Monday Briefing: A long and tragic night for tired firefighters

While the rest of us were enjoying the weekend, whether out at dinner or riding bikes or just playing with the kids, our volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders were hard at work.

The calls started late Friday, at the R & R mobile home park off Route 58, where firefighters put out a blaze that ended up killing a 63-year-old blind man whom a neighbor said liked smoking a pipe in bed. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he died.

The fire was contained to the one trailer, in the victim’s bedding area.

About six hours later, at about 5:45 a.m., longtime Riverhead Town Hall receptionist Verna Campbell and her daughter were able to escape a blaze that destroyed their Maple Avenue home, though family cats did perish.

And just a few hours after that, firefighters — tired and now with heavy hearts after learning the victim in the Friday night blaze had died — jumped into action a third time about 10:30 a.m. Saturday, again on Maple Avenue, where a 54-year-old woman’s toaster sparked a house fire that firefighters quickly contained.

She was treated at Peconic Bay Medical Center for smoke inhalation.

It’s no doubt that firefighters love what they do, and there’s a lot of camaraderie to the job, be it during training, at drill competitions or even marching in parades and going to social events. But keep in mind it’s all set up with our safety in mind, and what they do is a real sacrifice of their time and own safety. Not only that, they’ll sometime return home feeling badly if someone does die or is badly injured.

Weekends like this one are a reminder of their sacrifices.

And for those who have ever had to dial 911, whether for a fire or just an ambulance, they don’t need the reminder; no one appreciates the volunteers more.

• We’ve got some bittersweet news coming out of the News-Review offices. Staff reporter Vera Chinese, originally of Manorville, accepted a new job last week as a staff writer with the Daily News. She starts next week in the Daily News Queens Bureau in Forest Hills.

Vera put her heart and soul into her News-Review job, working many nights and weekends — in part because of her associate web editor job — while taking on some of the biggest, most challenging and, sometimes, most uncomfortable assignments.

What I like best about Vera’s writing is that she always tries to keep stories interesting, to find that tid-bit of cool information she knows will draw a reader into a story, no matter the topic.

She will be greatly missed, but we’re proud as a company to be sending a reporter off to one of the largest circulation newspapers in the country. We’ll still be able to see her name every day in the Daily News. And maybe the city paper will get a little circulation bump due to her followers in Riverhead.

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