At the August 1947 meeting of the West Babylon Volunteer Fire Department, it was decided to split the membership into three separate engine companies, two companies from the residents living south of Sunrise Highway forming Station 1, and one company north of Sunrise Highway forming Station 2. The first year and a half was a difficult time for the new fire companies. The companies did not have their own place to hold meetings; the members of Company 2 held their monthly meetings in the Ezra Park Civic Association Clubhouse. A number of individuals were assigned the job of locating a suitable site for the construction of a fire house. The biggest obstacle was money. The fire department was not officially taxpayer funded until January of 1949. Before that date, all funds had to be raised through voluntary contributions. At the same time, the department owned some fire fighting equipment which was assigned to each company. This equipment was not new, with the exception of the Army surplus engine assigned to Company 2, and had to be repaired at each company's expense. Throughout this period the company minutes mention expenses encountered in repairing, painting and purchasing oil and gasoline for the fire engines. The final problem the company, (in fact the entire department,) faced was recruiting and retaining members. It is hard, even today, for an active fire department to maintain its membership, but it was even harder to retain members in an inactive fire department. The men were expected to do a lot of work to create a fire department: raise funds, get petitions for the new district signed, train in fire fighting, repair the equipment, and recruit new members. In return for all this work they were forced to watch other fire departments combat fires in their neighborhood. The turnover rate is hard to determine, but appears to have been a persistent problem since it was discussed at many of the early meetings.
Despite these problems the members did what they could to have a good time. One of the first committees formed was a refreshment committee for the next meeting and at each meeting for the first couple of years, the minutes reported the name of the member who donated a keg of beer for that meeting.
On Sept 15, 1947, the first meeting of Company 2 was held at the Ezra Park Civic Association Clubhouse (this was located across the street from the east side parking lot of the present Fire House). This meeting was conducted under the direction of Chief Ellison Driscoll of Company 1, 1st Assistant. Chief William Froehlich of Company 3 and 2nd Assistant Chief Thomas Simon of Company 2. The main business conducted at this meeting was the election of officers and appointing of a By-law and refreshment committee. The 30 members present elected: Captain William Krollage Sr., Assistant Captain Phil McGuire, Treasurer Roland Scott, Secretary Stephen Byrnes.
The company began raising money as best it could by running a paper drive ($10.33), a rummage sale ($36.00) and ran its first dance and raffle on December 20, 1947. Between October and December 1947 the treasury rose from $14.44 to $110.95. The company also began its search for a fire house site. The properties investigated included lots at the corner of: 15th Avenue and Herzel Boulevard, 12th Avenue and Herzel Boulevard for $1200, 11th Avenue and Herzel Boulevard eight lots for $1440 or four lots for $720, 10th Avenue and Herzel Boulevard for $2700, Herzel Boulevard near Straight Path five lots for $600, and an 80 X 100 plot opposite the Civic Association Clubhouse for $720, which was the location that was finally purchased.
At its first meeting in 1948, the members voted down a proposal to increase attendance at all department meetings. Under this plan the two companies that had the least members in attendance were to pay for dinner for the entire department. Attendance at meetings was a major problem for the company. At this meeting the company was expected to have the final reading of the By-laws, but had to postpone it because the Chairman of the By-laws committee was absent. Even though the By-laws had not been accepted yet, an amendment was proposed that required each member to attend at least one fire (even though the department was not allowed to respond to fires yet, this was planning for the future) or meeting in a period of four to six months. This was also the first meeting at which the members of the company were expected to start paying monthly dues. The By-laws were approved after the third reading on February 16, 1948. During its first few years the company elections were a long drawn out procedure. At the February meeting the Captain appointed a Nominating committee. This committee announced its nominations for office at the March meeting and finally at the annual meeting in April the members voted on the officers for the coming year. The completion of this procedure in 1948 resulted in the election of: William Krollage, Captain: James Earl, Assistant Captain: Steve Byrnes, Secretary: and Carl Bode, Treasurer. Most of the remainder of 1948 was devoted to training; fire school, drills and driver qualification, and fund raising, a Barn Dance in November. The only remarkable decision made at the company's meeting was the announcement that each man was required to purchase his own Fire Department Uniform Hat, and that the secretary would not be required to pay dues while in office. The year ended with the appointment of a committee to collect funds to pay for the installations of Fire Wells, the decision by the company to join the Township of Babylon Fire Association, and the announcement that seven company members had been assigned to "Fire Patrol duty."
