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.”

mwhite@timesreview.com

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.”

psquire@timesreview.com

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.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

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.

air2

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

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Firefighters extinguish the mulch fire.

11/16/13 4:43pm
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO |  Ambulance officials declined to comment on the nature of the victim's injuries.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Ambulance officials declined to comment on the nature of the victim’s injuries.

A man was airlifted to an area hospital after a one-car accident on Flanders Road Saturday afternoon, officials said.

A green sedan traveling westbound crossed into the oncoming lane and crashed into a utility pole near Whitebrook Drive just after 2:30 p.m., said Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department chief Joseph Raynor.

Flanders-Northampton Ambulance officials declined to comment on the nature of the man’s injuries, saying only that he was being airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Southampton Town police diverted eastbound traffic down Whitebrook Drive for about a half hour following the crash.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A green sedan crashed into a utility pole on Flanders Road Saturday afternoon.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A green sedan crashed into a utility pole on Flanders Road Saturday afternoon.

10/06/13 6:00pm
10/06/2013 6:00 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Riverhead Fire Department firefighters demonstrate a response to a car fire.

The Riverhead Fire Department hosted its 15th annual open house Sunday. The event featured a heavy rescue demonstration, fire trucks on display and tours of the Roanoke Avenue firehouse.

Check out scenes from the event below:

09/22/13 2:30pm
09/22/2013 2:30 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bikers arrive at The Maples in Manorville, the second stop of a charity poker run to defray medical costs of Tom Jasinski, a longtime Riverhead Firefighter who recently died.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bikers arrive at The Maples in Manorville, the second stop of a charity poker run to defray medical costs of Tom Jasinski, a longtime Riverhead Firefighter who recently died.

Saturday’s “Fighting 4 TJ” Poker Biker Run at the Elks Club in Riverhead was originally supposed to be a fundraiser to help Flanders resident and former Riverhead Fire Department volunteer Tom Jasinski offset the costs associated with his battle against stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

Instead it became a memorial for Mr. Jasinski who died Sept. 3, a day before the event received approvals from Riverhead Town.

Marianne Katusha, Mr. Jasinski’s fiance, organized the event and she says the money will still be used to pay Mr. Jasinski’s $25,000 in medical bills.

Mr. Jasinski was only diagnosed with cancer in May, and his condition worsened quickly, she said.

“This was supposed to be a surprise,” she said of the fundraiser. “But at the end, I told him, because I wanted to see if I could give him some more incentive to live, but the cancer just ate him up.”

Mr. Jasinski was a 22-year member of the Riverhead Fire Department and a retired Riverhead Central School District security guard. Members of the security department were on hand Saturday to help set up at the fundraiser.

“He was the most courageous man I’ve ever met,” Ms. Katusha said of Mr. Jasinski. “He was my hero. He was the love of my life and the only man I’ve ever loved. This man, knowing he had terminal stage 4 metastatic lung cancer, drove 1,000 miles twice to take all of our belongings to Tennessee, which was the new home I had bought for us.”

“He was a former  Riverhead fireman for 22 years and he was at the 1995 wildfires,” Ms. Katusha said. “He was there every single day until those fires were put out. He was ready to roll out for 9/11  (2001) but his company got called back at the last minute.”

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Marianne Katusha, left, signs up bikers at a charity Poker Run to offset medical costs of her late fiance, Tom Jasinski, Saturday, at the Riverhead Elks Lodge. With her are Mr. Jasinski's daughter, Jackie Guastella, and granddaughter, Kailie Guastella.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Marianne Katusha, left, signs up bikers at a charity Poker Run to offset medical costs of her late fiance, Tom Jasinski, Saturday, at the Riverhead Elks Lodge. With her are Mr. Jasinski’s daughter, Jackie Guastella, and granddaughter, Kailie Guastella.

Mr. Jasinski was a father of four and grandfather of six. His daughter Jackie Guastella and granddaughter, Kailie Guastella, were on hand Saturday to help with the fundraiser.

The Poker Run started at the Elks Club on East Main Street in Riverhead where motorcycle riders (or car drivers, which was allowed) picked up the first of six cards they would collect. The other cards were at check-in posts at the Boardy Barn in Hampton Bays, The Maples in Manorville, Cliff’s Elbow Room in Jamesport, Meetinghouse Creek Inn in Aquebogue and Diggers in Riverhead. Whoever had the best hand at the end won.

About 40 riders participated, Mr. Katusha said.

In addition to the poker run, where participants paid a $20 entry fee, there also was a 50-50 raffle and a Chinese Auction. More than 50 raffle items and 50 gift cards were donated to the event, Ms. Katusha said.

She said she was disappointed with the turnout for the fundraiser, but acknowledged that it took place at the same time as a number of other big events, including the Maritime Festival in Greenport and a 100th Anniversary Parade for the Eastport Fire Department. She said Saturday was the only day available for the event.

People interested in helping defray Mr. Jasinski’s medical costs can still do so by going to www.giveforward.com/fighting4tjmemorial or by sending donations by mail to Fighting for TJ, at PO Box 562, Riverhead, NY 11901, according to Ms. Katusha.

tgannon@timesreview.com