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Fire Eaters of Tomorrow

A History of the Lynbrook Fire Department's Junior Program

 By Ex-Captain Steve Grogan

 The Lynbrook Fire Department (LFD) has a Junior Fire Department program that was formed in 1979.  For years leading up to the formation of the program the LFD had been experiencing a slowdown in volunteer recruitment and the idea of a junior program for youngsters was started to help fill the ranks in the department.  The program is opened to Lynbrook boys and girls between the ages of 12 through 17.  There are presently 45 youngsters in today’s program.  At age 18 the junior can apply and join one of the fire companies in the department and become a volunteer firefighter in the Village of Lynbrook.

The juniors don’t fight fires.  They learn about firefighting and help out at fire scenes and other department functions.  The juniors train and learn about each of the five fire companies and the Medical Company so that each junior, a potential future firefighter, gains a complete picture of how the LFD operates.

The juniors have uniforms and march with the department in all their parades and compete for trophies against other junior departments.  Over the years they have taken home many winning trophies.  In 2003 the Lynbrook Juniors were recognized as the first and best junior department in Nassau County.  This is the second time that they have received this distinction.  They had received it in 2001.  The junior members also participate in the hose event competition each year during the department’s annual home tournament in Greis Park.

Since 1979 over 65 juniors have gone on to become Lynbrook firefighters.  The juniors have adopted the slogan, “Tomorrow’s Firefighters Today.”  One of these former juniors that joined in that first group of youngsters in 1979 was Robert Cribbin who at age 18 joined the department.  Cribbin climbed through the ranks of Tally-Ho Company and later became Chief of the Lynbrook Fire Department.  Other junior members in 1979 were Carl Lengel, now an Ex-Captain of Vulcan Company; Gene Cribbin, also an Ex-Captain of Vulcan Company; and Kevin Bien, an Ex-Captain of Truck Company.  In addition two other original members, Pat Hahl and Joe Cipolla, besides also joining the department went on to become Lynbrook police officers, as did Ex-Captain Lengel.

The juniors meet the first Sunday of each month at 10 AM at Fire Headquarters on Wright Avenue.  Firefighters from each of the six companies in the department are advisors to the juniors. 

In 1979, myself and Don Waring, both of Tally-Ho Company and Len Llewellyn, then a member of Vulcan Company and now a member of Truck Company, were the first advisors.  If it were not for the donations of equipment in those early years of the juniors, along with the full support of the department as well as from all of Lynbrook’s fire companies, the program would not have been successful. 

During their training of the juniors the advisors from the six companies continue to stress that school, church and family come first.  The service these juniors perform help them satisfy their community service requirements for Confirmation and school graduation.

The 1979 junior program was not however the first time that the LFD had a junior program.  The first juniors were formed by Rescue, Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company, No. 1 (Truck Company), which was Lynbrook’s first fire company.

According to the stories I have read, Truck Company, which was formed in 1879, received their first motorized ladder truck in 1917.  The company decided for this new truck that “a mascot would be appropriate, so a proud mother, a wife of one of the members made an attractive suit for her five year old son, who was officially acclaimed Mascot……..Several years later as this boy outgrew this uniform it was passed on to another boy in town.  Other mothers were given no rest until they got permission to make duplicates of this mascot uniform and allow their boys to parade with the firemen.”

This was the forming in 1920 of the first junior program in Lynbrook.  They were called the “Rescue Juniors.”  The junior membership, which at that time was open only to boys seven to thirteen years of age, quickly grew to over sixty members in the mid 1920’s.  The juniors were “all uniformed with maltese badges, flags, banners, fife and drum, bugler, and trumpets.”  They even had their own piece of apparatus, Truck Company’s old hand drawn “Jumper” fire wagon. 

In those days the juniors were referred to as, “Fire Eaters of Tomorrow.”

In an undated report, but believed to be in the late 1920’s, to the Lynbrook Fire Department, prepared by junior organizer Fred Riefler of Truck Company, Reifler wrote:

 

These boys travel at the expense of the Lynbrook Department to every parade, tournament, or any public appearance, competing against other junior organizations, winning many beautiful silver loving cups."

Reifler further wrote, “It is the duty of these boys….to report any fire hazard they may see during the day.  On various occasions they burned off brushwood and weeds from vacant lots, where a brush fire might endanger other nearby property as well as saving the firemen from being called unexpectedly from their work or at night while asleep to answer the call of fire caused by the carelessness of some passerby.”

            I have also been able to verify that besides the Rescue Juniors, both Hose Company and later Tally-Ho Company also formed their own juniors program.  Although the record is not clear the junior programs were active in the Lynbrook Fire Department until the late 1930’s.  It appears they were all disbanded before the start of World War II.

            Over 40 years after the first junior programs ended, the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department was formed in 1979 on a department wide basis under the leadership of then Chief Robert Forte, a member of Truck Company, the company that formed the first junior program in 1920.  In 2004, the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department will celebrate its 25th Anniversary.   The juniors are planning a celebration of this milestone and all of those firefighters who went through the program will be invited to the celebration.

            From “Fire Eaters of Tomorrow” to “Tomorrow’s Firefighters Today,” Congratulations. 

More Clippings and Photos

 

 

1981

1983

 

1984

 

 

 

 

In the photos above and below, dated September 1984, Tally-Ho Ex-Captain Dan Barra takes the Juniors through a hose drill.  Can you spot Engine Company's Ed Hynes? 