On January 1, 1949, when the West Babylon Volunteer Fire Department began answering alarms, Company 2 was responding with 2 trucks, an American LaFrance 500 GPM formally of Elmont Fire Dept and a 1944 GI Chevy 300 GPM Army surplus. At the January meeting, the first meeting held in the new Fire House, the members voted "that a letter be sent out to delinquent members of 1948" requesting that they appear at the next meeting "to explain to the members if they intend to continue as a member or be dropped from the company." At this first meeting after the company became active, the members voted to create a "sick committee." The membership authorized this committee to spend $10.00 on a Floral piece for the Death of a member or his immediate family and $5.00 "For a member who is sick for a reasonable time." The February 1949, Company meeting was one of the most productive in its short history. The members listened to the reasons of a number of men for failing to attend meetings during 1948, accepting three men's excuse and dropping two other men. It was at this meeting that the Company decided to choose a name. The proposed names were: Herzel Hose Company, Shamrock Hose Company, Northside, Beaver Hose Company. Beaver Hose Company was chosen and remained until March 1954 when the name was changed to Beaver Engine Company. During the first year and a half that the company had existed it had held its meeting at the Ezra Park Civic Association Clubhouse. Other than the donation of 100 pounds of coal for the stove, (that cost the company $1.10) in February 1948, the use of the clubhouse was free of charge. At this meeting the men decided to take a full page advertisement in the association's Journal to repay them for "past favors shown this Company." The Company used the Civic Association Clubhouse again on May 9, 1949. On this date, after a short business meeting, the company meeting was turned over to Chief Elision Driscoll who installed James Earl as the second Captain of Beaver Hose Company 2. After Chief Driscoll administered the oath of office to all the men elected at the previous meeting Captain Earl opened the second half of the meeting. This change in office was an important step for the young company. The remainder of the meeting's business was dispensed with to honor the company's first Captain. Captain Earl presented the Ex-Captain William Krollege Sr. with his "Ex" badge on behalf of the company. At that point "The men then stood at attention and saluted the out going capt. for a job well done." The meeting was then adjourned to the Civic Association Clubhouse for the company's installation dinner and in the words that appear numerous times in fire department minutes "a good time was had by all." Most of the meetings in 1949 were a repeat of 1948, training, equipment, membership, and money being the main topic of discussion. In October of 1949 the members were informed that six members of this company would probably be transferred to the new Fire Police Company 5. At the request of the Chief the company spent $5.00 to decorate the Fire House for Christmas, starting a tradition that has been carried on every year since.
Many of the early meetings were spent discussing ways to raise and use money. The treasury had many ups and downs. At the February meeting the treasury had a balance of $468.23. In July, the Company meeting started with a balance of $29.07 after outstanding bills of $21.69 were paid the balance was $7.38. By December the treasury was back up to $366.09. The majority of the companies money was spent on refreshments, kitchen equipment for the Fire House, and Company badges. So much money was spent on refreshments that, at the June 13, 1949 meeting, it was voted "to dispense with refreshments until our treasury is built up" and "to do away with beer party." Even though it appears that the members wanted to save money, the largest bill presented at the July meeting was for $9.19 for Dogfood! Most of the money raised during this period was from dues, a Barn Dance held on October 28, 1949 at the Democratic Club Hall, and a percentage of the proceeds from the department annual bazaar. The company did receive a check for $3.60 from Conservation Corps for aid at a brush fire in Wyandanch.
Through most of the Company's history it has been involved in various fund raising activities. The fall dance held in 1947 became an annual event, with the exception that the date and theme was decided each year: a Halloween Dance in October, a Barn Dance in November, or a Christmas Dance in December. In conjunction with these dances the company held a raffle, usually raffling off whatever the members were able to have donated: watches, clocks, radios, and TV. The company also received a share in the proceeds from the department's Bazaar and Fund Drive, 50% went to the department and 10% to each of the five companies.
The decade that began in 1950 was a period of growth for the new company and fire department. Most of the practices and traditions of the company were begun during this period. In May of 1950, the department began holding an annual Fund Drive. Until 1970, this was conducted by members of each company visiting each house and business in the community requesting donations. In 1970, under the direction of Captain Jerry Lico, a Company 2 committee consisting of Lt. Donald Sheridan, Lowell Berkowitz, Paul D'Aggostino, Thomas Gilberti, Kenneth Nee, and Douglas Spurlin, experimented with soliciting donations through the mail. Company 2's experiment was such a success that this procedure was adopted by Company 6 and, on a limited basis, by Company 4 the following year. The entire department soon followed Station 2's example. This system has been used ever since.
One of the biggest traditions of each Company in the Fire Department is its annual Installation Dinner. The first three years of its existence the company held small parties for the members only at the Civic Associations Club House or the Fire House. By late 1950, the company had built up a large enough treasury that it was decided to hold its first Company Dinner. At the regular company meeting in November the dinner committee proposed three sites and their prices for this dinner: Midway Diner $2.75, Narragansett Inn $2.90, and Johns Tavern $2.50. It was decide to order 60 dinners for the company's first dinner at the Narragansett Inn. The exact date of this first dinner has not been preserved, but at its February 1951 meeting the members voted to purchase frames for the Dinner pictures. It appears that this was not an annual affair originally, for there is not any mention of a dinner again until 1954. The Installation Dinner held in 1954 was a "stag" dinner held at the Fire House "on Sunday March 28th, at 2:00 P.M." This dinner consisted of "meat-balls and spaghetti and Italian Sausage and beer." The next mention of a Installation Dinner was not until a Special Meeting held on February 21, 1956, at which time it became an annual event. Just like the annual Fire Department Installation Dinner, most of the early Company Dinners were held at small noncommercial halls such as the Civic Association Clubhouse and the American Legion Hall, and the members were required to pay for theirs guest's dinner. The company dinners held at these small halls were usually in the form of potluck dinners with members providing a covered dish. Compared to today's dinners, even when the dinner was fully catered it was very inexpensive. The 1956, dinner was held at the Midway Tavern in Lindenhurst and the entire cost for "Dinners, refreshments, watches and Missolisios[sic]" was $276.80. Starting in 1956, the annual dinners were held in commercial cater halls almost every year until 1983. In 1983, the Company began hosting weekend trips to resort hotels in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. While different arrangements have been made each year, generally these trips run from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon, and each member attending is expected to pay a nominal sum of between $50 and $100 for him or herself and guest. To insure that a handful of members do not profit from the efforts of all the members, the
Company requires that at least fifty percent of the Company's membership attend all weekend trips. This rule made the Company's fortieth Anniversary one of the best Company dinners ever held. In 1987, as the dinner committee was beginning to finalize its plans for the annual trip it was discovered that less than fifty percent of the membership had signed up for the trip. Because it was too late to secure a date at a catering hall, the committee made arrangements for a moonlight cruise and dinner on Great South Bay aboard the Evening Star cruise ship out of Bay Shore. Even though the cruise was held on a chilly September night, almost every member attended.
