Engine Company #2
“COMPANY 2”, as it was originally known, started on or about January 12, 1931. Some details are sketchy, but what is known is that things began to happen on November 6, 1930, when at the Company 1 meeting, a motion was passed to organize a Company 2, and give preference to the East Meadow Firemen’s Association Company 2. The Firemen’s Association started putting out fires in East Meadow in the early 1920’s. Their Company 2 operated out of a private garage on Marlboro Street and still existed after the fire district was formed in early 1930. At the next Company 1 meeting on November 20, 1930, representatives from the Firemen’s Association Company 2, named Hillman (its Captain) and Karline, were called to the meeting and asked by Chief Alsheimer if they would like to stay in tact and join the new district as Company 2. The representatives adamantly refused. Since they refused, Company 1 carried out their motion as made and went ahead and organized a Company 2. On December 18, 1930, several members (about 5 or 6) volunteered to join the new Company 2. Two of these men, Larry Collins and Fred Brown, were from Company No. 1, and some were from the association Company 2. Old records show that the two Company 1 men last attended the Company 1 meeting on January 8, 1931 and then soon after transferred to the newly activated Company 2. An old application found in our archives revealed Fred Brown’s date of entry as January 12, 1931.
In March of 1931, with the arrival of the new GMC pumper for Company 1, Company 2 was assigned the 1917 “Mack Junior” hook and ladder truck that was originally from the Franklin Square and Munson Fire Department. The truck had 6 ladders, 2 chemical tanks, 4 solid rubber tires and had previously been used by the Firemen’s Association as well as Company 1. It is not known today where the Hook and Ladder was kept at that time or what the Company 2 men used briefly before the arrival of the GMC.
A brand new firehouse on Newbridge Avenue opposite Park Avenue, which the citizens of East Meadow had passed a bond for in 1931, was completed for Company 2 in the early half of 1932. Stationed at this new firehouse along with the Mack Hook and Ladder was the Pierce Arrow. It was the Suicide Squad’s racing truck, and also rolled to alarms out of Company 2. The Suicide Squad was the name of the Department’s tournament team until they became the Meadowlarks after WWII.
Company 2’s first known Captain was Fred Brown, who had joined the Department from the East Meadow Firemen’s Association, and was a charter member of Company 1. “Brownie” did not drive, so when the alarm sounded, he would respond to the firehouse on his bicycle all the way from his house on Marlboro Street.
Some of the first working fires that were recorded in our early days were the Koshansky house on Prospect Street on February 24, 1933, with $3000 damage, a Park Avenue house fire on October 20, 1933 at 3 AM, a total loss, and the Belmont Mansion, a 33 room 3 story estate in the Barnum Woods area set back off of Front Street, which was vacant at the time. It was a particularly difficult fire to fight due to snow and freezing temperatures. Water supply was difficult. Meadowbrook creek was frozen which made it hard to draft from, and Uniondale and Hempstead were called in for manpower and to help relay water all the way from a well on Front Street.
In January of 1936, Company 1 moved from their Maple Avenue firehouse and moved in with Company 2. This new “Headquarters” now housed 3 trucks in very tight quarters. The Company 1 firehouse on Maple Avenue is the present day East Meadow Firemen and Exempts Benevolent Hall, with additions added to it over the years.
Through the 1930’s, the Mack hook and ladder served well, but the truck was deteriorating. In early 1938, the truck was dismantled and replaced by a brand new 1937 Buffalo pumper truck. The Buffalo was Company 2’s Engine until it became a spare pumper in 1952, being replaced by a 1951 750 GPM Ward Lafrance pumper. During the 1950’s, the Buffalo was used as a first truck to start off many companies that were formed in that era. Engine Company 2 was the last one to use that truck when it answered its last alarm in June of 1961. Its brakes had gone bad, and were no longer repairable. It was then turned over to the Hoeffner family for their family business and kept at their property on Newbridge Avenue and Prospect Avenue for a period of time until it was scrapped.
With a declaration of war, many Company 2 men were called to defend our Country as WWII was upon them. This era was very trying for Company 2, as it became a revolving door for members as well as officers. Some of our residents (mostly farmers) who were not firemen, agreed to join the department just for the length of the war to help us cushion the void in the rolls. Our Company men served in various capacities of the armed forces. Fortunately, all returned home and most of the men returned to Company 2.
After having several Assistant Chiefs from our company, Vincent Moskowski became the first member of Company 2 to become Chief of the East Meadow Fire Department in 1944. The election originally showed that Moskowski had lost, and was contested. The outgoing Chief, who also happened to be the election chairman, was counting the ballots and claimed that he had won on a write in. It took two months to straighten out, but Company 2 finally had its first Chief.
