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80 percent of Heights fire hydrants buried

JULIE LANE PHOTO While ice that had clung to the top of hydrants like this one on St. John’s Street in the Heights had melted by Tuesday morning, access would still not be easy for firefighters because of a lack of a path.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
While ice that had clung to the top of hydrants like this one on St. John’s Street in the Heights had melted by Tuesday morning, access would still not be easy for firefighters because of a lack of a path.

Had there been a fire in densely populated Shelter Island Heights during the last several snowy, icy weeks, it’s likely firefighters would have been hampered trying to control the blaze.That word came from First Assistant Chief Greg Sulahian Monday night when he told Fire Commissioners that the Heights Property Owners Corporation, which has its own road clearing crew, had failed to provide access to 80 percent of the hydrants that not only were surrounded by snow, but capped with thick ice.

By Tuesday morning, the ice caps had melted, but there still were no paths leading to many of the hydrants.

The chief also complained about a part of Bluff Avenue being closed. He was told there was access at the other end, but said that would have delayed firefighters who wouldn’t have been aware of the closing before having to double back and around to reach a fire.

Commissioners agreed to send a letter to HPOC General Manager Stella Lagudis asking that a means of addressing the immediate issue and the need for a long-range solution that would ensure firefighters access to hydrants.

“We take safety very seriously,” Ms. Lagudis said Tuesday morning. “This year we’ve just been pummeled” and it has been difficult, but as of this morning, only four hydrants have been identified as insufficiently cleared and those would be addressed today, she said.

Many on her staff have been firefighters and are sensitive to the needs, she said.

Mr. Sulahian also reported that icy paths to town landings meant there could be a delay in fighting fires in other areas where they to need to pump water from the surrounding bay.

The ice is so thick on many of those road endings that it could delay firefighters from reaching sufficient water for as much as a half hour. That’s why he reiterated an earlier call for tanks filled with water to be installed at various sites around the Island.

He identified one potential site in South Ferry Hills at the intersection of Valley Road and Irene Road that he said appeared to be ideal for such a tank.

CELL TOWER

Icy weather has delayed further tests by Elite Towers that is ultimately expected to gain approval to build a cell tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane.

TRUCK BIDS
Commissioners reached a tentative agreement to purchase a new truck to replace one that is a 2007 model lacking a number of features firefighters need. But before awarding the bid, commissioners agreed to review bids from Eagle Fire and Ferrara against specifications that had been established by a committee of firefighters. They also want a review by their attorney, Helen Rosenbaum.

There were two bids on the truck — one from Eagle Fire representing Rosenbauer trucks and Ferrara. But commissioners asked that since the bids need to be reviewed before final acceptance and could require a rebid, bid amounts  not be made public yet. There was an approximate $65,000 difference between the two bids, tempting the commissioners to take the Eagle bid, but they want to compare it point for point with the original specs before assuming the lower Eagle bid would stand.

SEX OFFENDERS

Just weeks ago, commissioners learned that in addition to excluding people convicted of arson from becoming department members, they also needed to exclude convicted sex offenders. But the understanding at the time was that sex offenders, as with arsonists, had to be rejected.

Instead, Commissioner Keith Clark learned at a training session that applicants’ background checks would include information about both arson and sex offenses, but that it would fall to each district to decide whether or not to exclude a convicted sex offender from membership in the department.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a problem,” Mr. Clark said, but he also warned it could open the district  to a lawsuit if it opted to exclude a convicted sex offender.

KENNETH CAPON

He didn’t want a plaque, but there’s going to be one, not at Kenneth Capon’s home where he died earlier this month, but at the Center Firehouse.

“You’ve got to respect the dedication” he put in working for both the department and district for decades and serving on boards throughout the county and state, said Commissioner Larry Lechmanski.

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