- General Information
A group of concerned residents convened on the night of January 14, 1893 to form Hook & Ladder Company #1, the first of what would evolve to a total of six companies to comprise the Locust Valley Fire Department, as it is today. Purchased later in that inception year was the first apparatus, a Gleason & Baily Hook & Ladder Wagon which could be either horse-drawn or hand-pulled, at a cost of $575. The apparatus was stored in various barns until 1909, when the first firehouse was built by the firemen at the southwest corner of Ryefield and Bayville Roads, opposite the present Intermediate School. As there was no readily available water supply, the firemen upon arriving at a fire, had to first locate a cistern, pond or brook in order to get water to the fire.
Into the 20th Century...
The period of the 1900 through 1920 saw startling changes to the Fire Department, including the creation of a fire district, the addition of motorized apparatus, and the impact of World War I. This was a period when many of the large estates in our "Gold Coast" area were being built and the area population was relatively small. In 1905 the firemen mounted a large bell atop the firehouse, a continuance of the first alarm system that had utilized the nearby schoolhouse bell up until then, and in 1906 a new hand pulled hose cart was obtained. Sometime in 1912 the firemen obtained a Mercedes Simplex taxi that had been in an accident, and under the ingenuity of George Klohs, they would convert this motorcar, affectionately named "Red Mary" into what may have been one of the first motorized pumpers in New York State. Acquisition of a second Mercedes Simplex motorcar in 1914, this one known as "Red Mike", would also become a conversion in the hands of fireman Klohs and members. Only this time, the motorcar became a tractor, which could pull the original Hook & Ladder wagon, negating the need for a team of horses. In May of 1915 came the creation of the Locust Valley Fire District, with authority for local taxation and for the public election of a Board of Fire Commissioners to govern and administer to the needs of the Fire Department. 1915 also saw the creation of Engine Company #1 by dividing the original Hook & Ladder Company into two companies. World War I was taking the young men of the community into military service, for which the Department suffered the loss of fireman Howard V. Wagner, whom the present American Legion Post is named after. With the infusion of funding by taxation, a new American LaFrance 750gpm pumper and a model T Ford chemical truck were acquired in 1919.
The 20's and 30's... A New Firehouse... A Larger Department...
The Fire Department would continue its growth during the 1920's, as three additional companies would evolve, beginning with Hose Company #1 in 1925. The Department had been housing its apparatus and equipment at the Matinecock Neighborhood House, now known as the community Library, and had outgrown that facility. An adjacent site of land was leased long-term from the Locust Valley Water District, and the new and present firehouse was erected in 1926. Block dances, which had been sponsored by the Department since 1922, were popular fund-raising events that would continue into the late 1950's. Chemical Company #1 organized in 1928, and the Police Unit (ambulance) would follow in 1929. New additions to the Fire Department fleet included a Seagrave Hook & Ladder in 1927; Hose Company would trade the old Brockway for a new one in 1929, and chemical would trade their Reo Wolverine for the heavier Speedwagon that same year. A Packard Twin-6 went to the Police Unit. 1930 saw a new Seagrave 1000gpm pumper enter service for Engine Company #1, and would continue for 33 years. It remains today as a beautiful restoration of the Mattituck Fire Department. Also in 1930, the Fire department would sponsor a popular semi-pro football team known as the "Yellow Jackets." A new Fire Department band would form with many active firemen participating. They would win a 1st place for appearance and musical performance at the 1939 World's Fair. For five years beginning in 1933, the Engine Company would be split into two companies, merging back into one 1938. The second engine company would become permanently established a decade later. 1934 saw the Fire Department innovate with portable two-way radio between the fireground and the pump operators. The hazard of electric shock curtailed its permanent use. In 1937 a safety valve malfunctioned on the Reo Speedwagon during a pump operation along West Shore Road. An explosion followed, destroying the truck and seriously injuring the operator. The Fire Department subsequently bought two new Seagrave pumpers, a 500gpm model which was the first apparatus in Locust Valley with a booster tank, replaced the Speedwagon. A 750gpm V-12 model went to Engine Company #2. Some of the major fires during these two decades were the Paul D. Cravath residence in 1921; Meserole's Stables in 1922; Steisel Hardware in Glen Cove in1928 and in 1936; the Lyric Theater in Oyster Bay in 1931; the Thomas Dickson residence in 1936; and the Diebold Estate on Bayville Road in 1938.
The 40's and 50's... A Time of War...
