“I’d say this is the most comprehensive document on The Fire Department in existence,” Oceanside firefighter Bill Lynch said as he rested his hand on the red, 419-page leather-bound volume.
Within it contained 115 years of Oceanside Fire Department history, from the first horse-driven bucket truck to the latest house fire, all of it documented — a record for future generations to enjoy.
The final product was three years in the making as Lynch, along with firefighters Paul Facella, Bob Bettes and Fred Robinson, “the core four,” as they jokingly referred to themselves, painstakingly compiled stories, data and photos with help from members of The Department’s five companies. Now it sat before them in its completed form, No. 90 of 800 limited-edition printed copies in existence.
“Thank God,” Ferguson said lightheartedly, noting his relief that the project was complete.
“I don’t know what to do with myself now,” Bettes chimed in.
The group said that as the committee in charge of bringing book to fruition, they had all worked on it in pieces, but on that mid-August day sitting in the Oceanside Library, they remarked that none had actually looked at the completed edition despite it having left the presses three weeks prior.
“I don’t think any of us has opened it up.” Robinson said.
But within were hundreds of photos and stories, including memorials to firefighters who had passed or died in the line of duty. Some tidbits of history Facella highlighted included that their department had responded to a 1960 fire aboard the U.S.S. Constellation, an aircraft carrier, as it was under construction at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The fire was notable for the brutally cold conditions under which it was fought.
Facella said he was particularly proud of the badge number roster the group was able to compile, accurately attaching names of The Department’s nearly 2,700 members throughout its history to its 999 numbered badges. It was an arduous task, he said, because for much of The Department’s existence, members had not kept a complete master list of its firefighters.
Other notable entries included one dedicated to Rufus Smith, a successful banker and member of The Department who in addition to helping finance the construction of South Nassau Communities Hospital and St. Anthony’s Church in the 1920s, also helped keep Oceanside afloat during The Great Depression, refusing to collect on mortgages from families who couldn’t afford it.
“No one could know all of this stuff,” Facella said of the hundreds of factoids and pieces of information contained within the thick tome. The scope of the project more than doubled in size over the course of its life, the group said.
Now that it’s done, donated copies are available for viewing in both Oceanside schools and at the Oceanside Library. Additionally, residents have an opportunity to pick up a copy of the limited-run book themselves at $60 apiece while supplies last.