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Firefighters install ramp for Islander

At a time of year when many are busy with family and friends and racing around to finish shopping and organizing holiday parties and dinners, 13  Shelter Island firefighters spent time helping someone in need.

Shelter Island’s bravest built a ramp that allowed Fire Department Auxiliary President Jane Babinski’s husband John  return to his Rocky Point Road home from San Simeon.

When fellow auxiliary member Debra Speeches visited the Babinski home earlier in the week to bring some food, she suggested that the department might have a ramp that could be installed to provide easier access to the house during John’s recovery.

He had fallen prior to Thanksgiving and it was discovered by Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital doctors that he had pneumonia, which likely caused weakness that had led to his fall.

Mr. Babinski was treated for pneumonia until he was well enough to enter San Simeon in Greenport for rehabilitation. On Saturday, he was ready to return to the Island.

Ms. Speeches reached out to First Assistant Chief Anthony Reiter, who rallied a crew to install the ramp the following day.

“I see something, I do it,” Ms. Speeches said about her involvement. She said it took only about an hour to connect with Chief Reiter and have him pull a crew together to install the ramp. He told her if the weather was good on Sunday, which it was, the crew would be at the Babinski house.

Auxiliary members not only help with the annual chicken barbecue and steak dinner fundraisers each year, but back up firefighters when they are on a fire call to ensure they have food and drinks so they can do their jobs effectively. Auxiliary members have their own fire signal to tell them their help is needed, and they show up with sandwiches and hot coffee in cold weather and Gatorade in hot weather to keep the firefighters nourished while they’re doing their work, Ms. Speeches said.

For many years, Ms. Speeches functioned as auxiliary president, a role she handed over to Ms. Babinski.

As for the firefighting crew stepping up to the plate for the installation of the ramp, Chief Reiter put it succinctly: “We serve the community. We help the community.”

Ms. Babinski said with more rehabilitation on his home turf, her husband will be able to regain the strength the pneumonia had sapped from him.

COURTESY PHOTO A job well done, the firefighters step back for a quick picture.