02' News Archives
Sound Avenue barn burns
A Baiting Hollow barn was completely gutted by flames last Thursday, one of several fires the Riverhead Fire Department responded to in the past week:
The barn, located on the Lewin Farm on Sound Avenue, just west of the Boy Scout Camp, was completely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, according to Riverhead Fire Chief Frank Darrow. Mutual aid arrived from the Flanders, Eastport, Wading River and Jamesport fire departments, all of which responded with tanker trucks.
The case has been turned over to the Riverhead Town fire marshal and the Suffolk County arson squad, but no determination about the cause could be made, according to fire marshal Bruce Johnson.
“The investigation is complete, but because of the severity of the fire, the arson squad was not able to determine a cause,” Mr. Johnson said. “We don't believe it to be suspicious in nature.”
It was a large, open barn with a wooden truss inside that burned and collapsed, he said.
The fire department also responded to a report of smoke at the Atlantis Marine World aquarium last Tuesday, Sept. 10. It turned out to have been caused by an air conditioner fan motor on the roof of the building, which seized up and sent smoke into the building, Mr. Johnson said. The aquarium was evacuated while firefighters located the problem. It reopened later in the day, he said.
A house under construction at a development site off Youngs Avenue in Calverton suffered moderate damage when an oil burner malfunction filled the basement with smoke last Thursday, according to Chief Darrow. A total of 45 firefighters responded to that alarm, he said.
About five homes on Middle Road west of Roanoke Avenue experienced electrical problems Friday due to a malfunction of their electrical boxes, Mr. Johnson said.
The Riverhead Fire Department also responded to a fatal auto accident at the intersection of County Road 51 and Lake Avenue in Northampton. An 18-year-old woman died in that crash.
Fire smolders for two days, then flares up
The Riverhead Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a mobile home on Forge Road in Calverton last Thursday that was believed to have been caused by a lightning strike nearly two days earlier.
The fire was located in the wall of a mobile home and caused moderate damage to the interior and exterior of the wall, according to Riverhead Fire Chief Frank Darrow.
A total of 75 firefighters responded to the blaze. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters, according to the chief.
According to Riverhead Town fire marshal Bruce Johnson, the fire was caused by a lightning strike that is believed to have hit a day and half earlier. The lightning is believed to have energized part of the metal frame or siding on the home, causing the insulation to smolder for about a day before the fire was discovered.
“There is no evidence the lightening hit the home,” Mr. Johnson said. The home had experienced power and telephone outages prior to the discovery of the fire. The occupants of the home, who were not identified, discovered the fire while eating dinner and had time to get out safely before calling the fire department, Mr. Johnson said.
The home did not have working fire alarms, Mr. Johnson said. He emphasized that a new town program will provide about 2,000 free smoke alarms to residents, The alarms will he available to homes that don't have them, and priority is being given to senior citizens and mobile home occupants, Mr. Johnson said. The alarms are made available through a state grant.
Anyone seeking a free fire alarm should call Town Hall at 727-3200, ext. 555
9-year-old is injured in Midway Drive blaze
A home on Midway Drive, off Northville Turnpike, sustained heavy damage during a fire reported at 10:27 p.m. Monday, according to the Riverhead Fire Department. The occupants of the house, William and Margaret Spellman, have lived there for 36 years, and their 9-year-old grandson was taken to Central Suffolk Hospital by the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor burns.
The family is now staying with relatives. There were no injuries to firefighters, according to Chief Frank Darrow, who said 65 volunteers responded. The cause of the blaze was a spark from a faulty appliance wire, according to town fire marshal Bruce Johnson, who stressed that residents should have working smoke detectors and should immediately evacuate during a fire.
"Big boom" is averted
The intersection of Doctors Path and Route 25 looks pretty normal now, but it might have looked like a Rambo movie had it not been for some quick work by local firefighters Saturday.
That's when two trucks collided and burst into flames at that intersection. But it's what didn't catch fire that made the difference. One of the trucks was carrying 9,300 gallons of gasoline and both of them were heading toward an underground natural gas pipeline.
