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Township History Project

Posted 8/25/2018

In June of 2015, I began looking back at the history of the fire departments in the Smithtown Township. As I looked through countless piles of photos, journals, videos and news clippings in different firehouses, I realized that they all told part of a story and documented a piece of history. But they were all just pieces of a huge puzzle. I decided to try and put the puzzle together, with the end result being the history of the fire service in the Smithtown Township.This has been a daunting and time consuming task, but I consider it a labor of love. I have been a part of the fire service since 1981 and the rich traditions and community spirit of the fire departments and ambulance corps here span all the way back to the beginning of the 1900s. Thus far, tens of thousands of photos have been scanned and cataloged. Videos have been ingested and every edition of the local news papers since 1898 are been culled for information. For every photo that we have, there are doubtless 20 more out there in someones closet, basement or attic. There were news photographers like Stewart Seymour, Zimmerman, Frye, Tony Jerome and others who most likely have massive photo collections, yet I have no way to contact them or their families. So where is this project at? There is now an icloud calendar that has been published. That calendar is a true, yet incomplete timeline of the history of the fire service in the township. The calendar is the heart and soul of this project. All of the entries are fire service related events that occurred on the dates and years listed. They all reoccur every year so you don't have to try and remember when it was. As this is a work in progress, some of the entries are very basic, with no details. As time goes on and more is learned, these stories are being updated with the new information. This calendar is a living document with stories from the past and the present added every day.The next step in the process will be to attach all of the photos, video, audio and news clippings to the calendar entries. This is going to take some time but it will be worth the wait. The final phase of this project will be a television series that will air on the Town of Smithtown Government Access Channels (18 on Cablevision and 27 on Verizon). Hopefully this will be ready to go in 2019. So if you have any photos, videos, news clips, installation programs or anything else that would help enrich this project, please contact me here or via email at dcfmbrofman@smithtownfm.org. We would love to hear from you and your contribution would be invaluable.I will be adding "on this date in Smithtown Township History" entries to this page every day. If you see a post that you remember, that have a story about or that you have photos or videos about, PLEASE post them or reach out to me so that we can add them.

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Fire guts building at Sals Auto Body in 2000

Posted 12/29/2000

December 28, 2000 St. James FD-Fire guts one of 3 buildings at Sals Auto Body in 2000. 

Fire reported shortly after 2000 hours.Fire guts the southernmost of three buildings on the property of Sals Auto Body at 621 Lake Avenue. FD arrives to find fire venting out the back of the single story masonry garage.

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Fire at the Bull Creek In on Jericho Turnpike in 1998

Posted 12/18/1998

December 17, 1998. Today in Smithtown Township Fire History: Smithtown FD-Fire at Bull Creek Inn 1998.
The Bull Creek in is now known as “The Oasis”
Adult make burglarizes the place and attempts to steal the ATM. He pushes the ATM in front of the exit door and then sets a fire in the building. Subject becomes trapped. 
On Dec. 17, 1998, at about 7:30 a.m., Officers Thomas Foley and Timothy Biscay responded to a fire at a Smithtown bar.
As they pull around to the rear, the officers could see flames shooting out of a first floor door and a second story door.
“I noticed a pick-up truck parked in back, unoccupied. It was a concern. Where is this person? The report said there might be someone inside,” Biscay said.
The officers separated, with Biscay climbing an outside staircase to the second story door and Foley going to the downstairs rear door.
“I noticed the bottom door broken open . . . I attempt to go in the building. It’s inundated with smoke. As soon as I got in I screamed, `Is there anyone in there?’ “ Foley said. Because of the smoke, he couldn’t remain in the building.
Biscay was attempting to get in the upstairs door but the heat of the fire made it impossible.
Foley ran up the stairs to check on Biscay. “We agreed to check the front of the building. We ran to the front door. As we got to the front, we heard a faint sound and then some screams from inside. We knew someone was inside,” Foley said.
The officers tried to open the door but it was too hot and it was locked.
The officers yelled through the door, “we’re here, stay put, we’re working on getting you out.”
By this time, a local fire chief had responded. Biscay, a volunteer fireman, knew to ask for the proper tools to pry open the door. All three worked and got the door open.
“Smoke comes pouring out. I look and he’s {the trapped man} not there. I got low, crawled in and heard him coughing. I grabbed him by the shirt collar and pulled him toward where I thought the door was,” Biscay said.
Both Foley and Biscay dragged him to safety.
Subsequent investigation by the arson squard determined that this person had started the fire and had been trapped. He was charged with arson.
Foley and Biscay were named Cops of the Month, a precinct-level award given to police officers for exemplary work on a specific case or for overall performance in a given month. Both are assigned to the Fourth Precinct in Hauppauge.
Foley, a 3 ½-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Force, has 1 ½ years prior service as a New York State Trooper. He is single and lives in Suffolk. Biscay, a 5-year veteran of the Fourth Precinct has been a volunteer firefighter in Nassau County for nine years. He and his wife have a 2year-old daughter.

