MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR: River View Manor Company By PETER SWIDERSKI

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Village of Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Peter Swiderski

Village of Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Peter Swiderski

HASTINGS-On-HUDSON, NY — September 15, 2015 — The Hastings Historic Society will be opening a show on Hastings’ first responders next month. In expectation of that show, I am completing an episodic series on our fire department. Our volunteer fire department is composed of your neighbors, your friends, yet most of us don’t know much about the four private companies that constitute our fire department. Every year, house fires are extinguished, people extricated from car wrecks, lives saved, basements pumped and so much more by a quiet, extremely well-trained group of volunteers with which you share this village and who do this 24/7 every day of the year for love of the Village and the Fire Department.

Department Overview
Hastings is served by 110 volunteer firefighters and EMS members who are divided among the four private, independent companies (or “houses”) that comprise our department. The houses are located downtown on Warburton and next to the Community Center on Main, on Rose Street and on Euclid. (The ambulance corps is across from the Community Center.) While the Village government underwrites much of the expense associated with running the houses and purchasing the equipment (or “apparatus”), the four fire companies are actually individual, separate private companies that (in all but one case) built and own their own firehouses, are responsible for their own budgets, and have their own, distinct group of volunteers associated with each house. Each house has its own chief (who is elected to that post), and an internal hierarchy. On a two-year rotating basis, one of the chiefs serves as head of the department. The department is currently run by Chief Bannon.

When the alarm sounds, you hear the alarm blast (3 for ambulance, 5 for fire), and a signal is sent to the radios carried by all the volunteers alerting them to the call. Those that are available respond: the drivers are first to the trucks and respond immediately. Other volunteers head either to the stations or directly to the site of the alarm. The trucks are on-site usually within 2-4 minutes of the call going out. Ninety-four percent of the time, it’s a false alarm and they return to dinner or sleep or clients. In those other moments, whether a gas leak or auto accident or actual fire, the hours of training and teamwork kicks in and the job gets done.

I have reported in the past here on Protection Company and here on Uniontown Hose Company. Today, I cover the history of the third company established in Hastings.

River View Manor Hose Company Number Three
“The Manor” was founded in 1910 by the well-monied gentlemen who were building homes in the exclusive Manor development and realized they would need a hose company. The founding members included John Donnelly, whose friezes decorate the exterior of Grand Central and Richmond Shreve, who was the architect for the Empire State Building (and also our Municipal Building) and several captains of industry, earning it a reputation as the “silk-stocking” company.

One of the first acts was to purchase a wooden cart with a large reel of hose that would be drawn by the firemen to the fire. In 1916, the Manor members funded the construction of the firehouse (for $3,440 raised privately from Manor residents), still in use at the Euclid address. It has since expanded twice (in ’83 and ’08 to handle lengthening fire engines. The department’s current apparatus, a Seagrave Marauder II Pumper from 2008, is heavily customized, including a heavy-duty transmission to handle our hills.

The Manor was always a diverse house, proud of its mix of captains of industry, those active in cultures (including a multiple Pulitzer winner) as well as local tradesmen. This still holds true: the chief engineer (driver) and second lieutenant, for example, are both Emmy award nominees and current membership includes a college professor, a composer, a beloved janitor at the High School, real estate professionals and many others. It was the first to have a female member, and the current active membership of 46, which ranges in age from 18 to 85 (!), of which 25% is female.

Each fire company has its own traditions and stories: the Manor holds an annual “Smoker”, an all-night cigar-smoke-wreathed poker game that has been held for over a hundred years, and 40-year-plus traditional annual Santa Run to the Graham School to deliver gifts during the holidays.

House members recalled a number of great “stops” (or fire events) including in 1994 when a now-demolished warehouse (“Building 15”) on the waterfront caught fire: it was discovered at that time that a carting firm (with reported organized crime connections) had illegally deposited a huge amount of debris and waste in the two-acre empty facility. The fire burned for five days and involved not just the entire Hastings department but companies from as far away as Mount Vernon. In another fire in 1973, Chief Jim Drumm (then a captain) earned a “save” (an event where a life is rescued) when he pulled a disabled woman through heavy black fumes spewing from a fire which began in a vinyl record collection. They also recall those unexpected events, such as the discovery of a four-foot-long lizard at one stop and a large boa constrictor at another. Finally, one of the more ironic moments came with Manor Chief Sarfaty’s command vehicle combusted in his very own driveway when an electric short started a fire. (The vehicle was a total loss.)

The Manor has also seen its share of tragedy over the years. It has lost two members on calls: Capt. Collin Fell died in 1989 at a gas station fire from cardiac arrest and Lt. Francis Miller died from injuries from an accident when responding to a call for a brush fire.

Volunteering
We may support the department by our taxes, but there’s one way you can do more. You can consider joining the department. Volunteers are recruited from the community, and then undergo training. The best way to learn more is to reach out to Walter Stugis (wstugis @ verizon.net), who is responsible for recruiting. Meanwhile, when you hear that horn sound, pause for a second to give thanks and a brief prayer for our volunteers’ safety. That horn sounds for you.

 

Peter Swiderski, Mayor of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, may be reached ny directing email to:
mayor@hastingsgov.org

eHeziMESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR: River View Manor Company By PETER SWIDERSKI

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