Had the gasoline ignited and subsequently ignited the natural gas, "it would have been a tremendous fireball, probably involving surrounding structures for at least 100 yards, minimum," said Riverhead Town fire marshal Bruce Johnson.
As it turned out, only the cab of the gasoline tanker caught fire, as the Riverhead Fire Department stopped the flames before they reached the tank or the natural gas.
But it wasn't easy. In addition to the cab of the tanker being on fire, the truck it hit was completely aflame and was leaning up against the tanker, and both of them were on top of the valve for the natural gas pipes, said Riverhead Fire Chief Frank Darrow.
The accident occurred at 7:46 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of Doctors Path, Route 25 and Route 58. A LIPA truck, a Keystone Auto Parks truck and a fuel tanker owned by Independent Bulk Transportation were involved, according to Riverhead Town Police.
The Keystone truck, driven by Mark Breoekamp, 41, of Bay Shore, was heading north and making a left turn from Route 25 onto Route 58 when it was struck by the eastbound fuel tanker, driven by Adnan Gok, 45, of Farmingville, according to police. The LIPA truck, driven by George Cruickshank, 51, of East Moriches, was hit in the rear by the collision of the other trucks but continued north to Doctors Path, police said.
The tanker truck then proceeded to push the Keystone truck in a northeast direction onto a grass field located at the northeast corner of the intersection, where the Keystone truck and the cab of the tanker caught fire and became completely engulfed in flames, according to police.
It was a diesel tank on the Keystone truck that caught fire and spread to the cab of the tanker, Mr. Darrow said. None of the gasoline spilled or ignited, but some of the tank was already beginning to melt when firefighters arrived, he said.
The first fire truck was on the scene in about two minutes and firefighters had the blaze largely under control within roughly 20 minutes, said Chief Darrow. The firefighters used two "deck gun" hoses, which can shoot about 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
"A tremendous amount of credit has to go to the Riverhead Fire Department and the first arriving fire trucks," said Mr. Johnson. "My estimate is that they only had another minute or two to avoid what would have been a significant incident."
Gasoline doesn't outwardly explode, but it does create "a tremendous fire," he said. And if the fire met the natural gas, that would've created a very large explosion.
"The residents of Riverhead owe the volunteer fire department a great deal of credit," said Mr. Johnson. "The aggressive fire attack by the first responders really came through and probably averted a very, very serious incident by about two minutes. There also was a very serious personal risk for the firefighters. They put themselves in harm's way."
The three men involved in the crash all were transported to Central Suffolk Hospital by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance and treated for what police described as minor injuries.
Representatives from KeySpan, which owns the natural gas lines, also helped during the fire, Chief Darrow said, and a "foam" truck from Gabreski Airport was called in incase the gas caught fire.
Had the gasoline tanker not been full, it probably would have exploded, according to Chief Darrow. A half-full tank would have allowed more air to get inside the tank.
Route 58 was closed for nine hours Saturday between Route 105 and Northville Turnpike, while Doctors Path was closed off at Northville Turnpike, and East Main Street was closed at Hubbard Avenue.
Detective Sergeant Patrick Mulcahy of the Riverhead Town Police said no summonses were issued as a result of the crash but that it appears the gasoline tanker ran the red light.
Officials from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and Miller Environmental also were on hand to make sure there were no fuel leaks, according to police.
3 Fires in 5 Hours
Tuesday was a busy day for the Riverhead Fire Department, which answered three calls within a five-hour period that afternoon. The first call, at around 3:45 p.m., involved a two-car accident at the intersection of Northville Turnpike and Middle Road, an area that has had several accidents recently.
The fire department extricated a woman from one car and she was transported to Central Suffolk Hospital by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance with unspecified injuries. The name of the woman, as well as her condition, was not available at press time. Forty-five firefighters responded to the scene, according to fire chief Frank Darrow.
At 5:56 p.m., the fire department responded to a structure fire on Riverleigh Avenue in Riverside, in which a fire in a basement extended to a bedroom wall, according to Mr. Darrow. The building sustained moderate damage, although there were no injuries to firefighters or civilians. Mr. Darrow said. Sixty-five firefighters responded to this fire and the case is being investigated by the Southampton Town fire marshal's office, Mr. Darrow said.
