The Greenlawn Fire District is located in the center of the Town of Huntington in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. The approximately 7-square-mile area encompasses Greenlawn, as well as parts of the hamlets of Elwood and Huntington. The district is home to roughly 15,000 residents, as well as a wide variety of properties ranging from health and elder care facilities to industrial and manufacturing businesses, from houses of worship and restaurants to a Long Island Railroad Station, and from an animal shelter to six public schools.
The District is managed by a publically elected Board of Fire Commissioners. The five board members, who volunteer their time, preside over the buildings, equipment, and employees of the district. They are charged with providing the necessities and training to the volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians of the Department.
This diverse district is protected by the 125 active members of the Greenlawn Volunteer Fire Department; friends and neighbors who have the desire to serve and the ability to help. Founded in 1902, the Greenlawn Volunteer Fire Department continues to be a cornerstone of the Greenlawn community. The Firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics of the Department provide emergency fire and medical response from two stations; Headquarters to the north and Station #1 on the south side. These dedicated men and women undergo hundreds of hours of training in order to provide the best service possible to those in need, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The GFD is proud to be one of the few remaining all volunteer departments in the region.
Our Headquarters is located at 23 Boulevard Ave in the heart of Greenlawn, directly north of the Greenlawn Station of the Long Island Railroad. It houses our dispatch center, district and department offices, a full mechanics’ bay, and seven apparatus bays. Above the truck room is a meeting hall where we host department and company meetings as well as training events, Suffolk EMS classes, Fire School Training, Fire Prevention activities, and social events for the department, township, county, and state Fire organizations. The hall is equipped with a commercial grade kitchen and can double as a shelter in the event of civil emergencies. The Annual Fireman’s Fair is held on the Corporation’s property to the rear of Headquarters.
Station #1 was built on Little Plains Road (between Broadway and Manor Rd) in 1971 to better serve the growing community protected by the Greenlawn Fire District. H To the rear of Station #1 are the department’s training facilities including a simulated residential structure, confined-space areas, and a Hurst-tool training area. Many times, Station #1 becomes home to a host of firefighters standing-by on a “Signal 9” to respond to emergencies through snow, hurricanes, and other storms.
The Chief of the Department with his Assistant Chiefs and Officers run the day to day firematic and rescue activities of the Department and report to the Board of Fire Commissioners. The officers of the corporation run the organizational business, primarily the annual Fireman’s Fair and fundraising, as well as social and community events.
THE SHIELDS WE STAND BEHIND
“THE MALTESE CROSS”
The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection..a badge of honor; it’s story and tradition is hundreds of years old. When a courageous band of Crusaders, known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but honorable device of war. It wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for The Cross.
The Saracens’ weapon was fire.
As the Crusaders advanced on the walls of the Saracens’ city they were struck by Glass bombs containing naptha. When they became saturated with the highly inflammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming tree into their midst.
Hundreds of Knights were burned alive. Others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful fiery deaths.
Thus, these men became the first firefighters; and the first of a long list of courageous fire-fighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow Crusaders who awarded each hero a badge of honor, a cross similar to the one firefighters wear today.
Since the Knights of John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross.
The Maltese Cross is our symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his or her life for you, just as the Crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago.
The Maltese Cross is a firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he or she works in courage, pride and honor…a ladder-rung away from death.
“THE STAR OF LIFE”
The Star of Life was designed by Leo R. Schwartz, EMS Branch Chief at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Star of Life was created in 1973 as a common symbol to be used by U.S. emergency medical services (EMS) and goods pertaining to EMS. It was after complaints from the American Red Cross objecting to the use of the Omaha orange cross by ambulance services throughout America, which clearly imitated the Red Cross symbol. The NHTSA investigated and felt that the complaint was justified. However, the use of the red cross symbol can still be seen on military vehicles, hospital tents and buildings to protect wounded civilian and military personnel as per the Geneva Convention in times of war.
The six barred blue symbol was adapted from the medical identification symbol and was officially registered on February 1, 1977. Each bar on the Star of Life represents one of six functions. They are:
The snake and staff in the center of the symbol portray the staff of Asclepius who, according to Greek mythology, was the son of Apollo (god of light, truth and prophecy). Supposedly Asclepius learned the art of healing from the centaur Cheron; but Zeus – king of the gods, was fearful that because of Asclepius’ knowledge, all men might be rendered immortal. Rather than have this occur, Zeus slew Asclepius with a thunderbolt. Later, Asclepius was worshipped as a god and people slept in his temples, as it was rumored that he affected cures of prescribed remedies to the sick during their dreams. Zeus restored Asclepius to life, making him a god.