The annual picnic was started in 1954. This first picnic was held with Company 1 on August 1, at the Town Park in Wyandanch. At the first picnic the Companies charged $2.50 for adults and admitted children free. Almost every year after this the Company has held a summer picnic, sometimes in cooperation with one or more of the other companies, sometimes alone. At most of the early picnics the adults were charged an admittance fee. The location of the picnic varied from year to year, usually at a town park with the Fire House used in case of rain. A number of years the company members also attended a picnic for the entire Fire Department.
On December 10, 1951, the members of Company 2 voted to purchase Company Jackets for its members, thus starting a new tradition. The company minutes periodically mention discussions about buying jackets. These discussions range from how to raise funds to purchase them, to who was entitled to receive a jacket, to color, lettering, and style of jacket. Eventually the members decided on purchasing blue jackets with gold lettering, with the style to be decided upon at the time of each purchase. In recent years the Company has, in addition to purchasing jackets, also provided members with Company Tee Shirts. The most controversial Tee Shirt was purchased in 1975 when the relationship between Station 2 and the Fire Commissioners was strained. Many of the members were upset because the Captain of Company 2 had been suspended by the BoC because a driver had received a ticket for passing a Red Traffic light. There was even talk of forming a new Fire Department in the northern section of West Babylon, which prompted the design of a new Tee Shirt. These were red Tee Shirts with "Northwest Babylon Fire Co Inc" written in large white letters across the front. It should be noted that these shirts were not purchased using Company funds, but by the individual members out of their own pockets.
Christmas has had always been a busy time for the members of Station 2. For example, starting in 1951 and ending about 1956, the members and their families went out into the neighborhood singing Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve. For a number of years, during the 1950s, the Company held a separate Christmas party for the children of the members as well as an adult party. Today, in addition to a party for adults and the Department run Children's party, the Station participates in the Fire Department's Candy Cane distribution program. This project, originated in 1978, by members of Company 2, uses the Fire Equipment and members to travel every street of the Fire District with Santa Claus handing out Candy Canes to all the residents. Each company provides its own Santa Claus suit, and the Candy Canes are purchased from the funds raised during the Departments annual Fund Drive. It is usually done two weeks before Christmas and is enjoyed by both the members and the public.
The first department uniform consisted of a white shirt, black pants and shoes, with Firemen's Hat, and Badge. This uniform was not provided by the department; each man was supposed to provide his own clothes, and buy his own hat. The company purchased and issued the badge from its own funds. In 1951, after the department decided that past offices could continue to wear the silver hat band, the company purchased five for $9.00. A larger problem with uniforms came up in 1954. The department at that time purchased uniforms for all members, but required a $10.00 deposit from each man before issuing him one. At a special meeting held on February 21, 1954, Captain Barrett informed the membership that there were members that could not afford to pay this deposit. He requested and received permission from the company to advance the money to these members so that everyone in the company would have a uniform.
The company in its early years appeared to be very generous with what little it had. The Company spent a considerable sum of money to aid sick members. Financial aid was not limited to the members of the Company. In May of 1952, the members voted to send $30.00 to the Brentwood Fire Department Welfare Committee in honor of the firemen killed at a brush fire on the Pilgrim State Hospital property. It was rare that any organization requesting a donation or selling chance books was refused: $5.00 to the Suffolk Country Heart Fund, 10 chance books bought for the Beaver AA, "4 tickets to Babylon Vol. Firemans Assoc. $3.00," and 5 chance books for the Terryville Fire Department. In addition to actual cash donations the company purchased American Flags which were donated to Santapogue School, Boy Scout Troop 116 a "Browne Troop from the North end," and a Cub Scout Pack. The company not only purchased the Flag they donated, they provided refreshments for the children at the presentation ceremony.
Not all of the ideas that the Company had were successful. At its November 1953, meeting the members decided to investigate holding weekly dances for the teenagers of the community at Santapogue School, located a block away from the Fire House. The following month, the Company received permission from the School Board to use the school on Friday nights for the dance. With this approval the members decided to have 50 posters and 2000 throwaways printed advertising the dance and to charge 50 cents admission to students. At the January meeting the dance committee reported that the expenses for the January 8, Dance was $121.50 and that they had only taken in $37.00 giving the dance a net loss of $84.00. This still did not discourage the members, as they voted to hire a four piece band at $6.00 to play from 8:30 to 11:30 P.M. The following week the Dance had a profit of $1.00. Apparently this was too expensive for the Company, as it is not mentioned again in the minutes.
Most of the meetings during the 1950s, were devoted, in addition to fund raising, to membership, Civil Defense, and refining the by-laws. Membership was a major problem. The Company always had enough applications from people available at night, the members placed a limit of 25 on night people, all applicants over that number were placed on a waiting list. Recruiting members available during the day was, and still is, very difficult. As much as they tried, this problem has never been adequately solved.
Nationwide, the 1950s, was a period of Civil Defense awareness. Statewide and local Civil Defense Drills were held periodically to train both the public and the Civil Defense workers. The Fire Department was part of the Civil Defense system. Civil Defense instructions were included at a large number of meetings, and the Company participated in a number of Civil Defense Drills.