 

In 1992, CNBC produced a TV news story on the lack of volunteers in the volunteer fire service across the United States. The story however gave no remidy on solving the problem of the volunteer shortage. After CNBC learned about the efforts of the Lynbrook Fire Department to combat that same issue with the forming of a Junior Fire Department program, CNBC came to Lynbrook and did a story on our Juniors' program. That Lynbrook Junior Fire Department story ran on CNBC on May 12, 1992. Fire footage used during the program were filmed and provided to CNBC by Steve Grogan.

Chief John Matzen congratulates  Captain Lindsey Gulliksen and 2nd Lt.  sean donald for their first place trophy for best appearing junior fire department in the Nassau County Volunteer Fire Department Parade this past summer.

On November 1, 2003, the members of the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department were honored at the Nassau County Drill Team Captains Association Dinner held in Lindenhurst for being the Best Appearing Junior Fire Department in Nassau County in 2003.

2003

LFD Juniors pose in front of Engine 1 Quarters after a training session.

 

The Lynbrook Jr. Firefighters undergo a training exercise .

First Place 2005 Nassau County Parade Championship

Story and Photos by Steve Grogan

At the December 5, 2005, Lynbrook Village Board Meeting, the mayor and village board presented the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department with a Proclamation honoring the Juniors for taking first place in Nassau County for 2005.  This is the third time in the last four years that the Lynbrook Juniors have been named the best in the county.  In 2005, they also came in second place in New York State.   In the photos, the young members pose with the Chiefs of the Department and their junior advisors.

2006

Each year the young members of the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department hold a car wash and the money raised is donated to a worthy cause.  Last year they donated the proceeds to the family of former Lynbrook Fire Department Ex-Captain Jeffrey Wiener who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005.   This year the Juniors donated the $500 raised at their recent car wash to a scholarship fund set up in the name of Malverne volunteer firefighter Paul Brady who died in the line of duty at the Malverne firehouse on July 30, 2006.   

            The Lynbrook Juniors presented the check to the Malverne Fire Department at their monthly meeting held on December 18, 2006.     

In the above photo Lynbrook Junior Captain Danny Dempsey, center left, presented the $500 check to Malverne Fire Chief Mike Latronico, center right, at the meeting.   To the left of Dempsey are Junior Lieutenants Allison Matzen and Mike Isler, along with Junior firefighter Michael Rivera.    Also on hand for the presentation, on the right, were Lynbrook Fire Chief Keith Festa, and Assistant Chiefs Robert Occhipinti, John O’Reilly, and Kevin Bien.  Each of the present four Lynbrook Fire Chiefs are former members of the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department program. 

2003

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, the members of the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department particpated in the LFD's drill that was held at the McDonald's on Merrick Road.  The building is being demolished for a new store.  A number of juniors acted as victims during the drill.

The Lynbrook Junior Fire Department presented a $700 donation to the family of a North Carolina firefighter who was killed in the line of duty.  In the above photo, the check is presented to Junior Ex-Captain Michael Isler, extreme left, a nephew of the late North Carolina firefighter Victor Isler, by Junior 2nd Lieutenant Peter German, and Junior Captain Kara McLaughlin.  Also present are, from middle to right, Lynbrook Fire Chief John O’Reilly, First Deputy Kevin Bien, Second Deputy Raymond Burke, and Third Deputy Michael Hynes.  The money for the donation came from a recent Junior fundraising breakfast and will be added to a fund started by North Carolina firefighters to help Victor Isler’s family.

 

Juniors, Advisors, and Chiefs after the 2008 Memorial Service Breakfast at the K of C.

 

2009

For 2009, and for the fifth time, the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department was named the Best in Nassau County by the Nassau County Drill Team Captain's Association.  The award was presented to Junior Captain Peter Germain, right, and First Lieutenant Dillon Bien by the Drill Team Captain's Association president Tom Fitzsimons of the Baldwin FD at the annual Association Installation and Awards Dinner held on November 14, 2009.  Lynbrook Juniors were previously Nassau's best in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008. 

 

 

2010

In September 2010, member of the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department received hose training from members of Tally-Ho Engine 3.  In the above photo, the Juniors, in turnout gear, pose with two of their advisors, Firefighter Brian Grogan of Tally-Ho, back row, and Firefighter Chris Hynes of Engine One, right.

 

 

2011

For the sixth time in the last nine years the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department took first place as the Best Appearing Junior Fire Department in Nassau County for 2011.

 

The huge trophy which stands four feet tall was awarded at the Nassau County’s Drill Team Captain’s Association annual awards dinner which was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Oceanside on December 3, 2011.

Memorial Day 2011

Juniors at Bethpage Firefighters Training Center

 

Lynbrook Juniors hold First Place trophy as the Best Appearing Junior Fire Department in the Fourth Battalion during the annual parade which was held in East Rockaway.

2012

Memorial Day 2012

2013

In one of his last official acts as chief of the Lynbrook Fire Department, Anthony DeCarlo swore in the new Junior officers for 2013 at the April 2013 meeting.  Chief DeCarlo swears in, from left to right, Captain John O'Reilly III, First Lieutenant Sean Hynes, Second Lieutenant Brendan O'Reilly, Sgt-at -Arms Tyler Kenny, Treasurer Jack Liguori, and Secretary Kevin O'Reilly.  

2014

 

The Lynbrook Juniors take the 4th Batt.parade in Lakeview.

2015

Lynbrook Junior firefighters Danny Neri, Alex Mertz, Connor O'Reilly, Kevin Gunning, Andrew Abrams, and Terrell Hamm at the Nassau County Fire Training Academy at Bethpage during the Seventh Annual Juniors Drill held on October 11, 2015 and sponsored by the Nassau County Junior Firefighters Association. 

 
   

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