Fire Council to Town Board: Hire more fire marshals

Thomas Campanaro, president of the Riverhead Town Fire Chiefs Council and the Manorville fire commissioner, claims the town’s fire marshals can’t keep up.

There are too many inspections to complete and too many calls to respond to, he said.

Mr. Campanaro said he’s concerned for the safety of his fellow volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, as well as the public as a whole. And he said the Fire Council — which has called for Riverhead Town to hire more full-time fire marshals several times — is ready to make some noise about the issue.

“We don’t want to be an angel up there looking down saying we didn’t do enough to shake the tree,” he said. “We’re not going to let it go.”

In a written letter to Supervisor Sean Walter and the Town Board this week, the Fire Council advised the board to attend their next meeting in March to discuss the number of fire marshals hired by the town.

The Fire Council warned that they will have “no other option” but to appear at a public town board meeting if the board is unable to attend.

Riverhead Town has had two full-time fire marshals since 2011, when a third full-time position was eliminated to save money and balance out the town’s budget deficit.  Firefighters came out in force against the proposal in 2010, the year before the position was cut.

The town also has a part-time fire marshal, officials said.

Mr. Campanaro claims that the fire marshals are overwhelmed.

“If you do the math, it’s physically impossible for them to get it all accomplished,” he said.

But Mr. Walter said the backlog in inspections was caused by an injury to one of the fire marshals, which kept him on the sidelines for months.

Mr. Walter said reports from the fire marshal’s office indicate they are adequately staffed, though he believes those reports may not be “comprehensive” enough.

The supervisor said the board would not be attending the Fire Council’s meeting. A Town Board meeting had already been scheduled for that date, he said.

Having the board gather to discuss town policy would also be considered a public meeting and would have to be properly noticed, he said; the board couldn’t just show up.

Mr. Walter said the Fire Council is welcome to call him or their liaison on the Town Board, Councilman John Dunleavy, to further discuss their concerns. Those could be aired publicly at an upcoming meeting.

“The chiefs should just give me a call and tell me what’s going on,” he said.

Town fire marshal Craig Zitek declined to discuss the letter, saying the supervisor’s office instructed them to refer any comment to the office. Fire marshal David Andruszkiewicz couldn’t be immediately reached.

Mr. Campanaro said the council is going to take up the call to action again. Thus far, Mr. Campanaro said hasn’t heard from Town Board members on the issue.

“They’re stalling,” he said.

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