One of the first things the members did when the Company was formed was to write a set of by-laws. The original by-laws were a good start, but required numerous changes in the Company's first decade. Most of the changes made during this period pertained to membership and meeting dates. For instance, at the August 8, 1954, meeting the members passed a by-law change that would give new applicants with previous Fire Department experience preference over other applicants. The meeting dates have always been a problem, with members working different shifts. In 1954, a by-law revision changed the meeting date to the second Sunday of the month at 10 A.M. Nine months later the Company members changed the meeting date again, this time to the second Monday of the month at 8 P.M. Company 2 was unique in the Fire Department because it was the only company that had two engines assigned to it. In 1955, the Company attempted, unsuccessfully to have the Department by-laws changed to allow a Second Lieutenant, and to guarantee that each company had a member elected Chief or Assistant Chief each year.
Usually, the members of a fire company strive to give the impression, at least in the eyes of the public, that they get along very well with each other, though this is not always the case. During the early years there were a number of disputes between the members and the Company Officers. One example of this took place in 1955. At the December 13, 1954, meeting the Company decided to assign 5-person teams to clean the building for a two week period. Originally, any person who did not do their share of the work was assigned an extra two weeks duty. This was changed to an extra two weeks duty plus a $1.00 fine, in January 1955. By June it was clear that this system was creating problems. At the Company's meeting the Captain reminded the members "...that anyone delinquent in paying fines, after receiving written notification of fines in excise[sic] of two months are liable to expulsion..." He also announced that if the person making "annoying and anonymous" phone calls to his home and the home of the Team Leaders was caught he would press charges. The whole system came under fire in October 1955. The Captain had suspended three men for failing to do their cleaning duty or paying the fines. The Board of Fire Commissioners decided that they would reinstate the three men if the company disbanded the "House Committee." At a special meeting held on October 9, 1955, the members voted 17 to 1 to disband the "House Committee" and have the three men reinstated.
There were other incidents of difficulties between the men and the officers, at least two other special meetings were held to discuss these problems (at the first of these, in 1953, some of the members had petitioned the Chief requesting a new company be formed.) At other times the problems were discussed at the Company's regular meetings. Oddly, there is not any mention of any problems in any of the minutes of 1958 or 1959, yet early in 1959 the Company was informed that the Board of Fire Commissioners were considering creating a new Company at Station 2. At the June meeting the Company members were informed that a new company, Company 6, had been formed.
Early in 1951, the company marked its equipment by painting it a different color from the other companies. Originally this was limited to painting a triangle on the back of the helmet, and marking the handles on tools. Eventually Company 2 painted the helmets completely. The first color used was brown, later that year it was changed to silver. Since 1956, Company 2's colors have been Blue and Gold. The helmet at that time was made of plastic and did not offer much protection. Company 6 drove too close to a tree branch and shattered three helmets. Both companies, as well as a number of individuals, myself included, purchased sturdy Leather New Yorker helmets for their officers, a tradition that dates back to 1953. In the 1970s, the Commissioners purchased black Leather New Yorker helmets for all the companies and issued a decree that they were not to be painted. Mysteriously, one night all of Company 2's helmets turned Royal Blue. The Board reluctantly admitted defeat. Today, they purchase OSHA approved plastic helmets that are factory manufactured Blue for Company 2 and Rescue, black for all the other companies.
The first 12 years of its existence Company 2 was a two engine company. Company 6 was assigned the second engine when it was formed. Little is now known about one of the company's first engines. What is known is that it was a 1926 American LaFrance 500 Gallon per minute pumper purchased from the Elmont Fire Department for $400.00.
1944 Chevrolet Army surplus Fire Truck
More is known about the Company's other truck. It was originally purchased by the WBVFC in 1946. This fire engine was a 1944 six cylinder, four wheel drive, Chevrolet Army surplus truck sold to the WBVFC by the War Assets Corps for $1,250.00. It had a 300 gallon per minute front mounted pump and was referred to by the members as the GI. The truck had a closed cab with a Booster Hose Reel located on each side just behind the cab. On the roof of the cab were two spotlights, a small red light and the siren. Ladders were mounted on the drivers side, and Hard Suction Hose on the officers side. One memorable aspect of this truck was the small "Black Out Lights" mounted in the front, a hangover from its originally planned military use. It was operated by the company until 1959 and served as an excellent piece of equipment for handling the large amount of brush fires that plagued the area during this period. This truck, (it was more of a truck than a real fire engine), was very simple to operate and consequently used for training new members. The exact amount of hose carried on this truck is not clear today, a former member remembers it carrying 300 feet. One of most important pieces of equipment that was carried on this truck were Indian Cans. These were five gallon cans of water that a man would carry on his back while walking into woods and brush that the hoses on the truck could not reach. Water was shot on a fire by the action of a slide that each man pumped until his can was empty. During the time that this truck was in use by Company 2, the members or the District made a number of changes to it. For example in January of 1951 the company spent $20.00 to purchase and install a set of phones on the truck to provide communication for the GI. This was for internal communication between the cab and the rear step as neither of the trucks were equipped with radios. Radios were installed sometime around 1954 or early 1955, but used the same frequency as the Town Police. In 1953 a new pump was installed. Company 2 used this engine until December of 1958, when it was replaced by a 1950 Ford, originally purchased for Company 1. Company 1 had just taken delivery of a new American LaFrance. This was not the end of the old truck however, it went to the Gordon Heights Fire Department. As late as 1970, it was believed that it was in use by a Fire Department on Fire Island, though this has never been confirmed.