The Bible, in Numbers 21:9, also makes reference to a serpent on a staff: “Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered.”
“I Wish You Could Know”
I wish you could know what it is like to search a burning bedroom for trapped children at 3 AM, flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen below you burns.
I wish you could comprehend a wife’s horror at 6 in the morning as I check her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway, hoping to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late. But wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done to try to save his life.
I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling, the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke-sensations that I’ve become too familiar with.
I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire “Is this a false alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?” Or to call, “What is wrong with the patient? Is it minor or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for us with a 2×4 or a gun?”
I wish you could be in the emergency room as a doctor pronounces dead the beautiful five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past 25 minutes. Who will never go on her first date or say the words, “I love you Mommy” again.
I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine, squad, or my personal vehicle, the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain, as you fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic. But when you need us however, your first comment upon our arrival will be, “It took you forever to get here!”
I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the remains of her automobile. “What if this was my daughter, sister, my girlfriend or a friend? What is her parents’ reaction going to be when they open the door to find a police officer with his hat in hand?”
I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and greet my family, not having the heart to tell them that I nearly did not come back from the last call.
I wish you could know how it feels dispatching officers, firefighters and EMT’s out and when we call for them and our heart drops because no one answers back or to here a bone chilling 911 call of a child or wife needing assistance.
I wish you could feel the hurt as people verbally, and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what I do, or as they express their attitudes of “It will never happen to me”.
I wish you could realize the physical, emotional and mental drain or the missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have seen.
I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or preserving someone’s property, or being able to be there in time of crisis, or creating order from total chaos.
I wish you could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging at your arm and asking, “Is Mommy okay?” Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears from your own and not knowing what to say. Or to have to hold back a long time friend who watches his buddy having CPR done on him as they take him away in the ambulance. You know all along he did not have his seat belt on. A sensation that I have become too familiar with.
Unless you have lived this life of mine, you will never truly understand or appreciate who I am, what we are, or what our job really means to us…I wish you could though.
“The Creation of the Firefighter”
When the Lord was creating Firefighters, he was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”
And the Lord said, “Have you read the specifications on this person? Firefighters have to be able to go for hours fighting fires or tending to a person that the usual every day person would never touch, while putting in the back of their mind the circumstances. They have to be able to move at a second’s notice and not think twice of what they are about to do, no matter what danger. They have to be in top physical condition at all times, running on half-eaten meals, and they must have six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands…no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems, ” said the Lord, “it’s the three pairs of eyes a Firefighter has to have.”
“That’s on the standard model? ” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through the fire and where they and their fellow Firefighters should fight the fire next. Another pair here in the side of the head to see their fellow Firefighters and keep them safe. And another pair of eyes in the front so that they can look for the victims caught in the fire that need their help”
“Lord” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “Rest and work on this tomorrow”
“I can’t, said the Lord, “I already have a model that can carry a 250 pound man down a flight of stairs and to safety from a burning building.
The angel circled the model of the Firefighter very slowly, “Can it think?”
“You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the elements of a hundred fires and can recite procedures in their sleep that are needed to care for a person until they reach the hospital. And all the while they have to keep their wits about themselves. This Firefighter also has phenomenal personal control. They can deal with a scene full of pain and hurt, coaxing a child’s mother into letting go of the child so that they can care for the child in need. And still they rarely get the recognition for a job well done from anybody, other than from fellow Firefighters.”
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the Firefighter. “There’s a leak”, she pronounced. “Lord, it’s a tear. What’s the tear for?” asked the angel.
“It’s a tear from bottled-up emotions for fallen comrades. A tear for commitment to that funny piece of cloth called the American Flag. It’s a tear for all the pain and suffering they have encountered. And it’s a tear for their commitment to caring for and saving lives of their fellow man!”
“What a wonderful feature Lord, you’re a genius” said the angel.
The Lord looked somber and said “I didn’t put it there.”
THE FINAL REWARD
Last night while I lay sleeping, I died, or so it seems.
Then I went up to Heaven. But ’twas only in my dreams.
It seems St. Peter met me there at the Pearly Gate.
He said, “I must check your record, so stand right there and wait.
He returned and said, “Your record is clouded with flaws.”
“But on earth I see you labored for a very worthy cause.
You fought snow and ice in winter and sweated in the summer heat.
You couldn’t afford a big meal when you stopped for a bite to eat.
I see where you drank whiskey and used tobacco too.
Fact is, you’ve done lots of things that a good man shouldn’t do.
We can’t have men like you up here, your life was full of sin.”
Then he read the last of my record, grasped my hand and said,
“Come on in.”
He took me up to the Big Boss, who said, “Take him in and treat him well,
He was a Firefighter,
He’s had his share of Hell.”