With the men back from the war, it was time for the department to regroup the racing team. In 1946 the Meadowlarks emerged, and emerged big. Led by such Company 2 members as Dominick Santoro, Alex Krill, Julius “Jake” Krill, George Quinn, and its Captain Jay Kostynick, the team went on to take many trophies, set numerous records, and went all the way to become the State Champions for 1946.
Post war East Meadow saw the community growing at an amazingly rapid rate. The area that was furthest east in our district, which had been known as “No-Mans Land”, was developing into what is now Levittown. In 1948, Company 3 was formed to better protect that area. The following year, 1949, a new 3 bay headquarters was completed on Newbridge Avenue south of Front Street and Company 2 had their own firehouse back to themselves.
In 1950, with the growing amount of tools and equipment, it was necessary to come up with a way to identify what belonged to Company 2. It was then passed that “all property of Company 2 truck including helmets and boots were to be identified with red paint”. It was at this time that “Red” became the official color of Company 2.
As East Meadow continued to grow, so did the membership. The early 1950’s saw a need for Company 2 to close the rolls with a 30-member limit. New applicants were put on a waiting list and preference was given to day men. During this time, Company 4 and Company 5 were also formed. Barn dances were held as fundraisers and were run by the company right through the 1960’s. Two incidents that were frequently referred to during the 1950’s were the military plane that crashed into a private dwelling on Barbara Drive in November of 1955, killing the pilot, and not injuring anyone on the ground, and the Shoe King Sam Fire on Hempstead Turnpike on January 26, 1958, on an absolutely freezing Company Meeting night. Stories have it that shoes took over the engine room for days after that fire. The Meadowlarks also raced themselves to another State Championship in 1958.
In 1952, the Ward Lafrance took over as the Company 2 engine. In July of 1955, its radio designation changed from “unit 2” to “612”. The “Ward” served as our engine until august of 1971, at which time it became a spare pumper. Engine Company 2 still housed, maintained and trained with the Ward. It was on a signal 6 during any alarm and rolled to signal 10’s and any other alarms when called for. The Ward was known then as 6112, and served as such until it answered its last alarm in 1984. After 32 years of service, the Ward left East Meadow and went to its new home in Andes, New York.
Chief of Department Dominick Santoro of Company 2 introduced Engine Company Standard Operating Procedures in 1954 to the E.M.F.D. These hose operations were so well constructed that they have withstood the test of time. The S.O.P.’s are still the foundation of our operations 50+ years later with only minor alterations to meet current times.
Nearing the end of his second year as Chief of the Department, Chief Santoro concluded that it would be better if Company 1 functioned as a truck company only. Under his direction, in 1956, the Company 1 quad truck had all of its hose removed from it. They no longer had any responsibilities as an engine. They were now known as Hook and Ladder Company 1. At the same time, another company was formed to run out of headquarters using the Buffalo. They were known as Engine Company 1. Company 2 now became known as “Engine Company 2”. The coming weeks that followed also produced Hook and Ladder Company 2 to better protect the north end of our district.
Some of the busiest times in the company’s history to date occurred during the 1960’s. In July of 1966, Engine Company 2 answered a record high 65 alarms in one month. Runner up record months were August of 1968 with 63 alarms, and February of 1968 with 61 alarms. The year 1968 yielded the most alarms in a year for Engine Co. 2 with 470 alarms. Home alert radios (Instalerts) were given to the men in 1960. This allowed the audible fire whistles to sound from 6A.M.to 10 P.M. only, with the audible sirens shut down altogether, except for during power outages. A selective response went into effect for night fires, but all fires remained a general alarm during the day. The company also saw its treasury become stable enough so that in 1969, after 38 years, members no longer had to pay dues.
A sad time for Engine Company 2 was on January 22, 1961, when our charter member and first known Captain, Fred Brown, answered his last alarm. With his service to both the East Meadow Firemen’s Association, and the East Meadow Fire Department, Fred Brown served as a fireman in East Meadow for nearly 40 years. A memorial outside of the firehouse was dedicated in his memory.
Any company is fortunate if they happen to have one of their own serve on the Board of Fire Commissioners. In 1965, not only were we fortunate to have one, but to have three Commissioners from our company. Ex-Chief’s Michael Kostynick and Dominick Santoro were in their second terms as Commissioners and Ex-Chief Kenneth Clark was in his first.
With another war in progress, Engine Company 2 once again saw some of its members being called to serve our country. Jerry Magnus Jr. and Doug Wood left for Vietnam in the late 1960’s. These men returned home and back to the company where soon after they both went up the line and served as Captains.