At the May 8, 1950, meeting the members passed a motion to send a letter to the Board of Fire Commissioners requesting a new engine. The following month the members voted to request an AKB8 International 1200 GPM engine. At the Chief's request a committee was set up to see a Mack representative at Company 3 meetings. This committee consisted of Captain Henry Bricchi Sr., Assistant Captain George Kaliebe, Treasurer Phil McGuire, Secretary Jerry D'Anneo, Al Doderica and Charles Anderson. The outcome of this meeting was a recommendation by the committee to request a Mack 505 for $12,500. The Board of Commissioner not only purchased this engine for Company 2, they also bought a second one for Company 3. Company 2's new Mack arrived in April or May of 1951 and was put in service as soon as the Chief approved the training on it. This fire engine was an open cab with the famous Mack Bulldog mounted prominently on the front grill. Because it was an open cab truck, it was equipped with windshield wipers on both the inside and the outside. Like the GI, it had twin Booster Hose reels just behind the cab. Both of these Booster Hoses were equipped with unusual nozzles. They looked, and operated, like a gun with a long barrel and a large trigger to control the flow of water. It also had a single red light mounted on a pole behind the cab between the Booster reels. The light was a convenient place to hang a coat that the Company had purchased for the driver's comfort in cold weather. Unlike modern fire apparatus, neither of these trucks had large cabinets to store equipment, everything had to be secured to the running boards on each side and the rear step of the truck. This engine was set up just the opposite of the GI, the wooden ladders were on the officers side, and the hard suction on the drivers. When this truck was purchased it did not have a "Deck Gun", a high volume nozzle mounted on the truck used at major fires to provide a large amount of water. The members of the Company fabricated their own Deck Gun for this truck. In theory, the GI was the primary truck for brush fires and the Mack for all other types of fires. In fact, the first engine to have a qualified driver and two or three men responded first. Because it was the primary engine for structural fires the Mack was equipped with the first two Scott Air-Packs assigned to the Company. It also was equipped, along with the Company 3's Mack, with two five gallon cans of foam.
Fire engines are built to last a long time and this Mack was no exception. Company 2 used it until 1959 when it was assigned to Company 6 as its first truck. In 1967 the Mack was sold to the North Amityville Volunteer Fire Company. How long North Amityville used this engine is unknown, but in the mid 1980s, it was being restored by Manchester Mack Sales in New Hampshire.
In 1961, Company 2 created a committee to design a new engine for the company, though the membership list has been lost. Apparently this committee did not do its job. At a meeting held on October 9, 1961, a new committee was formed, "...because of the poor showing on the nights salesman show new trucks." A second committee, whose names were also missing, announced to the membership at the February 12, 1962 meeting that only Mack had submitted a bid on the new engine. Finally, during the week of November 19, 1962 a new Mack fire engine arrived in West Babylon. This engine was a 750 GPM, closed cab gasoline engine, the last gasoline burning engine in Station 2. It carried 1600 feet of 3" hose in two 800 foot sections and two 150 foot length of 1 1/2" hose connect directly to the pump. This truck only had 200 feet of Booster Hose mounted on one reel under the hose bed above the rear step. Above the Booster reel and below the hose bed was a cabinet that contained two ladders, a roof ladder and a 24 foot extension ladder. One length of hard section hose was carried on each side below the boot rail. This truck was fully compartmentalized with all tools stored inside closed cabinets. It also had a one man "Jump seat" on each side behind the cab. For most of the time it was in service in West Babylon, the driver's side "Jump Seat" was reserved for Joe Portuese, the oldest member of the Company, and the other side for the Lieutenant. Four Scott Packs were carried on this engine, one in the cap for the Captain, one on top of the pump for the Lieutenant, and two mounted on top of the hose bed for the firemen. Only the "Pack" in the cab was mounted in a quick release rack, the others were kept in the box forcing the user to swing the "Pack" over his shoulder to put it on. This truck was equipped with a portable Deck Gun that was not connected directly to the pump, each time it was used it had to be connected by hose to a discharge gate. It could be easily removed from the truck for ground operations. This engine was eventually sold to the City of Pereira, Colombia.
Company 2 formed its next truck committee in April 1975. This committee, consisting of John Baggorazzi, Phil Canfora Sr., John Kropp, Gennaro Lico, Angus McDonald, and John Zanghi, had some innovative ideas. Each member had his own idea about what he wanted on the new engine; one member wanted to place all the hose on reels, another wanted a place for all the men to ride other than the rear step. Another change requested on the engine was an Automatic Transmission. All the previous engines were equipped with manual transmissions without synchromesh, thus requiring extensive training in "double clutching" the clutch. The committee worked hard to come up with a plan that satisfied everybody. The 1500 GPM, diesel powered, Mack Model CF612 F15 had just about everything the committee requested. The five inch supply hose was placed on two large reels on the rear of the truck. A reel was located on each side, over the pump, to carry the 1 3/4 attack hose. On the rear step was the booster reel. Most fire engines have the same general design, in the front is the cab and jump seats built over the engine, followed by the fire pump, the water tank and finally the rear step where most of the men rode. Usually the hose is carried on top of the tank. This truck had most of the hose on reels leaving the space above the tank available for the men. Between the two large reels in the rear were three steps the lead to the "Patio" over the tank. This area had a bench/cabinet and a Scott Pack on each side, the cabinets stored tools while the men sat on the benches. Above the pump was also the Deck Gun and a few hundred feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, stored in the traditional manner. This was a truck ahead of its times, a forerunner of the ten man cabs required today.