The third call came in at 7:30 p.m., when the department responded to a brush fire in a pile of leaves and branches behind the Toys “R” Us store on Route 58. Thirty-five firefighters responded to extinguish that fire, and there were no injuries reported, according to Chief Darrow.
Medevac chopper to stay
The Suffolk Legislature voted unanimously this week to base a Suffolk Police Department medevac helicopter year-round at Francis Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. The move came in the face of a day-long lobbying effort by more than 200 emergency medical and fire department personnel.
The legislature's Budget Committee last week had tabled measures authored by Legislator Fred Towle (R-Shirley) to have a medevac helicopter -- a chopper especially equipped to handle trauma cases -- stationed at Gabreski 12 months a year.
For parts of the last two years, one of the three county police medevac helicopters has been at Gabreski and the other two at Islip Town's Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, the base for the Suffolk County Police choppers. The 20-minute difference in flight time to the East End between Gabreski and MacArthur is credited with the chopper's having saved lives on the East End. But the effort by Mr. Towle, whose district encompasses southeastern Brookhaven Town, to extend the medevac stationing at Gabreski all-year has been blocked by a grouping of western Suffolk lawmakers.
In 2001, his legislation to have a medevac helicopter at Gabreski all year expired after being stalled in committee for months. Thus, on Dec. 31, 2001, the chopper returned to MacArthur. At the start of 2002, he re-filed his legislation. But it didn't look like it had much of a chance of passage -- including into much of the session Tuesday in Riverhead.
But gazing out from their horseshoe table at signs held by emergency medical and fire department personnel declaring "What Is A Life Worth?" and "We Live On The East End Year Round," all the legislators finally came around.
"I'm ecstatic," said Mr. Towle, who gave much credit to the turn-out of emergency medical and fire department personnel that his office organized
Mr. Towle said: "The people of eastern Brookhaven and the East End who do this volunteer work were united."
Legislator George Guldi (D-Westhampton Beach), whose district includes East Hampton and Southampton towns, said he was especially happy that the legislation specifically calls for all-year medevac basing at Gabreski through 2002 "and every year thereafter." Said Mr. Guldi: "That means it's permanent."
Legislator Michael Caracciolo (R-Baiting Hollow), whose district includes Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold towns, said "the justification, the facts and the overwhelming support of the fire and medical services helped us to achieve this important victory for the residents of and visitors to the East End."
Dr. Robert D. Barraco of the Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care at University Hospital in Stony Brook explained to the legislators how in the early 1970s the practice of "medical evacuation" by helicopter was developed by Dr. R. Adams Cowley of the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center. It was modeled, he said, on U.S. military experience in the Korean and Vietnam wars which showed that quick transport to medical care sharply reduced deaths. It was Dr. Cowley, he said, who first referred to the vital first hour for medical care as the "golden hour."
Edward Boyd, a Southold lawyer and emergency medical technician, past chief of the Southold Fire Department and a member of the Shelter Island Red Cross Ambulance, spoke of the East End being "a unique region for many reasons, not least of which are its resources and its geography. While our neighbors to the west are blessed with an abundance of good hospitals and the ability to summon assistance from all directions," he said, "such is not the case on the East End. We are served by a total of three hospitals and, as good as they are, they are not trauma centers. For that level of care we must rely upon University Hospital at Stony Brook Our transportation of patients is severely compromised by the limited access afforded by only two, or in many places just one, east-to-west highways and by the long distances involved."
He spoke of the medevac helicopter at Gabreski and said "the arrival of the helicopter signals to each of us in the field that the best possible care for our patient has arrived on the scene and that all that can possibly be done for that patient is being done. Conversely, it is impossible to put into words the disappointment and frustration we feel when provided with 35- and 45- minute estimated times of arrival for a helicopter coming from Islip. That is time being wasted from the account of a patient who cannot afford such waste and still survive.
Late in the day, arrangements were made for County Executive Robert Gaffney's office to issue a "certificate of necessity" for a legislative vote on the Towle legislation. At about 5 p.m., Suffolk County Police Commissioner John Gallagher testified that there was a "valid medical necessity to having a helicopter" at Gabreski all-year. He provided financial data assessing the cost at $829,000, including $367,545 for aircraft operation that would be incurred regardless of where the helicopter is based.
