East Meadow

Rescue Company #5

Rescue Company #5

Our History

Rescue Company Five was the fifth company formed by the East Meadow Fire Department. The first meeting, was held on March 9th, 1953 under the direction of Captain Matty Burkart, and Lieutenant Lou Caruso. At that time it was known as the Fire Police and Rescue Company. The Fire Police became a Squad within the company with a Sergeant in charge and no first aid or rescue duties. Both units were housed at the Headquarters Firehouse on Newbridge Avenue (East Meadow Avenue) which is still the base for this company.

Old records of the 1930’s and 1940’s indicated that there were responses to calls for “First Aid” and there was an Emergency Squad mentioned. A truck known as the Pierce Arrow as an emergency vehicle. The hose beds of the pumpers were also used to transport victims who were placed and secured in an Army stretcher. The only training available were American Red Cross Basic and Advanced First Aid Courses.

In 1936, the East Meadow Fire District purchased a 1936 Ford Floodlight truck (See photo in Department History Page). Back in its day this rig was an innovation piece of equipment most popular for its huge flood lights across both sides, as well as it’s open back with bench seating to carry manpower to the scene of emergencies.

Members of Rescue 5 were soon cast into a new more important role as the Fire Police Squad began to phase out.

In 1953, our actual Rescue Company 5 was formed. Around this time, the company took ownership of a new GMC Heavy Rescue truck. This new truck became the pride of the department as Rescue Company 5 began to envision a new role in the fire service. Soon the truck was equipped with many types of tools for emergencies, and the transportation of the sick and injured to the Meadowbrook Hospital (Today’s NUMC).

Its massive appearance, white body, and compartmentation the likes of which was not seen in many emergency vehicles, made the new 615 a sight to see. Some members can still recall its nickname as the “White Elephant”. Soon to have character by the stork and baby decals added to its side body for each new baby the men of Rescue Company 5 would deliver.

As the years passed, the men of Rescue 5 developed the Company into what would be the first turn towards a community medical squad, training week after week, having great success in New York State First Aid competitions, all the while working to train and maintain their expertise as firefighters as well. It would not be uncommon for neighbors of Rescue 5 members to hear the low air “Bells” of the vintage breathing air packs of the day, as members trained in search and rescue procedures in member’s structures such as garages filled with smoke bombs to simulate blinding smoke and fire conditions. In these years of uncertainty, photos are on file of Rescue 5 members working with civil defense personnel to compare and operate equipment of this era.

By the late 1960’s the members of Rescue 5 would bid farewell to their prized White Elephant as its involvement is a collision prompted a new beginning with the purchase of the new massive Gerstenslager gasoline powered Heavy Rescue truck.

During this time, the role of a Rescue 5 member increased to special rescues and motor vehicle accident extrications. Members became the best at extricating persons trapped in car wrecks as increased population throughout the Island, faster cars, and increased travel all contributed to their vital presence.

Equipped with a new era of emergency rescue tools, the huge red Gerstenslager served our community well until its replacement in the early 1990s.

In the early years of Heavy Rescue equipment Rescue 5 members used steel pry bars, or maybe a hand pump style hydraulic spreader (PortaPower) to spread the steel of wreckage to remove a patient. But during the reign of the Gerstenslager heavy rescue truck new advances of heavy rescue technology came to the market in the form of the gasoline powered hydraulic rescue tools better known to all as the Jaws of Life (Hurst Tool).

The introduction of such heavy machinery by Rescue 5 that could be brought to any street in East Meadow demonstrated incredible power of spreading and cutting again putting this company in the forefront for these specialized emergencies.

Then in 1967, in the departments 37th year, Rescue 5 Ex Captain Edward J. O’Brien ran for the position of 3rd Asst Chief of the Department. Ed would continue up the line rising to Chief of the Department in 1970. This would be the first Rescue 5 representation to lead our department. On June 3rd, 1970, he would find himself as Chief in charge of Long Island’s first major high rise fire.

As the years passed, technology again began to change and the field of Emergency Medical Service began to grow by leaps and bounds. No longer was first aid, or advanced first aid the choice of Rescue 5 members, as Emergency Medical Technician levels of expertise began to draw EMS attention and our Rescue 5 members rose to the challenge.

Many of the early procedures and techniques were those that were used worldwide, and on the battlefield. The bandaging techniques, methods of carries and transportation required many hours of practice and everyone had to be demonstrated for certification. Few attained the highest certification of Advanced First Aid Instructor and First Aid Instructor. Two of our members attended the first course given for CPR.

