01/14/14 11:45am
01/14/2014 11:45 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Officials investigate a spill at Hunter Insulation on Elton Street in Riverhead Tuesday morning.

Riverhead Police have closed a portion of Elton Street in Riverhead this morning in response to a liquid leaking from a dumpster on the property of Hunter Insulation. The road is closed between East Main Street and Howell Street.

It’s unclear what the spill is yet. Riverhead Fire Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s spill response team are currently investigating on scene.

The clear, white liquid is leaking from barrels loaded in a dumpster by the loading area and running down the driveway into the side of the street. Fans are being used to try to prevent the liquid from reaching the street.

01/07/14 3:28pm
01/07/2014 3:28 PM
CARRIE MILLER | Firefighters at the scene of a basement fire on Kay Road in Calverton.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Firefighters at the scene of a basement fire on Kay Road in Calverton.

A painter working at a Calverton home alerted a family living in the home to a fire in the basement Tuesday afternoon, allowing everyone in the residence to escape safely.

Paul Ray was upstairs painting in a bedroom with two other men when he said he saw smoke coming from the basement. He alerted family members in the home to the threat, and six fire departments responded to the the fire.

A woman who said she lived in the home said, “[The painter] ran in the room and I just grabbed the kids and got out.”

Wading River, Riverhead, Manorville, Rocky Point, Sound Beach and Ridge Fire Departments were all on scene. The fire was contained and knocked down within a half hour.

Joy Parson, a next door neighbor, said that she had woken from a nap to see smoke pouring from the home. “I said ‘Oh my god,” she said.

The cause remains under investigation by the Riverhead Town Fire Marshals.

Check back as more information becomes available.

01/07/14 9:33am

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.