The "certificate of necessity," signed by Mr. Gaffney's chief deputy, Eric A. Kopp, arrived by fax at 6:28 p.m. When the vote was held, every member of the panel supported the all-year basing -- and applause erupted from the emergency medical and fire department personnel who had held on through a long meeting day.
Employing heat for safety's sake
FD's aquire high-tech cameras
Every time a volunteer firefighter pulls on the turnout gear and walks into a smoke-filled blazing building, there's a chance, however remote, that they won't make it out alive.
And if a structure is on fire, it can be difficult for the chief to determine whether there's anyone inside before sending a rescuer in where the less than courageous dare not tread.
Hoping to lessen the potential danger to all involved, the Riverhead and Jamesport Fire Departments have expanded their arsenals of firefighting weapons to include the technology to see past walls and locate people, either fire victims or firefighters, who might otherwise be lost.
The departments recently acquired infrared video cameras that can peer through the night, through smoke and through the sides of buildings. While standard cameras pick up visible light reflected off objects, the infrared systems capture the heat people release through their skin.
The Riverhead department purchased one of the $20,000 camera systems on its own, and the Riverhead VFW donated a second. The camera systems will be carried by the department's chief and his first assistant chief.
"This is one of the latest advances in firefighting equipment," said Charlie Bloss, one of the Riverhead department's commissioners. "Most of the departments west of here have at least one." While the systems were largely experimental when they first hit the market about seven years ago, they've been out long enough so we know how they work," Mr. Bloss said.
The one drawback is that the cameras can't see past masonry walls.
With several of its members also belonging to the fire department, the VFW decided to raise money through a variety of fund drives to purchase one of the imaging systems. "We thought this would be a good way to help out," said post commander George Phillips.
The Jamesport squad spent about $9,000 for a simpler version, said fire commissioner Jim Kane.
But even that camera is sensitive enough to heat to pick up a person walking across the room in total darkness, he said. It even shows the places on the floor where the person walked.
"They're quite impressive," Mr. Kane said.
In addition to the firefighting applications, the department can use the new camera in the dead of night to scan wooded areas, and even the bay, for missing people.
From where we were even 20 years ago to where we are today, the change in technology is unbelievable," said Mr. Kane. "We're thrilled to have this."
House & Brush Fires
The Riverhead Fire Department responded to two fires last Wednesday.
A structure fire was reported on East Avenue at about 6:35 p.m., according to fire officials. Alter a house filled with smoke due to a malfunctioning wood stove, one occupant of the home was transported to Central Suffolk Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, according to Fire Chief Frank Darrow. Seventy firefighters, four trucks and seven support vehicles responded to the scene.
At 4:34 a.m. last Wednesday, the Riverhead Fire Department responded to a brush fire stretching from Deep Hole Road to Middle Road in Calverton. Volunteers spent about two hours fighting the blaze, according to Chief Darrow. There were no injuries. Forty firefighters, two brush trucks, two engines, a tanker and four support vehicles were deployed, according to the chief.
The Riverhead Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a home on Park Road, near Reeves Park, Friday morning.
The home sustained heavy damage and firefighters said heavy smoke and flames were coming from a kitchen area, according to Fire Chief Frank Darrow. No one was injured in the blaze, which was brought under control by 50 firefighters, the chief said.
Two Structure Fires
The Riverhead Fire Department responded to separate structure fires last Thursday and Friday.
On Friday, a mobile home at a park on Hubbard Avenue sustained heavy damage. Fire Chief Frank Darrow said heavy smoke and fire were coming front the windows of the home when firefighters arrived. There were no injuries to firefighters or civilians. Sixty fire department personnel battled the blaze, according to the chief.
The fire last Thursday took place in an unattended stove at the Riverhead Landing apartments on Middle Road, and extended into some adjacent cabinets, according to the chief. A maintenance man from the complex was treated at Central Suffolk Hospital for smoke inhalation, he said. The fire was fought by 40 firefighters. The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance also responded to transport the maintenance worker to the hospital, according to the chief.