This new truck, one of the first of its type on Long Island, was not problem free. The first controversy came before the truck was delivered. Mack wanted to send the truck to the annual New York State Chief's Association Convention at the Concord, NY. The company was against this even though Mack offered to provide some additional equipment on the engine and pay the expense of one man to stay with the truck. In the end the Board of Commissioners agreed to pay for the Company Officers to go to the Concord along with the engine. In July 1979 the new Mack had arrived in West Babylon. The design of the truck was extremely different; each member had to be retrained in loading and unloading hose, after new procedures had been devised. During the time that training was going on, and even after the engine had been placed in service, the rear reels did not perform as had been expected. The reels had been designed for use with light weight Angus hose, but this hose had not passed the departments tests and had been rejected. Instead of the Angus Hose the truck was equipped with standard heavier hose. Eventually it was discovered that the hose was not the problem, it was the electrical reels system. After the electrical reel system had been replaced by a hydraulic system the reels worked almost as had been expected, with the exception that they only carried 700 feet of hose instead of the 800 originally planned. Another major problem was the attack hose, which was not a mechanical problem because these reels were hand powered. This was a problem of devising a way of getting the hose off the reel without creating a mound of "hose spaghetti" next to the engine. Training was the solution to this dilemma. By the end of 1980 this engines problems had all been solved and it lived up to most of the Companies expectations. This truck, along with the new Fire House was official Dedicated in April of 1981.
Company 2's present engine is a departure from all previous trucks. Every engine purchased specifically for the company had been a Mack, but by the early 1990s, when the Truck Committee started its work, Mack was no longer making fire engines. To complicate the committee's work further, the Board of Commissioners had mandated equipment for all new trucks, the most important was an OSHA approved ten man cab. More interestingly they required two Booster Reels, even though Company 2 had operated since 1962 with only one. After extensive research, the committee composed of James Campbell Jr., Lawrence Campson, Philip Canfora Sr., Michael Catalano, Thomas Haeseker, Richard Kroebel, John Kropp, Gennaro Lico, and John Zanghi, decided on an engine built by a relatively new fire equipment manufacturing company, KME. The design of this new engine is a combination of the Company's earlier trucks along with the BoC's mandates, and the largest engine ever assigned to Station 2 both in physical size and pump capacity, 2000 GPM. This engine is so high off the ground that a step is required to get into the truck. Each step slides out from under the truck when the door is opened. It has a ten man crew cab, fully air conditioned, two booster lines, one above the rear step like the previous trucks and one on the front bumper. The rear of the truck contains one large reel that carries 1000 feet of five inch supply hose, above this is a hose bed for carrying three inch hose. The 1 3/4 inch attack lines are located on the sides of the truck, similar to the 1978 Mack, except they are not carried on reels, but in a small hose bed that runs from one side of the truck to the other. This is the same location and method used to carry the 2 1/2 inch hose. Both the 1978, Mack and this engine had a five inch intake pipe located on the front pumper along with a length of soft suction for connecting the pumper to a hydrant. The KME also has a new length of hose that was not carried on any other truck, a trash line. Each engine in the WBFD carry two or more short length of 2 1/2 hose called "Pony" that are used for connecting to a hydrant or another engine when using the water in the trucks tank for fire fighting. During the 1970s, Company 2 had experimented using one of the Ponies for containing fires in commercial Dumpsters. The procedure used for a number of years was to connect one end of the Pony to the pump and place the other end, without a nozzle, into the Dumpster. Once this was set up the pump operator could fill the Dumpster with water using low pressure, thus preventing possible injury to firefighters by flying garbage created by a high pressure nozzle. Besides preventing the possibility of injury this method required fewer men to setup and take down since only a short length of hose was used. The trash line is a modification of this system using a short length of 1 3/4 inch hose, with a nozzle, preconnected to the pumper and mounted on front bumper. One of the most unique items on this truck is a video camera mounted above the rear step with a TV monitor in the cab to give the driver additional vision while backing the truck up.
The committee decided to take a step further than the BoC's mandate concerning the pump controls. All of the Companies previous engines had the pump panel located on the drivers side of the truck, forcing the pump operator to stand along side the engine while he operated the pump, sometimes actually standing in the street with traffic passing him. One of the BoC's requirements on all new engines was that all pump panels be located behind the cab, with the operator standing safely on the engine. This engine was designed with the pump panel completely enclosed. Now the pumper operator not only is out of traffic, he is also out of the weather.
The truck committee did an excellent job of designing an engine that had just about everything the Company wanted. Unfortunately the builders, KME, did a poor job of constructing it. When the truck was delivered in 1995 it was discovered that KME had underestimated the weight of the vehicle, a 2200 pound truck was sitting on springs designed to hold a 1600 pound truck. This problem was identified at a spring repair shop that the truck had been sent to because the wheel base was over one inch longer on one side than the other. Another problem was found in the steering system. The steering box was built to small for the truck and had to be re-engineered, and rebuilt. The worst thing about all these defects was KME's attitude. Instead of acknowledging its errors and making the necessary repair willingly, the company refused until pressured by the threat of a law suit to make the repairs. To make things more difficult for the Company, the BoC had sold the old engine shortly after the new truck had arrived. Every time the KME was sent out for repairs the Company was left without an engine. To help relieve this problem Chief Richard Vella, at the request of the Company Officers, was able to secure the loan of East Farmingdale Fire Company's spare engine the final time the KME was sent back to the factory. The only down side to this engine, the former 1-5-6, was that it arrived at Station 2 on the same day that Tom Manzi passed away and was used as a flower truck in his funeral instead of his own rig. Once all the repairs had been completed the truck has proven to be an excellent piece of fire apparatus and well liked by all members. The "wetdown" and dedication for this truck took place on October 29, 1995, after the truck was finally accepted by the District.