The 1940's and 1950's were engulfed in World War II and the Korean conflict, which dramatically affected the Fire Department and its operations. Sixty-one firemen served during World War II and older retired firemen were called back to the fire service to maintain protection for the community. By 1946 our servicemen were returning and restoring the membership to full strength. Engine Company #2 would become permanently established in 1947 as the sixth company of the Fire Department. In 1948 the Hose Company received a new Mack 750gpm pumper. In 1950 a new Cadillac ambulance would replace the 32 Buick of Police Unit. Hook & Ladder took delivery of a 1953 Mack 65' aerial, and in 1955 the Chemical Company acquired in International with a Seagrave hi-Pressure pump. In 1959 a Mack CF-90 1000gpm pumper went to Engine Company #2. A 60-watt base station had been installed by 1954, and two-way communication was now firmly established with the apparatus. Major fire during the 1940's and 1950's were the crash of a Republic P-47 fighter on the J.D. Lyon estate in 1943; the Lippert Building on Forest Avenue in 1945; and Pembrooke Hall in Glen Cove in 1946. There was the Ryle fire in 1952; the Risberg Mill and the Horowitz fire in 1954; the Tiffany estate in Laurel Hollow and the Roosevelt fire on Centre Island, both in 1957; W.T. Grant's in Glen Cove, and the Pet Shop fire both in 1958; and the Cummings residence on West Shore Road in 1959, for which Locust Valley won a 1st place vamps award for its effort by the New York Daily News.
Onto the 1960's and 1970's...
Once again these were decades during which our country was engaged in military action, namely the Vietnam conflict, which also would contribute to staffing and recruiting problems for the Fire Department. A testimonial dinner was held in 1961 for Charles A. Ketcham of the Police Unit becoming the first of twenty-two members who would complete 50 years of service with the Fire Department. A new Mack CF-90 1000gpm pumper, with an automatic transmission, went to Engine Company No. 1 in 1963. The fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Fire District was commemorated in 1965, at which time a new Cadillac ambulance would go to the Police Unit. The telephone alert system was installed in 1967, silencing the district fire sirens from 11PM until 7AM. The Fire Department observed its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1968, hosting the 5th Battalion parade and an ensuing fireworks display at the high school grounds, and culminating with a dinner-dance at the Piping Rock Club. Brushfires of immense magnitude punctuated the dry seasons of the mid-1960's prompting the purchase of a 4-wheel drive International brush truck for Chemical Company in 1968. Major fires in the 1960's included the high school annex in 1962; Dave's Auto Body in 1963; the Gables school administration building in 1957; and the residences of John Fell and of Gene Ward, both in 1969. There were many major mutual aid alarms during this time as well. Locust Valley Fire Department assisted Glen Cove at Bessell's and at Associated Foods in 1960; at Rex's China Shop in 1961; at the Geddes estate in 1964; Kaufman Furniture in 1966; and Mile's Shoe Store in 1968. Locust Valley also assisted Syosset in 1965 at the Columbia Paper fire, with Bayville at the Harrison Williams estate, and with Sea Cliff and Glen Cove at Martone Roofing, both alarms in 1968. 1970 would usher in Locust Valley's first chief's car, a Chevrolet. The firehouse saw many renovations during the 1970's. Moving the kitchen to the second floor permitted an extra bay for an already cramped apparatus floor. The company meeting room was remodeled in 1972, and the general membership room was remodeled in 1976 in anticipation of the department's hosting of the 1977 county parade and drill. Hose Company's 1948 Mack was retired in 1974 to make way for an FWD 1000gpm pumper. The old Mack would become the "new" flagship of the Exempts Association. 1975 brought a new John Bean International high-pressure booster truck for Chemical Company and a new Chevrolet chief's car. The Fire District honored Richard Weir and Thomas Bellingham, both of Engine Company #1, in 1977 for their 100 years of combined service, as honorary chiefs. In 1979 the '53 Mack aerial was replaced with a 100-foot Seagrave rear-mount and the '65 Caddy ambulance was replaced with a Ford Braun Modular type III. That same year, the Locust Valley Fire Department played host to the Nassau County Fireman's Association Parade and Drill featuring thirty-five drill teams and a 2 ½ hour parade witnessed by more than 5,000 spectators. Major fires during the 1970's included Nigro Coal & Lumber in Glen Cove in 1971; Gardiner White in Mill Neck in 1974; also in 1974 at the Roger Cushman estate in Oyster Bay; Asher's Army-Navy Store in Glen Cove in 1975; a new house on the shore, west of the Piping Rock Beach Club in 1976; the Goodyear Tire Company in Oyster Bay in 1977; and also in 1977, the Bernard Landau fire in Mill Neck which seriously injured Bayville Fire Chief Brian Hahn. A new emphasis on emergency medical training would herald more life saving treatment at the scene, and patient stabilization by Fire Department members trained at the EMT and A-EMT levels. The days of "scoop and run" were waning.