In 1972, two members attended the first Emergency Medical Training course given by doctors at the Meadowbrook Hospital. Our members were among the first to become Certified New York State Emergency Technicians.

By the end of the 1970’s, different levels of EMT certification were popping up in volunteer fire departments throughout the state including East Meadow. Levels of EMT-CC (Critical Care), and EMT-P (Paramedic) became the higher levels to achieve. Today these courses take upwards from 6 months to more than a year to complete, further demonstrating the dedication of Rescue 5 members.

In these years, alerting of members for all daytime rescue calls came to the form of Rescue 5, with Engine Co 1, and Ladder Co 1, members also alerted to assist.

In April of 1971, Ex Captain Jerry Ditata of Rescue Company 5 would make a bid for the position of 3rd Asst Chief of the Department. His election win was the beginning of a 3 year term of 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Asst Chief, culminating in his election to Chief of Department in April of 1975. Jerry was honored as only the second member in the Company’s rich history to attain the highest Fire Department honor.

In 1976, the members of Rescue 5 accepted its first true ambulance in a lime yellow unit numbered 6115. A new horizon was upon our community as Rescue 5 rose to the occasion with members continuing to expand their expertise in New York State Certified Medical Courses for a Fire Department growing as fast as our community.

In the late 1970’s, as the East Meadow Fire District, which also covers parts of Levittown and Westbury, continued to grow in population, as did our department, with the emergence of Engine Company # 4 to assist in covering the district north of Hempstead Turnpike.

In the early 1980s, the face of the East Meadow Firefighter would take on a new look as the first of female members were accepted into the department. These happenings would be the beginning of a new addition that would filter into our Rescue companies, since, a few years further down the road, the Department would set up EMS only membership to attract those not wishing to volunteer as a firefighter.

In 1985, Rescue Company 5 took ownership of their new 1985 Type III Ambulance replacing 6115. Along with this new ambulance came some of the latest technology in life saving defibrillator and cardiac resuscitation equipment.
In April of 1992, after serving 2 years as Lieutenant, Barbara Priest became the first female Captain of the East Meadow Fire Department as Captain of Rescue Company 5.
In April of 1995, Captain Daniel Thompson achieved the office of Captain of Rescue 5 for the 6th time in his dedicated volunteer career. A feat unmatched by any member of our department.

As the decades past technology continued to change with the introduction of new extrication equipment in electric power units for jaws of life. Major advancements in pre-hospital care yielded many life saving medications now available for use by EMFD advanced life support technicians such as EMT-CC’s and Paramedics.

In December of 1993, Patricia Magnus Brown joined the company, followed shortly by her lifetime friend Phyllis Sperr. In 2008, both these two woman became the first in EMFD history to achieve the 15 year mark of active service to our community. Today both continue to serve day in and day out in their outstanding volunteer careers.

In the early 2000’s Advanced Life Support technicians embarked on a new era of field medicine with the inception of the East Meadow Fire Department narcotics program. This program, one of the first of its kind for a volunteer fire department in Nassau County enabled East Meadow’s rescue companies and our elite 99 Advance Life Support Squad the ability to administer narcotic drugs to patients in dire need at the scene of any emergency. Once more, East Meadow’s volunteer EMS system set the standard for other agencies to follow.

With the growth of East Meadow to its current size, decisions were made in February of 2006, to increase Rescue Company to a 2 ambulance company with ambulances 615 and 6115.

In 2008, demands on EMS dictated the need to again move Rescue 5 to be alerted to all EMS runs district wide. A format currently in place today.

In 2009, Fire Medic Phyllis achieved the gold pin for most alarms answered for the fifteenth consecutive year. A feat again unmatched by any member in the history of our department.
Rescue 5 has also been represented in serving the Fire District with four members attaining the elected official position: Jerry Ditata 1962, Vincent Franko Jr 1964, Patricia Magnus-Brown 1991, and Scott Farber (Currently Serving) 2008.

Today, Rescue Company 5, continues to be a fine group of men and women, many with high levels of EMT certifications, who stand ready to respond to your medical emergency.

In every era of this writing, generation after generation of members who served our community under the company of Rescue 5, are remembered for being instrumental in not just protecting our community from fires, but saving lives in medical incidents, making the difference in every stage of new technology, and putting it all to work for our residents.

This history page is dedicated to all those along this journey whose hard work and commitment have made this company what it is today.

Rescue Company #5