The growing number of fires in the West Babylon area during the mid 1940s, may have inspired the residents to start their own Fire Department. The Babylon Leader has a number of articles about fires in the area, in the years preceding the founding of the WBVFD: Morris Bro.[sic] Garage Sunrise Highway and Little East Neck Road-January 24, 1946, a home on Little East Neck Road and Farmingdale Road-February 7, 1946, a garage on 4th Street and Little East Neck Road-March 14, 1946, a combination barn and garage behind the former Broring's Hotel at "Rum Point" the triangle at the intersection of Little East Neck Road and Belmont Avenue-March 18, 1946, and the Beaver Lake Hotel mentioned previously. All of these fires were handled by the neighboring Fire Departments, Babylon Village, North Babylon, and Wyandanch, but the time it took for these department to arrive at the scene must have been a concern for the residents of West Babylon.
In 1949, the major fire problem in the community was brush fires, a major portion of the Fire District was still undeveloped land. One of the biggest problem areas was the wooded St. Charles cemetery property between Southern State Parkway and Edison Avenue, west of Straight Path. This property is in the East Farmingdale Fire Protection District, but when it burned nearly every Fire Department in the town became involved. West Babylon was always one of the first department's called to assist East Farmingdale when a fire started there. It was a very dense woods that seemed to burn about every other year during the 1950s. The town incinerator is located only a half a block away from these woods, but during most of the 1950s, the town burned most of its garbage in open pits on the incinerator property. Each spring the flying fire brands from this "controlled fire" started a fire in the cemetery's woods. One year, a fire started in the early morning and burned well into the evening. The glow in the sky from this fire was so terrifying, many of the residents south of the parkway prepared to evacuate their homes. The threat from this area did not end until the Cemetery cleared the land.
With the growth of the community the fire fighting needs also shifted, the members had to learn how to handle structural fires. Interestingly, one of the largest potential for fire was a major source of training for the Fire Department. Early in 1956, the Fire Department was asked to assist in clearing the land on the Gilmore Estate, so that the Great South Bay Shopping Center could be built. Over a period of a few weeks the members would hold training drills on each of the buildings on the estate, starting fires in a building, putting it out, and then starting all over again. Eventually all the buildings were burnt to the ground. One of the most stubborn building's to burn down was an old Ice House, a wood structure that had double walls with straw in between them for insulation. Surprisingly, the shopping center has been relatively safe. During the 1960s, the Woolworth Store was destroyed by a fire and the Pergament Paint Store burned twice; on the evening of March 9, 1971 and on Sunday morning December 23, 1973. These were the only major fires in the shopping center.
The year 1956 seems to have been a very busy year for the young Fire Department. In addition to the training sessions at the Gilmore Estate the department had a number of fires close to Station 2. On March 9, the Ezra Park Civic Association clubhouse, across the street from Station 2, burned to the ground. A few weeks later a woodworking shop behind a home at 1133 Herzel Blvd, one block from the Station also was destroyed by fire. Because of the proximity of these and several others to the Fire House the Town Police suspected an arsonist with a "grudge" against the Fire Department. At 9:55 A.M. on September 4, the sirens were sounded for a fire at 1008 Herzel Blvd, a 10-room bungalow located on the west side of Station 2. At this fire five fireman were overcome by smoke and Company 2 Lt. Quentin Nee was treated for minor face burns and smoke inhalation. The members of Company 2 were on the scene until 2:30 P.M. Initially this fire gave many of the firemen a real scare. It was a very smokey fire and the smoke was blowing across Herzel Blvd. Everyone responding from the west of the fire had to drive blindly though the smoke. Not all the fires that year were located around Station 2. On the rainy night of April 8, the Department responded to a fire at Union Transit Mix Co., on Eaton Avenue (now Cord Place.) This fire, which was reported at 1:19 A.M., destroyed part of the main office and the entire tool shed. It took the firemen an hour and a half to douse this fire.
The Woolworth's fire was almost the most disastrous to Company 2. This fire which occurred on the evening of July 4, 1966, almost took the life of Captain Phil Canfora of Company 2. A crew from Company 2 had gone on the roof of the building to open some holes to ventilate the building. Lieutenant Jerry Lico, while checking the operation, noticed the roof starting to sag and ordered everyone off the roof. Just after the Captain stepped off the roof onto the ladder, the whole roof collapsed into the fire.
One of the worst fires in 1967 was in the East Farmingdale Fire District. This was the East Coast Attic and Basement Warehouse fire on Route 109 and Albany Avenue. This building contained "everything that could possibly burn". The original fire occurred at night and was fought most of the night. During the night the members of Company 2 had dug a hole under the Long Island Railroad tracks so that the hose could be laid under the tracks without concern about trains cutting the hose. The next day the EFFD was fighting a major brush fire in a different part of their district when they received a call about a rekindle at East Coast Attic. Because all their equipment was tied up at the brush fire they called West Babylon to handle the rekindle. On arrival Chief John Gerold found that the building was fully involved again and requested the same response as the previous night. Company 2 took up the same position they had occupied the night before. Unfortunately, this time they did not use the hole under the tracks, they laid the hose on top of the tracks. Of course with all the excitement of the fire, and fatigue, no one notified the Railroad about the hose on the track. Predictably, the next train on that line cut the hose into two pieces.