On March 25, 1969, an alarm came in for a house fire on Maurice Avenue. A signal 10 was transmitted. It was discovered that a women was still in the house. Ex- Captain Bob Hansen of Engine Company 2 made entry into the house and located the woman, who was unconscious. He pulled her to safety and she survived. Ex- Captain Hansen was later acknowledged for his act of heroism.
The 1970’s brought about big changes that included a new truck, a new firehouse, and the audible fire whistles being replaced by pocket pagers. The name “Hosepackers” was an adopted nickname, which well suited Engine Company 2. At fires, we were nearly always the one laying the lines and having to pack hose. Even on the rare occasion that someone else laid the lines, it always seemed that our crews were packing up their hose they just used to extinguish the fire. The company also took on a Las Vegas Night type fundraiser for a brief period, which was called the “Underground”.
In May of 1971, The Mack had arrived. The “Super Pumper” was the first 1500 GPM pumper in East Meadow. It had a total of 13 places where you could discharge water (including two booster reels). It was the first engine to have both rear and front discharges, a top mounted stang gun already tied into it’s own discharge (it could also be portable), and a 4” front suction intake (steamer connection) as well as side and rear intakes. There were only a few of these models in the country with Bethpage having the other one on Long Island. The committee for this truck consisted of Ex-Captain Jimmy Landrigan (chairman), Captain Bill Henderson, Asst. Chief Andy Lebkueker, Ex-Captains Frank Colletti and Artie Sperr and Firefighter Bob Callan. After months of hard training, Engine Company 2 put their new 612 in service in August of 1971. It served as such until February 25, 1990 when it became a spare pumper and known as 6112. The Mack was still maintained by Engine Co. 2 and rolled second due. It remained as such until it was taken out of service on September 17, 1995, when Engine Co. 1’s Mack became the new spare pumper. The Mack was sent upstate to its new home in Andes, New York on May 1, 1996.
The original Station 2 firehouse had been showing its age for a period of time. With more and more repairs needed and the new truck to house, plans were in the works to build a new firehouse. In June of 1971, the Station 2 firehouse (and one time Headquarters) was torn down. It had stood on Newbridge Avenue opposite Park Avenue since its construction started in 1931. Construction began for a new Station 2 firehouse that would be two stories and would have an engine room with two bays that could fit two trucks comfortably. The committee for this project consisted of Ex-Captains Bob Hansen, George Greaver, Elmer Wood, and firefighter Harold Rohde. During the construction period, The Mack and the Ward were relocated to the State Highway garage that used to be on Seventh Avenue west of Newbridge Road. It was a difficult time for Engine Company 2, but Captain Williamson E. (Wild Bill) Henderson was very proud of how his men dealt with having a brand new truck and not having a home at the same time. Around March of 1972, with the new house near but not quite completed, the Mack and the Ward moved into the new Station 2. The official ribbon cutting ceremony was held on June 11, 1972, and the cutting honors were given to our senior member Ex-Chief Jay Kostynick and Captain Bill Henderson.
Ex-Chiefs Mike “Hack” Kostynick and Ed “Smokey” Moskowski (H&L Co. 1) had preserved the original bell from the 1917 Mack Hook and Ladder truck. They presented it to the company mounted on a wood stand on February 9, 1974. On it is a truck history plaque, the names of every man that served as our Captain, and the year in which they served. The bell, which is proudly displayed in our meeting room, is known as our “Ex-Captain’s Bell” and is dedicated to all ex-captains of Engine Co. 2.
A house fire on Hemlock Avenue came in shortly after 02:00 hours on December 5, 1974 and a signal 10 was transmitted. The first to arrive on the scene were 1st Asst. Chief Jerry DiTata (Rescue Co. 5) and 3rd Asst. Chief Bill Henderson. After learning that a man was trapped, they immediately entered the house and began a search and rescue. The two Chiefs located an unconscious man in a bathroom and together they pulled him out, saving his life. Chiefs Jerry Ditata and Bill Henderson were acknowledged for their acts of bravery.
Bill Henderson further made Engine Co. 2 proud in April of 1977 when he became the first man in the East Meadow Fire Department to be sworn in as Chief of Department for a second time, having gone up the line from 3rd Assistant Chief two times. Bill first served as the Chief of the E.M.F.D. in 1968.
