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EMFD puts quick stop to 3 a.m. Christmas Day fire


Early Christmas morning at 3:04 a.m., radios woke up EMFD volunteers from Engine 1, 4, and Ladders 1, and 2 for a House Fire on Third Street. It was the height of the overnight storm that delivered high winds and heavy rain making the call more of a challenge.

Two minutes into the alarm, Third Assistant Chief Philip Fertitta transmitted his response, quickly followed by Second Assistant Chief Peter Cheswick, First Assistant Chief Paul Kosiba, and Chief of Department James Walsh. With all four EMFD chiefs on the road, and members boarding their respective rigs, additional information came in through dispatch that the rear deck attached to the home was on fire.

At 3:08 a.m., Assistant Chief Cheswick, arrived on the scene. Seeing smoke at both the outside rear, and filling up inside the home, the Chief transmitted a "Signal 98" ("First In" pumper connects to a fire hydrant and stretches (2) attack hose fires to the home, as dispatch re-alerts the initial assignment adding Rescue 5 for EMS). A signal that prompts all firefighters responding in their trucks to fix on any additional radio reports, double check their protective equipment, and self contained breathing apparatus.

Less than seven minutes into the initial alert, "First Due" Engine 611 arrived on the scene going into their hose stretch operation. All this, as Ladder 617, Engine 614, Ladder 619, and Heavy Rescue 616 now filled the street with additional firefighter resources.

As attack lines were stretched by the engine crews, ladder company members moved into the home to search for any occupants, and check for fire extension in the smoke filled rooms.

With reports confirming that the main body of fire was on the rear deck hose lines were positioned for the exterior attack. Other crews readied in case interior teams called for water as well.

Rescues 4 and 5 established a medical treatment area in the event of any injuries. There were none.

Within five minutes, all visible fire had been knocked down as ladder company crews opened up areas on the deck to expose any hidden fire.

Fire damage was held mostly to the exterior deck, the exterior of the home, and the windows closest to the fire.

As the smoke cleared, it became evident that the fire had been stopped before it took hold of the home.

In all, 41 EMFD volunteers from Stations 1, 4, and Ladder 2, brought the scene under control with no need for any other E.M.F.D. companies or mutual aids. Small by comparison to many other fires, this one could have been much worse with wind gusts exceeding 60 MPH. It was the 2nd time in recent weeks that a smoke detector woke the family in the middle of the night, and the 3rd active house fire in as many weeks. But in this case, with the window nearest the fire failing, smoke entered the home setting off the alarm, alerting residents.

Other agencies on the scene were the Nassau County Police, PSEG, Keyspan, and the Nassau County Fire Marshal.

Please follow our neighbors’ lead: smoke detectors save lives . . . please test your detectors monthly and replace your batteries annually, or as per your manufacturer's recommendations.

John J. O'Brien is an active Ex Chief of the East Meadow Fire Department. He is the District Supervisor of the Jericho Fire District and has over 40 years of Dispatch and Supervisory experience.