Community, family, service. When you sit around a table in the Meadowmere Park Fire Hall with a handful of longtime members of the community fire department, those words come to life.
The volunteer department, which serves approximately 100 homes nestled in the southwest corner of Nassau County, bordering Queens, commemorates its 76th year with the fervor of a 75th anniversary, as celebrations planned for the past year have been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
What seems to be consistent is the department’s dedication to providing the community with top-notch and reliable fire, rescue and emergency medical services.
Part of the Nassau County 3rd Battalion, which includes the Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence-Cedarhurst, Woodmere, and Valley Stream Fire Departments, approximately 25 firefighters from Meadowmere Park, who sometimes also serve as district fire marshals , answer some 300 calls a year.
“Once you volunteered, you committed,” said Scott Howie, 67, a member of the department for 48 years and part of a three-generation family of emergency responders that included his father. , Bill, and now his daughter Michelle. , who is an emergency medical technician. Scott’s wife, Janet, and daughter Mandy are members of the approximately 12-member Ladies Auxiliary. “You get to know a lot of people,” Howie added, “and you have a lot of friends.”
“Anyone I went to school with or played baseball with joined,” said 1st Deputy Chief Lumott Coleman, 55, who grew up in Inwood, joined the service from fire of that community and ten years ago moved to Meadowmere Park County. Overall, Coleman has been in the volunteer fire department for 35 years.
“It’s about helping the community,” said Coleman, a critical care technician by profession. “It has become a way of life. I don’t know if I would be in the field where I am now,” he added, if he hadn’t joined the Inwood FD years ago.
“My dad was a member,” said Gene Hartnell, 75, a 53-year-old Meadowmere Park veteran. “It’s about serving the community.” He remembers when the houses in the community still looked like the original summer bungalows that were built when Meadowmere Park was founded over a century ago, and the team tournaments junior drills in which firefighters used to participate.
Kevin Carrero, 41, who is in his second term as department head, joined around 2005 because all his friends had done so. “Being in the fire station with all my friends – I love it,” said Carrero, the Herald’s 2012 Person of the Year, who considers older members not just friends but practically members of the community. family – including ex-chief Andrew Schmitt, who was honored for 62 years of service at the ministry’s installation dinner last month.
Help in difficult times
When Carrero was first chief, the department opened the fire station to about 75 Meadowmere Park residents whose homes had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. They ate, slept, charged their electronics and supported themselves in the days following the storm.
Memories of the hurricane firefighters remain vivid – memories of wading through at least hip-deep water and navigating the small department boat through debris-strewn streets.
“Irene teased us and Sandy slammed us,” Carrero said, referring to the tropical storm that hit Long Island in 2011, about 14 months before Sandy. “It was a shelter,” Howie said of the fire station. “We were feeding everyone.”
Coleman remembers taking cold showers and seeing wallets and shoes strewn about in the Payless Shoes parking lot on Rockaway Turnpike. After Sandy, the fire department lost 10 members, who left Meadowmere Park.
Commissioner Kevin Bennett Sr. has been a member for 20 years. “It’s a really nice community,” said Bennett, 67. “I got to know some people. They always help each other.” And from the fire department, he added, “It’s like a second family.”
On November 1, 2020, residents of Meadowmere Park were awakened by a loud noise emanating from the house on 3 South St. An explosion there started a fire that also spread to homes on 1 and 5 South St. Before other departments were notified and responded, Carrero and Coleman were at the scene.
Remembering the fire like it was yesterday, Coleman repeated the orders given by Carrero and described how he wrote everything down and coordinated all medical help. “The whole neighborhood came together and helped in any way they could,” Coleman recounted, including the ladies’ auxiliary. [They] always help, Howie said.
Their experience after the attacks of September 11, 2001 is also particularly significant for the members of the department. One of them, Thomas Jurgens, was working as a law officer in Manhattan when the Twin Towers were hit.
Jurgens, 26, responded to the World Trade Center site and saved several lives before losing his own. The community honored his memory by renaming the intersection where the fire station is located, at Meyer and East Avenues, Captain Thomas Jurgens Avenue. A memorial in the community park dedicated to those who died includes steel beams from one of the towers.
“It’s a very tight-knit fire department,” Carrero said. “It’s a great group of guys sticking around.”
Lily Cohen contributed to this story.