It was wet outside on May 12, but that wasn’t just because it was raining. The Bayville Fire Department was celebrating the acquisition of its new fire truck at Centre Island Beach, and a “christening” was in order. Truck 502 underwent a ritual that firefighters call a “wetdown,” performed by nearby fire departments, which “anoint” a new truck with a deluge of water.
The addition to the department’s arsenal became a community event, with residents and neighboring firefighters joining in the celebration. The guest speakers, State Sen. Carl Marcellino, Bayville Mayor Paul Rupp and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino congratulated the Fire Department and thanked its members for their service.
Marcellino shared a personal story that illustrated the dedication of the Bayville department, which also serves Center Island and the north and east sections of Mill Neck. “My wife was in a car accident . . . the first people on the scene was the Fire Department,” Marcellino said. “They took her to the hospital. They took care of her.”
He was in Albany at the time, he said, and was grateful for the calls firefighters made to assure him that his wife was fine and to comfort him. “God bless this truck,” he said. “God bless each and every one of you.”
Then Bayville Fire Chief David Caso proudly detailed the history of the wetdown. “Fire departments dedicate old, retired trucks and celebrate with a new fire truck for the station,” he said. “It’s celebrated all around the United States, dating back to the 1800s.”
The christening of a new truck is a prime example of the unity among fire departments, which celebrate the acquisition of a state-of-the-art “safety machine,” even if it isn’t for their own company.
It took the department nearly three years to acquire the truck, a process that involved dozens of meetings with other area fire departments to make sure everything was up to date, and surpassed the performance of its older trucks. Marcellino helped the department obtain a $100,000 grant from New York state, which was described to as a “great accomplishment” by Saladino.
The christening ceremony includes the smashing of bottles of champagne over the front bumper of the new truck by the department’s officers. With the smell of grapes and alcohol permeating the salty air, neighboring volunteer fire trucks from Bethpage, Glen Cove, Glenwood Landing, Hicksville, Locust Valley, Oyster Bay, Roslyn and Syosset circled the brand new apparatus, and then let loose, blasting it with water for five minutes or so.
“Here’s hoping they never have to use it,” said Christine Stryder, a resident, “but thank God they have it to use.”