At 12:30 A.M., on the night of July 8, 1973, the fire that the whole Town had been dreading for years occurred, with a slight twist. Every year all eleven Town of Babylon Fire Departments had conducted drills at the Conservative Gas Co. storage yard in Wyandanch. These drills assumed that a fire had broken out in the Gas Co. yard and the main focus of the drill was to protect the Southern Container Corp. Plant across the street. On this night a fire had started in the Southern Container Plant, and the disaster plan had to be implemented in reverse. The main body of fire was in 600, two-and-a-half-ton rolls of heavy brown paper. In addition to all the Babylon Town Fire Departments, six Fire Departments from Huntington Town also responded to this call. Thirty pieces of equipment manned by 300 men fought the fire. Most of the equipment was used to maintain a "water curtain" between the fire and the Gas Co. Because of the nature of the alarm and the possibility of an explosion, other Fire Equipment was placed at various points and distances from the fire to ensure a safe and quick response if necessary. For instance, a number of engines were placed on standby about a half a mile from the fire, West Babylon had Company 6 stand-by at Station 2, while Babylon Village had an engine on stand-by at the Bon Ton Diner a few blocks away. Luckily the fire was brought under control in four hours, but it took days to completely put the fire out. The most memorable thing about that night was the sound on a still July night. Every Fire Alarm Siren in the Town was sounding at the same time. With the additional sound of the responding Fire Chief's and engines, it was as close as anyone can come to hearing what it must have been like in London during the Blitz in 1940.
Many of the alarms the WBVFD, and Station 2 in particular, have responded to, have been mutual aid calls to other Fire Departments. During the 1950s, Company 2 assisted East Farmingdale when a military aircraft crash-landed on the Southern State Parkway. They also went to Babylon Village for a fire at the Frost Shipyard and the Babylon Movie Theater. Babylon Village called on the assistance of West Babylon a number of times during the 1970s. The most disheartening mutual aid call that West Babylon responded to was on the night of April 30, 1978. At 3:00 A.M. a call was sounded requesting assistance by the Lindenhurst Fire Department for a fire at FIRE HEADQUARTERS. Luckily the first members of Lindenhurst to arrive at the fire were able to remove all the fire trucks before they were destroyed, but 100 years of records and trophies were destroyed. The 1980s, seems be the decade that Station 2 travelled to Deer Park the most. The Station was called to assist not only the numerous brush fires on the Edgewood Property, an abandoned State Mental Hospital, but spent one evening trying, unsuccessfully, to fill the old building's basement with foam. The number of times an engine from the station was called out to "stand-by" at another Fire Department's Station are considerable.
Father's Day is a day that most men spend with their families, and one of the few Sundays that the Fire House is empty and all training drills are cancelled. June 20, 1982 started out like every other Father's Day, but ended differently from most for the members of the WBVFD. At about 7:30 P.M. the Babylon Central Fire Alarm activated an alarm at the West Babylon Senior High School. The first arriving units found flames shooting up the exterior of the building to the third floor. For the next four hours the entire Department, under the direction of Third Assistant Chief Thomas Karn, worked to control a fire that completely gutted four administrative officers on the first floor of the three story building. Luckily only three fireman were slightly injured. On completion of fire fighting operations the building was turned over to school officials who worked all night to have the school ready for regularly scheduled year-end test and regents examinations. Due to evidence of vandalism in the building this fire was declared "suspicious". Three weeks later three local youths were arrested and charged with Arson and criminal mischief.
Another fire that effected many resident of West Babylon occurred on April 19, 1993. Around 2 A.M. the priests at Our Lady of Grace R. C. Church, on Albin Avenue, were awakened by the sound of smoke alarms in the rectory. After rousing the other priests and evacuating the building, they attempted to put out the fire with a garden hose. The WBVFD received the alarm around 2:25 A.M. and the first engine arrived six minutes later. One priest and four firefighters were transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, in West Islip, suffering from smoke inhalation. By 7 A.M. the fire was completely extinguished, but the building was destroyed. The priests lost all their possessions along with some of the parish records. The cause of this fire was attributed to extension cords for electric heaters used in a greenhouse in the rear of the rectory.
The West Babylon Volunteer Fire Department has been fortunate that it has never lost a member while fighting a fire, but it has not always been able to save victims of fire. In 1981, two people perished in two separate fires, one in a trailer in the junk yard on Albin Avenue on January 10, and the other on March 15, in his home on Hamlin Avenue. The victim of the Albin Avenue fire was probably dead before the Department received the alarm, while the victim of the Hamlin Avenue fire "...died of what appeared to be a heart attack, he was seen dragging a mattress from the frame building after the fire began...". On June 15, 1983, two victims were discovered in a fire on Farmers Avenue. Both victims, a husband and his wife, appeared to have stab wounds and lacerations, the wife was pronounced dead and her husband was admitted in critical condition to Brunswick Hospital Center. The husband was later arrested and charged with the murder of his wife, Assault and Arson. The members of the Department's Rescue Squad have also brought children into this world, in homes and in the Ambulance, more births have been recorded than people lost to fires.
A fire department's job is not limited to fire suppression or rescue work, sometimes a lot of time is spent preparing for an emergency that may not happen. For example, on the night of January 24, 1981, the WBVFD received an alarm of an overturned truck on the exit ramp from Sunrise Highway to Route 109. The first arriving units found a tanker containing liquified petroleum gas laying on its side. Because the possibility of a LPG vapor leak, which could cause an explosion, a general alarm was sounded for a full departmental response. With the help of the Suffolk County Police an immediate evacuation of the nearby Sid Farber Apartments was started. In addition to the normal fire equipment responding to this alarm Chief Jerry Lico called for the Department's bus, then stationed at Station 2, to provide temporary shelter for the evacuees. Before any attempt was made to upright the truck, a plan for controlling a fire was formulated and men and equipment were set up to carry out this plan. Finally, with everyone in place in case of an explosion, two tow trucks were able to upright the overturned tanker without incident. For three hours the members of the WBVFD were prepared for something that never happened.
Updated July 18, 1998 by Kenneth C Nee
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