Close Calls: Light Smoke Showing, Then Heavy Fire & Major Collapse

T his month’s Close Call is one that is near and dear to me, as not only did it involve some close and longtime friends, but involved a department to which I owe a great deal of gratitude, as I essentially started my career with this organization in the...


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T his month’s Close Call is one that is near and dear to me, as not only did it involve some close and longtime friends, but involved a department to which I owe a great deal of gratitude, as I essentially started my career with this organization in the early 1970s. While I am no longer an “active” member of this department, I do hold associate membership status in Company No. 3, something of which I am extremely proud.

The Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department (M-LFD) is on the border of New York City’s borough of Queens, in Nassau County, Long Island, NY. The response area covers 10 square miles with a residential population of 50,000 that grows to more than three times that number during the work week. Within the district are two major hospitals, an industrial park, three high schools, seven middle and elementary schools, numerous shopping centers, an interstate highway and a state parkway, the largest commuter railroad in the U.S. and many houses of worship, office buildings and light industrial/commercial occupancies. The department also covers more than two miles of shorefront along Long Island Sound.

M-LFD averages 3,000 incidents annually, including more than 1,300 house or structure responses and 900 ambulance calls (EMS transport is provided jointly by M-LFD and Nassau County Police EMS) and various other emergencies, including brushfires, downed electrical wires and vehicle fires. This number also includes motor vehicle accidents, which at times required the use of the fire department’s heavy rescue units. Nassau County’s fire service is broken into nine geographical battalions, and M-LFD is part of the 8th Battalion.

A 100% volunteer organization, there are more than 250 active members within the five fire companies and one EMS company at M-LFD. A company, as defined by M-LFD, is a firehouse led by a captain and two lieutenants, each providing engine company service as well as special services:

• Company 1 – Two engines and a technical rescue covering the Manhasset area

• Company 2 – A truck and an engine covering the Manhasset Valley

• Company 3 – A heavy rescue and two engines covering the Great Neck-Thomaston area

• Company 4 – Two trucks (tower ladder and aerial ladder) and an engine covering the Great Neck-Lakeville area)

• Company 5 – Two engines and a squad (a squad is an engine company with rescue services equipment) covering the North New Hyde Park area

• Company 6 – Two ALS transport ambulances and an ALS non-transport SUV (Company 6 shares the quarters of Rescue Company 3)

The department is tax funded by the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire District, led by three publicly elected fire commissioners who also oversee the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District. To support the department, the district has full-time equipment, building and apparatus maintenance personnel, many whom are also volunteer firefighters. The district also provides full-time professional fire/EMS dispatch service.

Our sincere thanks to M-LFD Chief of Department Christopher Pisani and Deputy Chiefs Kirk Candan, Michael Farrone, Scott Garrigan and Mark Kiess for their assistance in sharing this report. Additional thanks to Lieutenant Sean Dolan, Firefighter John McCann, Lieutenant Lee Genser, EMT Tracey Dolan, Fire Commissioners Donald T. O’Brien, Andrew J. DeMartin and Brian J. Morris as well as all the members and mutual aid departments who responded to this incident.

Before we go further, I want to share a quote that’s always stuck with me from reading the book Fireground Tactics by Chief Emanuel “Manny” Fried, published back in 1972. Fried was a former FDNY battalion chief (44 Battalion during the “war years”) as well as chief of department in Chicago Heights and Hinsdale, IL.

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