Tom Brown is elected fire commissioner


Tom Brown, a former chief of the Baldwin Fire Department and a member of the First Aid Company, was elected the Baldwin Fire District’s newest commissioner last week.

In October, Commissioner Robert Quackenbush re-tired. On Dec. 13, the district held an election to replace him, and Brown, 60, a longtime local firefighter, won.

“It’s extremely exciting,” said Brown. “It’s one of those things in the fire service that you dream about (happening), and with a lot of hard work, it did.”

He said it was tremendous to have the community’s support, and added that this was the first time he had ever campaigned for anything, and was happily surprised by the results. He said he had spent hours knocking on doors, hanging up signs and talking to neighbors, getting his name out before the election.

Last Tuesday, Brown said, he spent the day at the Baldwin Long Island Rail Road station and at local grocery stores, talking about his candidacy, which clearly paid off. He said he would be the only commissioner with a background as a Fire Department medic, which he said would add to the district leadership’s skill set. 

Medical procedures in the Fire Department, Brown explained, tend to change almost every year, as new drugs are issued and new techniques developed. He said that his years as a medic would make it easier for the district to properly train and equip the hamlet’s firefighter.

Brown was a New York City Fire Department captain in 2003, chief of the Baldwin department in 2004 and a Nassau County fire commissioner from 2005 to 2006, and remains a senior paramedic in the Baldwin F.D., where he has trained hundreds of firefighters. He will mark 40 years of service in January.

Born in Brooklyn, Brown moved to Baldwin with his family when he was 4, and has lived here ever since. He graduated from Baldwin High School in 1980, and earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice at SUNY Farmingdale. He joined the Baldwin department in 1983, and played trumpet and trombone in the department band. 

He later joined the FDNY, and fought fires for Engine 278, Engine 332 and Ladder 175 in eastern New York. 

In 1999 he was promoted to lieutenant, and was assigned to Ladder 18 in Manhattan, where he was on duty when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We were called in after the first plane hit the first tower,” Brown recounted. “By the time the second tower collapsed, I was in the 10-10 firehouse in Manhattan,” he added, referring to the FDNY’s Ten House. He said he helped protect his firefighters’ life and safety as they cleared debris and pulled survivors from the wreckage. 

He was promoted to captain in 2003, and then developed a lung condition, which prompted him to retire from the city department in 2006.

Brown said he was proud to be elected a fire commissioner, and that he was inspired to run by his friends and family, who nominated him. Despite his inexperience as a campaigner, he said, he managed to do something right.

“No one in my company has run for commissioner in over 50 years,” s Brown said, referring to the First Aid Company. “We sat down at the table and shot ideas back and forth, and it worked out.”