Island fire fighters take to the waters


REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Islander’s knowledge of boats has helped the fire department to advance in the eyes of other departments.

The Shelter Island Fire Department is drawing kudos from the Coast Guard, Suffolk County Police and other East End communities for the ability to respond with mutual aid to crises that arise in the waterways.

Because so many Shelter Islanders have grown up learning boating skills, it was a natural for the department to get nine members certified to help in such events, Chief D’Amato said. The same is true of Sag Harbor, which has joined Shelter Island in a pilot program to support Coast Guard and police efforts.

Because of the training, the men are able to “speak the same language” and respond with the same professionalism as the Coast Guard, Chief D’Amato said. The Suffolk County boat can not only fight fires on the water, but can be used to attack fires on the shore.
Certification took 40 hours for each man, Chief D’Amato said. Training took place at various Coast Guard facilities, but mostly on the open water.

“It’s just a win-win program,” the chief said, pointing out that he understands why without such training, the Coast Guard would be hesitant to call on local firefighters for support.

After 25 years as secretary for the fire commissioners, Jackie Tuttle gave a six-month notice Monday night that she is ready to retire from the post. She agreed to stay to help select and train a successor. There was much joking about not accepting her letter of resignation, but Ms. Tuttle insisted it’s time for her to move away from the job she has long loved.

In other fire district business, commissioners:

• Set August 19 at 6 p.m. for their initial meeting on a budget for 2014.

• Agreed to develop a formal policy regarding use and protection of antique fire trucks, including the recently restored MACK truck that debuted here last month after several years of work.

• Agreed to have Commissioner Andy Reeve investigate costs of a possible lease agreement that could see the Center Firehouse switch to solar power. Commissioner Reeve said he was confident the cost would be a lot less than the department pays for electricity.

• Requested that Second Assistant Chief Sulahian find out if the district paid for carpeting in the new chief’s vehicle since there is no such carpeting. Commissioner Lechmanski said he doesn’t want to rip apart the vehicle to install the carpeting, but if the district was charged for it, he would like dealer Buzz Chew to substitute side moldings and mud guards.

• Agreed with Chief D’Amato that contracts have to be signed stipulating start and completion dates on projects where bids have been awarded. He pointed out that the commissioners accepted a bid from Steve Hanson to assist the department in assuring it’s compliant with OSHA regulations, including training of personnel. But Mr. Hanson has not returned many phone calls from the chief and Ms. Tuttle, leaving the department in limbo about how to proceed.

• Agreed to get a second bid to test a site for installation of a well in the area of Midway and Sleepy Hollow roads where there is no easy access to water to fight fires. The testing is likely to cost about $3,600, according to First Assistant Chief Will Anderson. And there’s no guarantee that a test well will prove adequate.

“It’s a crap shoot,” commissioners agreed in unison. But they also agreed it’s necessary to try to identify a site in the area that would produce enough water flow to serve the area. Failing that, they would likely move to install a 12,000 water tank in Sachem Woods.