Elmont Fire Dept. vets share memories
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For Vincent Focazio Sr., 75, a 54-year member of the department and an honorary chief, becoming a firefighter was not without its struggles. He said that unlike his fellow veterans, who jumped aboard as soon as the idea came to them, he wasn’t certain at first that he wanted to join.
“My brother joined first,” Focazio said. “I mean, my family’s been there since the 1880s. But I didn’t really want to join, to be honest. I said to myself, those guys are idiots jumping off the trucks! And then I joined.”
Mildner and Ross said that the toughest part of life in the department today, especially when compared to when they started fighting fires, is that there’s more of everything — training, technology, the high volume of calls. The other veterans agreed that many of their challenges today come from seemingly never-ending advancements in technology.
“A lot of the automatic alarms are nonsense,” Snadecky said. Mildner added that when he first joined the department, a busy year meant 100 calls. Now there are an average of 100 calls a month. Many of them are no more serious than smoke alarms, set off by food on the stove or showers. But every call that comes in is treated seriously.
“We get these automatic alarms, and a lot of them turn out to be false alarms,” Ross said. “But you can’t assume that the next one is going to be the same thing. That one time is when you could have something major. The response is the same no matter what it is.”
Richard Hogan, 74, a member of the department for 56 years and a former chief, estimates that over half of those 100 calls per month are false alarms. “Cooking, shower steam and exhausts are the three things you get from the automatic alarms,” Hogan said. “If we get 100 calls a month, probably 60 are from automatic alarms. There’s 81 departments in Nassau County. We’re in the top five or 10 for most calls.”
But, as has been the case for the half a century and more under the belts of many of the veterans, it’s all part of the job.
And most of them aren’t planning to call it a day anytime soon, either.
“Where are we going to go?” Focazio said.
“We don’t have anything else to do,” Hogan added. “We don’t know any better.”