Progressive is the best word to describe the say its members. In celebration of its 50 years of protecting a one-and-three-quarter square mile region, the two-station department has become more environmentally-friendly, keeps a close tab on its funds, actively educates the public and continually seeks to upgrade its equipment.
Last year, the department replaced high-energy sodium lights with environmentally-friendly solar panels. This project was completed in October 2010 by Sunation Solar Systems, Inc. (formerly Sun Power Systems) in Oakdale.
“During the first few months, we’ve already saved $1,000,” said Tom Mastakouris, chairman of the South Farmingdale Fire Department. “And of the $71,000 spent on the project, we received $45,000 in LIPA rebates. Plus, we received over 60% in rebates or approximately $29,000 in tax rebates due to the installation.”
Most recently, the department continued its commitment to energy conservation by installing supplemental lighting in its garages. Mastakouris said that the installation of those lights saved the department more than $900.
In 2006, the department won approval to update its aging facility by renovating an existing building of 5,430 sq ft and adding a two-story addition of 12,874 sq ft. The project, designed by H2M Architects in Melville, provided handicap-accessible ramps, hurricane windows, and larger apparatus doors for the department’s equipment.
“We also gained training classes with SMART Board interactive whiteboard technology,” said Vinny Timmons, first deputy chief. “The renovation came under the amount originally projected for the cost and was completed earlier than projected.”
The South Farmingdale Fire Department was founded 50 years ago this year in 1961 as an off-shoot from the Village Fire Department. Rather than add a sub-station for this rapidly-expanding area, a new dedicated department was founded at 819 Main Street in a small one-story existing building.
Today, the department has over 100 volunteers with an average of 1,100 calls per year. Five or six original charter members of the department are still around. It’s expanded from the original site on Main Street to a second station on Merritts Road that houses an ambulance and an engine. The department is led by three chiefs: Ed Porpora, chief; Vinny Timmons, first deputy chief; and James Martin, second deputy chief.
“More of our calls do require medical aid,” said Timmons. “But we’ve remained steady with our fire load too. We also provide a lot of mutual aid to nearby departments like East Farmingdale and Massapequa. We’ve been to Massapequa twice in the last month.”
Two years ago, SFFD faced one of its most difficult fires, said Timmons. During the afternoon of Sunday April 27, 2008 a fast-moving fire took control of a house located at 15 Lyons Avenue. As first arriving units arrived on scene they were met with heavy smoke pushing out of the entire structure.
“The fire started in the basement and the six family members above didn’t know that it started until they opened the basement door,” explained Timmons.
Extensive mutual aid was requested to the scene including Massapequa, North Massapequa, Farmingdale, Bethpage and Plainview. Hicksville stood by around the corner at the South Farmingdale headquarters in case additional help was needed.
Multiple agencies attacked the fire from every angle possible, including behind the structure on Evans Avenue and via aerial buckets. As firefighters made their initial entry into the structure they were met with heavy fire/smoke in the basements. Firefighters began to stretch additional lines to the basement in order to control the fire.
Controlling the fire from inside proved to be difficult as structural integrity was a great concern due to the amount of fire in the basement. Companies were pulled out of the structure as aerial ladders began to setup. Outside attacks took place from all four sides of the house, including two buckets from the air.
Heavy fire began to push out of the roof of the structure with a good portion of the roof collapsing onto the first floor. Firefighters worked for over an hour to bring the fire under control.
“All of the occupants of the house were able to escape without any injuries,” said Timmons. "But one of our firefighters had to be pulled out after the floor collapsed into the basement. He received a medal for his bravery.”
While other departments are struggling to find volunteers, South Farmingdale’s volunteer applicants have risen in the past year. “Our numbers were down due to the recession,” explained Timmons, “but we’ve taken 12 to 15 new applications in the past year. We’re always eager to have more applicants and it’s easy to do on our web site www.southfarmingdalefd.org.”
Volunteers are provided 200 hours of rigorous training that includes haz-mat. “Our department has a lot of EMT and AMT personnel who ride with us on medical calls,” said Timmons. “We’re also seeing an increase of calls in hazardous materials.”
A 50th anniversary celebration is being planned for the department and invitations to the public will be made soon.
“We’re going to be getting new bail out equipment this year,” said Timmons. “Last year, we upgraded our radio equipment. For the past year, we’ve also been using FireTracker software with CIDS (computer info data sheet). This software provides us information on every household in South Farmingdale, what chemicals might be in the house, any invalids, seniors, or people using oxygen. This helps us to better fight the fire. We’re hoping to add the data into all of the chief’s cars in the upcoming year.”