Letter To Garden City Residents About Fire Safety

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We are aware there are numerous rumors, incomplete facts and incorrect statements being circulated by a few in the village about the recent home fire on Hilton Avenue. We provide the information below (this material was originally written in response to a letter of inquiry from a resident) to our residents, so they have accurate information and to ensure everyone that our volunteer firefighter force of almost 100 members not only responded quickly, but also strongly and in a timely manner.

The information in this letter is presented with the assistance of the fire department chiefs.

Let us first provide information of the 911 System and how emergencies such as fires get reported and responded to—these facts are not Garden City specific.

A call to 911 is received by the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD). An emergency call is routed by NCPD to the appropriate agency.  In this case, a reported fire, the call is then routed to what is called Nassau County Fire Communications (FireCom).

Nassau County FireCom then intakes the information and processes it out to the local fire department and because Garden City and its surrounding villages all rely upon each other (called Mutual Aid), if the facts of the event warrant, other departments are also contacted to respond. If additional resources are required, this request is made at the discretion of the Garden City incident commander. The process of routing 911 calls through Nassau County FireCom is not new. The use of Firecom was instituted several years ago and has demonstrably decreased delays in response time.

In Garden City, every member of the force carries a “pager/beeper” type device. The alarm call from FireCom is processed not just to the central communications system in the three Garden City firehouses but to each pager/beeper. The nature and location of the emergency is broadcasted twice to members.

Calls into the Nassau County 911 System, FireCom and out to the various local agencies such as our fire department are all recorded and time stamped. This provides a true and accurate record.

Here are a few specifics about the Hilton Avenue call and response.

The call from the Hilton Avenue resident into the 911 system was received at 12:54 a.m. The 911 dispatcher immediately transferred the call to Nassau County Fire Communications. FireCom then sent the alarm out to the Garden City Fire Department (and also Mineola Fire Department as part of the Mutual Aid procedure) at 12:55 a.m.

At the time the alarm came into the Garden City Fire Department, there were four firefighters, including our 1st assistant chief, actually present in the Village Hall fire station.

The assistant chief was the first to respond, at 12:56 a.m. The assistant chief was on scene at the house at 12:57 a.m. Again, these times are all recorded.

Our 3rd assistant chief responded at 12:57 a.m. and was on scene at 12:59 a.m. He was in the yard of the house with our 1st assistant chief.

Department Chief Thomas Strysko responded at 12:57 a.m. and was on scene at 1 a.m. He was in front of the house acting as the incident commander.

Engine 145, with four firefighters, responded from fire headquarters at 1:00:23 a.m. This is the time it left the firehouse, which is about 300 yards away from the Hilton Avenue home. The homeowner had indeed appeared at the firehouse while Engine 145 was getting ready to roll and the firemen were getting suited up.

Engine 145 has 750 gallons of water on board. Hose lines were stretched and quickly went into operation with water on the fire. The closest fire hydrant is around the corner on Ninth Street, approximately 125 yards away. Ladder 147, Engine 142, Engine 143 and Ladder 144 also responded. In addition, 15 mutual aid fire departments also responded as well as other agencies, ambulances and police.

Clearly as the times indicate in the photo above, there was no 15- or 20-minute delay before Garden City responded to the fire.  We had three chiefs at the home within five minutes (the first within two minutes) and the first fire engine on scene within six minutes of dispatch. Their first priority was to make sure no one was in the home.

We strongly dispute any suggestion that having several paid firefighters would have helped put the fire out any faster. Whether a firefighter is paid or volunteer, they need to get equipment on, get to a scene and get hose unloaded and connected to a water source.

Our volunteers are highly trained and qualified. Let there be no doubt, this invalid assertion about a paid force is being driven in part by a disgruntled former paid firefighter who was terminated. When we had a paid contingent, there would have been at most only two paid men on duty, and neither would have been able to get a hose on the fire or get to the scene any quicker.

Furthermore, statements that personnel from the Mineola Fire Department or somewhere else were at the scene before Garden City firefighters are patently false.

The situation presented to the department with the Hilton Avenue fire involved a large house with heavy fire engulfing the entire front porch extending into the first and second floors. The house was engaged in flames as soon as the 1st chief arrived. This indicates that the fire had started many minutes before the call to 911.

The age of the house and balloon frame-type construction on the front section of the house created a chimney effect for the fire to increase rapidly and move upwards. Regardless of the amount of members present at the scene, hose lines had to be stretched to the fire, charged with water and secured to a positive water source (the hydrant on Ninth Street), all which unfortunately takes time.

On a side note, below is some additional general information about the department and its operations.

Calls to 516-742-3300 and 516-746-2800 go directly to Nassau County Fire Communications, which is a central Nassau County agency for many fire departments in Nassau County. A call to 911 goes to the Nassau County Police Department 911 call center first and is transferred to the appropriate agency.

While the village firehouses are not manned 24/7, volunteer firefighters are routinely at the firehouses throughout the day and night. As we stated above, we had several firefighters at fire headquarters at the very moment the alarm signal came in from FireCom.

Upon a report of an alarm, members respond to their closest firehouse and respond on the apparatus. For example, a firefighter who lives on Tullamore Road and who is home at the time of an alarm would proceed to the firehouse on Edgemere Road. Chiefs have their own vehicles and respond directly to the scene.

—Submitted by John M. Delany, trustee and Fire Commissioner, on behalf of the Board of Trustees

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