In response to conversations with village administrators, the New Hyde Park Fire Department will have a larger presence at the 2014 village street fair, according to department officials.
The change stems from comments made by mayor Robert Lofaro and other members of the board at the Oct. 1 meeting of the village board in which they expressed concern over the department’s lack of presence at the 2013 street fair as well as plans if a fire or other emergency were to occur on Jericho Turnpike.
“Basically this year we did not participate within the street fair,” Chief Brian Sherwood said. “We have determined that the majority of the people that are attending the street fair are out of the New Hyde Park area.”
Instead, the department chose hold a fire prevention day in the rear of the main fire house on a separate day to bring in more residents of the local community.
“Basically what I had discussed with Mayor Lofaro after the street fair... another event,” said Paul Sokol, who was in charge of planning for the street fair for the department. “He was a little curious as to why we didn’t participate and I discussed... us having our own open house... because we want to try and stay localized with our membership.”
At the Oct. 1 meeting, Lofaro, who is also a member of the fire department, explained that in his view the members of the fire department who were present at the street fair could help clear a pathway for engines and trucks to get through the fair to a destination should such a call come into the department instead of using side streets to access areas of the village during the fair.
“That’s not going to work,” Sherwood said of the idea of using those members present to clear the way for engines to get through the fair. “By the time they get everybody out of the way, that house is going to burn down. We don’t ever say ‘use Jericho Turnpike’ unless it’s a signal nine medical emergency.”
In that instance the department would have someone physically run down to the location with an ambulance staged at the closest corner to where the emergency is located.
Jericho Turnpike already has narrower lanes thanks to the new median constructed by New York State as a traffic calming measure. The median also limits the areas where vehicles can make turns on Jericho Turnpike, an issue that has been brought up several times before the village board, and could pose problems for New Hyde Park Fire Department engines and trucks trying to traverse the median on their way to an emergency call.
“We have a set response protocol for this department in writing, documented, without the street fair,” Sherwood said. “We have as response how apparatus comes out of the fire house, what streets it takes to what call based upon where the call is. When there’s a street fair, there’s a meeting, people are advised; the whole department as well as the chauffeurs and the officers that the street fair’s going on between New Hyde Park Road and Lakeville Road - if there’s a call on the south, go this way, if there’s a call on the north, you go this way... because Jericho Turnpike is so congested.”
If a fire were to occur on the North side of the village, fire trucks would use New Hyde Park Road. If the location was on the southern end, engines could use Second Avenue and make a right or go over the LIRR tracks and come up 12th Street.
“The drivers and the chauffeurs of our apparatus know the routes they are to take when the street fair is in play,” Sherwood said.
However, the issue of what to do should one of those calls have occurred during the recent street fair was brought up during the regular board meeting on Oct. 1 at the village hall due to the loss of access to Jericho Turnpike.
“The one thing that he mentioned when he talked about the 50 firefighters... was that he would not be able to provide manpower in the event that we needed to get the apparatus down Jericho Turnpike to clear the pedestrians out of the way if we needed to get down,” Sokol said of Lofaro’s plan. “So if we had our people there in blue shirts, identified, then we could walk in front of the apparatus and funnel people out of the way to get the apparatus down Jericho Turnpike if we need to in the event of an emergency. He would like to see us participate next year as a little security blanket for them, that they know they have this extra set of eyes, and extra set of hands, God forbid there is an emergency somewhere on Jericho Turnpike.”
Sokol did not know how much clearance there was on Jericho due to the medians or how far out the booths were pushed out this year due to the reconfiguration of Route 25.
Sherwood said that he did not believe that there was attendance by the fire department at a village preplanning meeting for this year’s street fair due to a conflicting date with a fire department meeting.
“We weren’t too concerned prior to this particular street fair because of the fact that the booths were put in closer to each other and you had some room that you can go down Jericho Turnpike in the event that you needed to go down with an apparatus,” Sokol said. “My concern this year was that center divider that they just put in there, the booths are going to be pushed out into what now is impeding our response area, so I had a discussion with mayor Lofaro about that and that 50 firefighter thing that he mentioned was that he would like to see us participate in the street fair, even if we don’t participate putting on displays or anything else like that, he would like to have the apparatus there, he would like to know that we’re available to respond at a minute’s notice as opposed to trying to navigate around the village to get to the firehouses to respond.”
According to Sokol, each one of the five assistant chiefs of the department rotates through the various assignment duties year-to-year.
“Each chief, when they become the head chief, determines what they want to do for that year,” he said.
Steve Waldron will be in charge of the department on Jan. 1, 2014.
“When the new chief comes in, he may feel one of the deputy chiefs have better knowledge of this then say, another deputy chief and then he’ll assign it or what we’ll normally do is... we all sat down together, looked at the schedules of each other and said ‘well, what would best fit in your schedule, what do you think you want to do?’,” Sherwood said. “Everybody ultimately works together to achieve the same goal.”
Added Sokol: “we are looking to play a more active role next year in our preplanning with the village. In the past I think they’ve just assumed and relied on our expertise that we have this in place. Now that we weren’t there this year it opened up their eyes to say ‘hey, what if we do get something on Jericho Turnpike or one of the side streets off Jericho’.”