The 1980's, 90's and Beyond...
The 1980's would bring substantive changes to the Fire Department and its operations. OSHA-NFPA standards for firefighters and firefighting gear had been mandated by New York State in 1981, to be complied with completely over the 5-year period that followed. Women entered into Fire Department membership in 1980 for the very first time. Advanced life-support went on-line in 1982, and a new alert system later that year ushered the era of the personal pager in replacing the telephone system. The first Hurst tool was acquired and assigned to the Chemical Company. After twenty-five years of service, the '59 Mack of Engine Company #2 was replaced with a Mack CF-600 pumper in 1984. The 1980's saw many of the old, expansive estates giving way to new residential developments, and the prohibition on open-burning significantly reduced the number of routine brush fires that so often punctuated the springs and falls of years before. Major fires during the 1980's included the North Shore Temple in Glen Cove 1982; also in Glen Cove were the fires at Cherry's and at the Elk's Lodge, to which Locust Valley gave assistance in 1981 and 1982 respectively. Signal 10 residential fires occurred on Coot Road and on Cross Street. Firefighters also will remember the bitter cold night with Bayville at the Fiedel School fire. The decade of the 1990's would commence with the crash of the Avianca Airlines 707 in Oyster Bay Cove on Thursday evening, January 25, 1990, as the 5th Battalion was bowling in Westbury. Locust Valley Fire Department dispatchers were manning the phones for Oyster Bay Cove Police at that time, when the alarm was turned in. A devastating Nor'easter isolated Bayville on December 11-12, 1992, causing destructive flooding and a working house fire that could not be extinguished, owing to prevailing conditions. Damages included from the storm were extensive to Chemical Company's new International and Hose Company's FWD pumper could not be effectively repaired. A used cab-over Ford/Oren would serve as a loaner until a new R.D. Murray pumper of 1500gpm capacity would be acquired in 1995. The first R.D. Murray pumper for the Department would go to Engine Company #1 in 1990, replacing their '63 Mack. The year 1993 saw Locust Valley Fire Department's centennial year begin with a somber note, as they laid to rest Hook & Ladder member and ex-chief George Howell on the morning of the World Trade Center bombing in February. The centennial parade followed the 5th Battalion drill on a 90-degree Saturday afternoon in July, with festivities held on the Ann McAuthur Primary School field, with a spectacular fireworks display capping the day. A formal Department Centennial dinner was held later in the year at the Piping Rock Club with Chief Richard Caminari presiding. The introduction of 5-inch hose, with its added capacity and reduced friction loss, came into the department's tactical operations. A Ford/Wheeled Coach modular ambulance would replace the '79 Ford Braun, and in a change reflective of current times, the Police Unit would carry a new moniker as Emergency Medical Rescue Company #1 in 1997. The end of the decade saw more regimented in-house training requirements and probation extended to a full year. The service awards program, an annuity set up by the state and administered by the Fire District, was nearly ten years old. The era of "riding the back step" came to an abrupt close, in early 1998, as all members were now required to ride inside all apparatus. It was indeed the end of an era for all firefighters who experienced it. Major incidents during the 1990's would include fires at the West residence in Mill Neck in 1990, the Lattingtown Beach Club in 1994, the Gallo Iron Works on Elm Street in 1995, and the Locust Valley Rent & Fix store in 1998. A tremendous electrical storm on the afternoon of August 11, 1992 saw a pedestrian struck by lightning and simultaneous signal 10's occurring on Wood Lane and on Lattingtown Road. Major mutual aid responses included Maxwell Avenue in Oyster Bay on a bitter cold night in 1993, the Suffolk County Wildfires in 1995, LI Paint Store, Glen Cove in 1996, and Centre Island, Bayville in August of 1999 Ushering into the new millennium, the Fire Department would now have to contend with a newer type of residential automatic alarm, the carbon monoxide detectors. The '79 Seagrave aerial would have a $50,000 refurbishment, but plans for a new truck were formally set into motion. The physical deterioration of the firehouse, as well as the need for future expansion, brought about plans for a major rehabilitation and remodeling of current facilities of both the Fire Department and of the Water District buildings. Under new OSHA requirements for incident command, "FAST" units were being called, necessitating increased mutual-aid during working fires. One such fire swept through the building occupied by Park East Seafood on Forest Avenue in 2000.