Do you have a photo, video or other information relating to this or any other fire or EMS related event that happened in the Smithtown Township? Please let us know as we would love to add it to this project!

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Fire on Orchid Drive in Kings Park in 1996

Posted 12/31/1996

Kings Park FD-House fire at 60 Orchid Drive in 1996.

A Kings Park Home was gutted by fire after a Christmas Tree toppled over and was ignited by a candle. 
The fire was reqported at 1057 hours. The caller stated that occupants of the house may be trapped within. Firefighters arrived quickly and found that everyone had safely evacuated. Firefighters encountered heavy fire on the ground level, with extension to the upper level and attic of the high ranch. 

The homeowner told Smithtown Fire Marshals that she had been taking down her tree, when she fell and knocked it over. The tree landed on a lit candle and immediately caught fire. The Fire Departments operated for approximately 4 hours. 

Story and Ed Betz photo in 1/2/1997 Smithtown News.

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House Fire on Lone Oak Path in Hauppauge in 1993

Posted 12/28/1993

December 27, 1993. House fire at 88 Lone Oak Path in Hauppauge. Fire reported at 0854 hrs. It originated in the clothes dryer causing heavy fire and smoke damage to the residence. A fiberglass boat parked along side the house was also damaged. Smithtown Fire Department was mutual aided to the scene. Fred Kleppsattel was the town Fire Marshal that responded. Walter Mayer Chief of the Dept was the OIC.

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Commack Past Chief saves woman in Smithtown in 1991

Posted 12/12/1991

Commack Ex-Chief Steve Fontana performs CPR on 31 year old woman at the Tri-County Flea Market at 291 West main Street (now a Stop and Shop)-1991.

Chief Fontana (who at the time of this incident, had not yet been a Chief) was shopping at the flea market,, when he witnessed a 31 year old female go into cardiac arrest.

 

Fontana administered CPR and mouth to mouth and until EMS arrived. The woman was revived and transported to St. Johns Hospital. Kudos Chief! Past Chief Fontana is NYC Police Officer

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Fire at Wicks Farm in St. James in 1982

Posted 12/25/1982

St. James FD-Commercial building fire-Wicks Farm on Christmas Eve in 1982. 

Fire in a large commercial barn on Wicks Farm. 15 firefighters are injured. St. James, Smithtown and Nesconset operate at the scene for over 8 hours. Chief was Dave Fischler. A portion of the barn was destroyed, an apartment was damaged, equipment, including a beverage distribution truck and holiday decorations were destroyed. Toxic fumes from pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals stored in the barn contributed to the injuries to firefighters. Fire was not deemed suspicious.

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Fire at Branchbrook Elementary School on Ridgely Road in 1976.

Posted 12/27/1976

December 26, 1976. From Franklin P. Micciche: A snowy night with treacherous roads. 4-2-2 was dispatched for an investigation of smell of smoke in the vicinity of the school. Crew in the house of Matt Kondenar Jr., Charlie Malloy (a probie at the time), and myself arrived to find heavy smoke from the front door and heavy fire conditions inside.

An immediate working 13 was dispatched. Since we didn't gear up for the investigation and because Charlie was untrained to use a pack we went in without them. I have to compliment Charlie Malloy who accompanied me under hot flames riding the ceiling to the fire source with a line. What an introduction to fire fighting. He was fearless.

We saw audio equipment scattered about and suspected theft and arson. It was and some neighborhood teens were prosecuted.

Don Kondenar was Chief of Department and the OIC

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Leo Schrakamp's Barn burns in Commack in 1961

Posted 1/1/1971

December 31, 1961. Commack FD-Massive fire destroys the Leo Schrakamp barn on Larkfield Road in 1961. Alarm reported at 2333 hours. Commack FD was holding a New Years Eve party at the time. Fire raged on until 0430 hours.

 

Smithtown News 1-4-1962

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House fire at 6th Ave and 4th Street in St. James in 1967

Posted 12/30/1970

December 29, 1967 St. James FD-House fire at the intersection of 6th Ave and 4th St in 1967.

An incendiary fire destroys a vacant wood frame structure located on the corner. Smithtown News reports it as 4th Street and 6th Avenue The building was slated for demolition to make way for a contractor to build 3 houses on the lot. Firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour and there were no injuries. 
Smithtown News 1-4-1968

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