Although there were numerous amounts of working fires during the 1970’s, none compared to our most spectacular fire to date. On July 18, 1977, at approximately 18:30 hours, we received a report of a fire at Mitchel College (vacant military barracks), on Merrick Avenue south of Hempstead Turnpike. On a day that temperatures were well into the 90’s, several large buildings were fully engulfed in flames. Both Engine Co. 2 engines were on hydrants pumping water to this fire. The Mack was on a hydrant on Merrick Avenue while the Ward pumped additional water to the Mack from a hydrant on Lloyd Court. To the credit of Chief Henderson and the amazement of some others, this major conflagration was fought with no mutual aid called.
On September 28, 1977, Engine Company 2 began to face its most difficult time when tragedy hit home. While operating at one of our Wednesday night trainings, Ex-Captain Jimmy Landrigan went into cardiac arrest. After being temporarily revived by Engine Co. 2 and Ladder Company 2 members, he was transported to the hospital by Rescue Co. 5. Several hours later, on September 29, 1977 at approximately 03:00 hours, two time Ex-Captain James H. Landrigan passed away. He was the second member of the E.M.F.D. to die in the line of duty. Jimmy had been one of the most dedicated men to ever serve Engine Co. 2. To show how active he was, Ex-Captain Landrigan finished the year 1977 in fifth place for the merit awards even though he did not live the last three months of that year. Jimmy left behind 2 teenage daughters. A page in this journal is dedicated to him that includes an outstanding tribute written by Ex-Captain Frank Colletti.
The coming years saw Engine Co. 2 challenged with yet another difficult time. At a working building fire in the row of stores on Merrick Avenue opposite Warren Street, which came in at 17:42 hours on February 28, 1983, Ex-Chief Arthur W. Sperr became trapped under flaming debris while performing a search in the bagel store. He was partnered with Firefighter Mike Heubish who was also trapped in the building for a period. The two became separated during egress attempts as the chunks of flaming ceiling were coming down. During his escape effort, firefighter Heubish depleted his air supply and went into emergency procedures. He managed to make it to safety and alerted members as to the unknown status of Ex-Chief Sperr. A signal 41 was transmitted and an all out effort was made to locate and rescue him. Firefighters Frank Ciaccio and Dave Magruder (Engine Co. 4) were two of many firefighters to enter the building during this effort. They searched their way through the burning store. Hearing his calls for help, they called for a hose line. They located Ex-Chief Sperr and pulled him out from under the flaming debris and out of the store. Firefighters Ciaccio and Magruder were awarded the Nassau County Gold Medal of Valor for their acts of bravery. Ex-Chief Artie Sperr spent several weeks in the burn unit with 2nd and 3rd degree burns of the head, hands and face. After several skin grafts and a long recovery, he returned to active duty in July of that year, and remains active to this day. Firefighter Heubish received 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his wrists, as well as his upper respiratory area being singed. He was released from the hospital the next day. This fire is a perfect example of why we use the buddy system at fires. This fire also brought us into the era where more walkie-talkies were purchased for the companies and we began to upgrade our turnout gear starting with the issuing of Nomex hoods and later, bunker pants.
Our senior member, I. John Kostynick, reached a milestone on September 7, 1983 by being the first member of Engine Co. 2 to reach 50 years of service with our company. The company acknowledged this by throwing a party at the Benevolent Hall in his honor. One of the many presentations made to Jay that night was the original minutes of Jay’s first meeting in 1933 mounted on a plaque.
In October of 1989, the new Pierce pumper for Engine Co. 2 was delivered to East Meadow. It featured a 10-man crew cab, top mounted pump panel, 750-gallon tank, and 5” hose. There would not be any riding on the back of this truck. The truck committee consisted of Ex-Chief Bill Henderson, and Ex-Captains George Becker and Kenny Long. Many hours of training took place with this truck due to all the changes that it represented. This new 612 was put into service on February 25, 1990.
The merit awards that are given to the top 5 members with the most credits in a year for trainings, calls, and miscellaneous were always fun competition dating back to the early 1950’s. It was always especially interesting toward the end of the year when those who had a chance for a pin, would begin monitoring their calls closely. Men would be stopping by and checking the book every day to see what they missed, especially when you were within 1 or 2 credits of someone else. One member who has finished in the top 5 far more than anyone in our history to date is Ex-Captain George Becker. He earned his 20th consecutive merit award pin in 1990, and continued to earn at least 12 additional pins in the years to follow (21 consecutive). A merit award trophy was made in Ex-Captain Becker’s name in 2004 with the bell from the 1970 Mack pumper on it. A brief history of the Mack and a list of all known merit award recipients dating back to 1954 are also on it.
