West Babylon Fire Department Station #2
The first Fire House, a small Cape Cod style house with the front rooms turned into bays for two Fire trucks, was built on a piece of property on the south side of Herzel Boulevard midway between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue. The property cost $1,650.00 and construction and equipment for the Fire House cost $15,000.00. In the rear of the building housed a small kitchen, a boiler room, and a bathroom. The second floor was accessible only from a wooden stairway outside in the rear. The building was so small that the two fire engines stationed there had to be moved outside for the Company to hold a meeting. Throughout the Company minutes of the meetings held when this house was in use, are reports of letters received from various Fire Department units requesting the company remove the engines so that the house can be used for meetings or voting. While Fire District paid for the construction, many of the "luxury" items had to be supplied by the Department or members of the Company. The Department supplied tables, chairs, and kitchen supplies. Even the lettering on the outside of the building was purchased by the Department. The Company members supplied material and built hose drying racks for each side of the house. In 1954, the Company spent $7.50 to have the donated refrigerator fixed. To the East of the Fire House stood a one family house, on the west side woods. For a number of years the members spent time clearing these woods to provide parking next to the house. Finally at a meeting held on August 8, 1954, a letter from the Board of Fire Commissioners was read aloud that stated that "work will begin on parking lot after Highway Dept. men return from vacation." By 1955 the Company had started asking the Commissioners to take care of maintenance on the house. At the January 10, 1955 meeting, the members voted to send a letter to the Commissioners requesting "we be allowed a double door on the Kitchen." At the same meeting, the members began spending Company money to finish the second floor as a recreation room. This room was completed at the Company's expense and equipped with a bar. It was used for a number of years until someone used it for some unauthorized activity and it was closed permanently by the Board of Commissioners.
The location of the Fire House, while more or less centrally located, created an unusual, and possibly unforeseen problem. Herzel Boulevard had a steep drop in elevation at 11th Avenue, This was usually not a problem, but when it rained, the intersection of Herzel and 11th Avenue became so flooded that cars could not get across. Some of the men actually used rowboats to get to the Fire House. This flood also filled half of the parking lot of the Santapogue School and made it difficult for some students to get to the school. In 1955 or 1956 the Town removed the steep hill on the roadway by making the incline a gradual slope extending the entire block. This eliminated most of the flooding, but placed all land on either side of the corner as much as five feet above the street, including the Fire House. This made the ramps in front of the fire engine doors too steep for safe operation, forcing the Commissioners to install doors on the west side of the building allowing the engines to leave the Station through the parking lot, a more gradual slope.
On Wednesday, April 17, 1957, the residents of the Fire District were asked, by the Board of Fire Commissioners, to vote on three propositions on building expansions. Proposition Number 1 at an estimated cost of $52,500 was the addition to Station 2. Proposition Number 2 was for the construction and furnishing of a new Fire House, on Great East Neck Road at an estimated cost of $47,500, and the last was for an estimated cost of $175,000 for an addition to Station 1. Only Proposition Number 1 was approved.
The new Fire House consisted of the addition of two double truck bays, able to house four fire engines, built on the west side of the old house. In between the new Truck House and the old house was a short hallway with a Classroom/TV Room in front of the building and Rest rooms in the rear. The old house was turned into a combination meeting/recreation room. The old kitchen and boiler room were expanded and the bathroom was replaced by an emergency generator room to ensure electrical power for the siren in case of power outages. Due to the difference in the height between the new structure and the old, a small three step staircase was installed between them. In the Truck House were two small rooms used by the Fire District for storage, and a very small room for Company storage. In the early 1970s, the old second floor room was converted to a work room for the Fire Department Fund Drive Committee. The front of the old building was replaced with windows and half-a-dozen parking spaces were created, allowing for the first time members living east of the Station to park without passing in front of the equipment. The truck house was set up with Company 6's engine in the east bay with the Fire Police Truck behind it and Company 2's engine in the west bay with the bay behind it used as needed. For a couple of years the Drill team's truck was there, but usually it was used to store old engines waiting to be sold.
Over the years minor improvements were made to the Station. In 1967 a pay phone was installed along with a Trophy Case. New drapes were installed in the recreation room, a new TV placed in the TV Room, and a new stove purchased for the kitchen in 1969. Air Conditioning was installed in TV Room in 1971 and the Meeting Room in 1973. To encourage the members to "Hang Out at the Fire House" Cable TV and a New Ping Pong Table were installed in 1975. Two of the most important of these improvements came in 1970, when the District installed a traffic light in front of the Station and in 1978 when racks were installed in the building to store and dry the "Turnout Gear".
When Station 2 had been built Herzel Boulevard had been a quiet residential street, but by the 1970 it had become a true, heavily traveled, boulevard. It is the widest street in the area and a major route between the major roads Straight Path and Little East Neck Road. The standard procedure for backing the equipment into the "barn" required that a man stand on each side of the rig to stop traffic, sometimes not an easy or safe procedure. With the installation of a traffic light most people do stop, though not all, so men are still required to remain in the street to insure no one runs the red light.
