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This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO It took firefighters from five departments more than 10 hours to control this July 1994 blaze at the town dump.
It took firefighters from five departments more than 10 hours to control this July 1994 blaze at the town dump.

A word from Otis Pike

Congressman Otis Pike reported to the home folks back on the East End that Washington was a city of “political animals” whose highest order of priority was not in the nation’s welfare, but what was good for one party or the other. He was reporting on the 88th Congress in 1964 and said issues were being labeled so that Medicare was being introduced by proponents as “Medicare for the aged” while opponents called it “socialized medicine.”

POSTSCRIPT: Sounds familiar in today’s climate of politicians accepting or rejecting legislation not on its merits but by who is backing or opposing it.

Firemen set to discuss new mutual aid contract

After a nine-year agreement between Center and Heights Fire Departments to render mutual aid to one another to handle emergencies, the deal was scrapped in July 1984 because it was in need of major revision, according to Fred Ogar, who was chairman of the Center Fire District Board of Commissioners. Revisions were needed on what equipment would be used and how to make the mutual aid pact work more efficiently, he said.

POSTSCRIPT: In today’s world, when we hear the words mutual aid, it refers to cooperation among fire, police and emergency service responders or help from off-Island fire departments in the event of a major blaze. But since the 1990s, there has been one fire district on the Island with a single Board of Commissioners, although there are firehouses in both the Center and Heights as well as one on Cobbetts Lane.

Five fire departments battle 10-hour blaze at dump

Shelter Island Center Firefighters called on help from the Heights, Greenport, Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton to fight a major blaze at the town dump site in July 1994 that took 700,000 gallons of saltwater and more than 10 hours to control. Wind was the major culprit in spreading the fire that threatened adjacent properties, including 36 horses at Hampshire Farms Equestrian Center.

The wind wad picking up balls of fire and tossing them in every direction, fire officials said. There was a lot of dry debris at the site that contributed to fueling the blaze, but ultimately, there were no injuries to people or horses. The town’s burning permit at the time allowed for controlled burns only between September 25 and June 15.

POSTSCRIPT: Open burning on Shelter Island is limited to times and seasons, but also must be approved by fire officials and not all items may be burned in line with state laws.

Hunters oppose deer feeders

In July 2004, local hunters told the Town Board that use of 4-posters would render deer meat unfit for human consumption, thereby discouraging hunting to cull the herd. The town at that time had a Hunting Advisory Committee with members maintaining they could make arrangements with property owners to shoot deer, thereby reducing the herd of deer that carry disease-causing ticks. Other residents had recommended the 4-posters to the town based on experiences in other places such as Martha’s Vineyard.

POSTSCRIPT: In the past several months, the Deer & Tick Committee has split its efforts between trying to increase the use of 4-posters and increasing hunting. More recent studies have shown that despite the use of permethrin on the 4-posters, it remains localized and the meat is edible. Nonetheless, committee members lean toward multiple solutions to the continuing problem.

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