The 1990’s saw the State’s Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) passed by our community and put into effect. We had the addition of the Hurst Tool (Jaws of Life) put on the Pierce as a backup to the heavy rescue unit, and 1¾” hose with straight tip nozzles replaced our 1½” hose. This decade also produced alarms where more heroic acts were performed by Engine Company 2 men. On February 10, 1991 at around 00:30 hours at a working house fire at 2293 Seventh Street, firefighter Eric Becker, through thick smoke and heat, rescued an unconscious women who he found on a 2nd story bedroom floor. He carried her down the interior staircase and out of the house. Rescue Co. 5 transported her to the hospital and she survived. Firefighter Eric Becker was awarded the Gold Medal of Valor. Assistant Chief Gary Nauth and some other department members also received the Silver Medal for their assist with other victims in the same fire.
Numerous members were now reaching milestone anniversaries with their years of service. Ex-Chief Dominick Santoro became the second man in our company to reach 50 years of service. He did this on November 17, 1991. The coming years saw the following Engine Company 2 members also log in 50 years with the department:
- Ex-Captain Julius Krill – 1992
- Ex-Asst. Chief Albert Cooke – 1994
- Ex-Captain Alex Krill – 1996
- Ex-Chief Kenneth Clark – 2000
- Ex-Captain Robert Hansen – 2003
- Firefighter Fred Morgana – 2004
- Firefighter Harold Rohde – 2007
- Ex-Captain Frank Colletti – 2007
In August 1995, Engine Co. 2 went on its furthest mutual aid to date. Wild fires in the Pine Barrens out in the Hamptons were raging out of control. Engine Co. 2 went to work spending 2 days out there fighting these fires. We were given honor by having some of our crew and the truck on the front page of the Sunday Newsday.
A situation occurred once again where Engine Co. 2 pulled together during a difficult time. On August 14, 1996, an enormous effort began to assist in saving the life of our own 2ND Lieutenant Scott Farber. Scott was injured when his Suffolk County police cruiser was crushed by a garbage truck. Engine Co. 2 and the E.M.F.D. put together a massive blood drive that helped to stop the bleeding in his lacerated liver. Lieutenant Farber spent 39 days in the hospital and after a long recovery at home, returned to his duties with Engine Co. 2. During his recuperation, a huge fundraiser was held at Headquarters and was run jointly by the E.M.F.D and the Suffolk County Police Department. Firefighter Howie Bartone and Ex-Chief Gary Nauth were each awarded The Town of Hempstead Firematic Award for their efforts in organizing the blood drive where over 430 pints of blood were collected.
As the years go by, more milestones are reached again for Engine Co. 2. On September 7, 1998, Ex-Chief Jay Kostynick had the distinct honor of being our first member to reach 65 years of service.
Modern technology had really caught up to us for the new millennium. The Fire District installed computer screens in all the firehouses in the year 2000. Dispatch information came over the monitors as well as through printouts. Attendance was now recorded by the District. After all members signed in for an alarm, the call sheet was then faxed over to the dispatcher, who then entered our badge numbers into the computer. Early in this decade, we have also seen a downward trend in the amount of alarms we answer each year. This is largely due to the new procedure for automatic alarms. The dispatcher now calls to the location of the alarm to verify if we are needed before toning us out.
On November 27, 2002, Engine Company 2 said goodbye to its senior member I. John Kostynick. “Jay” was active his entire time here. He attended trainings, meetings and cleanups regularly, and still helped with fund drive. Jay had joined on September 7, 1933. Still in good health in his 70th year as a member, Jay left after training on Sunday November 10, 2002. This turned out to be his last time at the firehouse. Jay succumbed to a serious but brief respiratory illness at age 87. Jay was with Engine Co. 2 from nearly the beginning and we are what we are today because of the likes of him.
In addition to the many awards stated throughout this writing, various firematic awards such as firefighter of the year were given out throughout the years by various organizations including the East Meadow Civic Association, Nassau County, Town of Hempstead, and Engine Co. 2. Recipients of these awards were Ex-Chief Jay Kostynick, Ex-Chief Dominick Santoro, Ex-Chief Arthur W. Sperr, Ex-Captain James Landrigan, Ex-Captain Doug Wood, Ex-Captain Kenny Long, Ex-Captain Bobby Duggan, and Firefighter Mike Lisa.
Recently, projects have been started for our future. Palm scanners to keep track of our attendance have been installed in our firehouses and will take the place of faxing call sheets to the dispatcher. This system is expected to be in full swing on January 1, 2006. A truck committee was also recently formed and they have begun to work on our next Engine 2.
During these 75 years Engine Co. 2 has always stood out amongst others. We have always set an example in our traditions, how we train, and the way we have led and performed. We should all be proud to be the individual building blocks of the foundation of the finest Company in Nassau County. Use this history as the pathway to the future. Learn from the past and work proudly in the present to set the standard for the future.