Prior to the installation of racks in the fire house all boots, coats, and helmets were carried on the trucks on the "Boot Rail". This forced each member to put on his gear on the truck as it responded to the call. Beside the safety hazard to personnel trying to "gear up on the road", numerous times pieces of equipment were dropped off the truck, sometimes to be returned later. In addition, the boots and coats were not placed in any specific order, even though attempts had been made unsuccessfully to do this, so each member was not always able to get the proper size gear. Another problem with this system was that sometimes the coats and boots were not always properly cleaned and dried before being placed back on the Boot Rail. Wet gear could be a real hazard in extremely hot fires, steam produced inside the coats could seriously burn a firefighter. After the gear racks were installed in the Station each firefighter was measured, issued the proper size equipment, assigned place for the gear on the racks and given the responsibility for the proper maintenance of this set of gear. No longer would a member who wears a size 12 boot try to get his foot into a size 7.
The continued growth of the community during the late 1960s, and early 1970s, raised concerns about fire protection south of the railroad tracks. Shopping Centers had sprung up all along Montauk Highway, and Railroad Avenue was attracting a number of small businesses. The elevation of the railroad tracks eliminated the grade crossing on Great East Neck Road, but created a hazardous blind intersection at Railroad Avenue. At the same time the two Fire Houses were old and becoming too small for the growing Fire Department. To relieve this situation the Board of Fire Commissioners, in 1973, placed a proposal before the voters to build a new Fire House on Great East Neck Road south of the railroad tracks and to expand both of the other Stations. Only the new station was approved by the residents, thus Station 3, and a new Company was organized. The Commissioners were persistent in their attempts to encourage the voters to approve the rebuilding of the old Fire Houses. Following several defeats, approval came in 1978.
Station 2 was rebuilt, but retained a piece of the old structure (pictures of construction). This time two single truck bays and "living quarters" were added to the west side of the two old truck bays. Except for the removal of the west side wall and the storeroom door on the east wall, the two old truck bays were left as they were. The original 1948 Fire House was torn down and the land converted into a parking lot. For the first time in its history, Station 2 had parking lots on both sides of the building. On the west side of the new bays are storerooms for each company and two District Storerooms (these are actually used for storing station equipment such as Christmas decorations for the house.) Behind the new bays are located, from east to west, a generator room, a boiler room, and a storeroom. This storeroom is divided into two locked cages, one for the station cleaning supplies, and the other for joint company use. Next to the western bay is a room that extends outward from the bays giving a clear unobstructed view of the front of the truck house. This room was originally intended to be a radio room, but the radio transmitter was never installed. Today it is used as an unofficial office for the Rescue Squad at Station 2 (Rescue has an official office at Station 1) and phone communications center. A small hallway runs west from the truck house to the Station's main hallway. The main hallway is the main entrance to the Fire House at the north end. Entering the Station through these double doors, the rest rooms are on the east side and a large meeting room on the west side. Passing the hall to the truck house on the west side is a Trophy case shared by the two companies and Rescue. On the east side are offices for both companies. This hall leads to a larger TV/Class room in the rear of the building. In the rear of the building on the west side is a large recreation room, equipped with a bar and a Gas fed Fireplace. In between the recreation room and the meeting room is a large completely furnished kitchen. The new house is fully landscaped and has parking on both sides. Unlike the old house, this building is completely air conditioned, except the truck house which has an exhaust fan to clear fumes from the engines. In this building each piece of equipment has its own bay with, east to west, the Fire Police Van, Company 6's engine, Company 2's engine, and an Ambulance. Recently the Fire District purchased the building on the east side of the Station. Presently this building is used for training, but its purchase provides land for future expansion if necessary.
This house was designed by the men who would use it; in fact, the final plans, with minor changes, were drawn by a member of the house committee. It is furnished completely by the members at the Fire Districts expense. Each year the members submit a list of items that they feel are needed in the building to the Board of Fire Commissioners. If the Board approves an item on the list they provide the funds for the members to purchase the exact item they want. Over the years, the companies have been able to acquire comfortable chairs, a small TV and a good Stereo System behind the bar, and a large screen TV for the TV room. One item that is not new is a pool table. This was purchased in 1962 by Company 2, 6, and Fire Police Company 5 for $125.00. It is a professional size slate table that was quite old when it was purchased. Over the years the maintenance of this table generated a lot of discussion at each company's meetings. Finally in 1965 the three company's paid for all repairs needed on it and then turned ownership of it over to the Fire District, which reimbursed the companies for the repairs. Since then, the District has maintained the table, completely refurbishing it when it was moved from the old house to the new building.
Back to Ken Nee's Home Page
Created July 21, 1998 by Kenneth C Nee