Patrol now accepts “Class B” firefighters — who don’t need to be certified to work interiors or take a lung capacity test — into its ranks. These firefighters will be given a more limited set of responsibilities but can still contribute to the department, Mr. Brooks said.

“We’re trying to bolster their membership with productive people,” he said. “Even with the change, you’re going to be a jack of most trades.”

Members looking to join other companies are still required to be “Class A” certified.

Fire officials say they’re hoping to tap into a demographic of experienced retired firefighters who still want to serve their communities.

The change has already paid off. Four new member have been accepted into the company and two more applicants are waiting to be vetted, officials said.

“We know there are people qualified to take care of the perimeter, to take care of the scene, to be watching for safety,” Mr. Fideli said. “This is huge.”


Responsibilities of the Fire Police Patrol

• Direct traffic and secure the scene of an emergency. Fire police are also tasked with providing first aid if needed.

• Undergo training to become certified state Peace Officers. Fire police have limited, police-like powers at the scene of an emergency and can exercise those powers to keep areas under control.

• Manage the department’s command vehicle, a 36-foot truck worth nearly $500,000 that includes a medical galley, extendable floodlights, an Internet connection, space to transport more than a dozen firefighters and even a bathroom. The command truck is used as a base of operations for larger incidents.

• Change air canisters for interior firefighters and check volunteers for signs of injury or fatigue.

12/19/13 8:00am
12/19/2013 8:00 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A coiled extension cord plugged into a space heater caused this Flanders home to be destroyed by fire Monday.

The fire that destroyed an elderly man’s home in Flanders Monday morning was caused by a 100-foot long extension cord that was plugged into a space heater and coiled in cardboard box with clothes piled on top of it, according to Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin.

The 73-year-old sole occupant of the Pricilla Avenue home was rescued by a neighbor who pounded on his door and pulled him out of the burning house shortly before the fire intensified.

ORIGINAL STORY: Neighbor rescues man from burning house

“Extension cords are meant for temporary use, and you should extend them out to their full length, because that will dissipate the heat,” Mr. Rankin said.

The coiled extension cord heated in the box and eventually set both the cardboard box and the clothing on fire, said Mr. Rankin, who said a nearby mattress then went up in flames, too.

Joe Marshall, who lives just a few doors down, was driving past the house on the way to his mother’s house when he saw smoke coming out the window.

“As soon as he got him out, the whole house lit up, which indicates that the entirety of the house probably flashed over,” Mr. Rankin said. ”Basically, this means that everything in the house catches fire at the same time, almost like an explosion.”

Mr. Marshall reported seeing overhead electrical wires leading into the house begin to explode.

The homeowner, Richard Morrison, was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and second-degree burns on his back, caused by burning debris from the house falling on him, Mr. Rankin said.

Mr. Morrison was recently hospitalized with congestive heart failure, Mr. Marshall said.

Mr. Rankin said the home was gutted.

“He lost everything,” he said. “We couldn’t even find his car keys for him.”


12/12/13 5:40pm
12/12/2013 5:40 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | One person was airlifted to an area hospital following an accident on Edwards Avenue, fire officials said.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | One person was airlifted to an area hospital following an accident on Edwards Avenue, fire officials said.

One person was airlifted to an area hospital following after striking a telephone pole on Edwards Avenue just before 5 p.m. Thursday, fire officials said.

The accident happened in the vicinity of Village Green South, said Riverhead Fire department second assistant chief Kevin Brooks.

Traffic was shut down at the intersection of Edwards Avenue and Riley Avenue for a short time following the crash.

Chief Brooks said it appeared to be a one-car accident, which sustained “substantial damage,” but could not comment on the make and model. Police said the victim suffered a head injury in the crash, however the severity of the injuries were not immediately clear.

The victim was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, officials said.


11/16/13 5:18pm
11/16/2013 5:18 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | About 40 fire department volunteers responded to the scene of a mulch fire Saturday afternoon.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | About 40 fire department volunteers responded to the scene of a mulch fire Saturday afternoon.

Riverhead Fire Department volunteers extinguished a mulch fire on Sound Avenue for the third time in just over a week, officials said.

A 20-by-20 foot mulch pile that was more than 10 feet high at Wells Farm combusted into flames Saturday afternoon, the third time the compost has ignited “in a week and a half,” said second assistant chief Pete Jackman.

About 40 department volunteers responded to the farm, located on Sound Avenue just east of Phillips Lane about 2:30 p.m., officials said.

“In the mulch process, the internal heat can cause the material to spontaneously combust,” Riverhead spokesman Bill Sanok has said of mulch fires in the past.

Chief Jackman said adding a bit of moisture to mulching process, like today’s early morning drizzle, can cause the compost to smoke and eventually ignite.

“There is a lot of mulch in here,” Chief Jackman said. “ [The farmer] is trying to break it up and move it around.”


CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Firefighters extinguish the mulch fire.