Station Number 2 was Levittown's first permanent firehouse.
The Levittown Fire Department, created on Aug. 22, 1950, this year celebrates their 50 years protecting the lives and properties in the community. Residents can share in the commemoration of this milestone this weekend when the department will sponsor a carnival, beginning Thursday, Sept. 14 and running through Sunday, Sept. 17 and a parade on Saturday.
The carnival, which will feature rides, live shows, antique fire apparatus, and food, will take place behind the Tri-County Flea Market on Hempstead Turnpike. On Thursday and Friday the festival will run between the hours of 6-11 p.m., on Saturday it will run from noon-11 p.m. and on Sunday it will run from noon-6 p.m. Friday night, at 9 p.m. Fireworks, presented by Bay Fireworks, will be featured. There is free admission and parking for this event.
The parade, which is taking place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, will proceed from the East Village Green south on Jerusalem Ave. to Hempstead Turnpike. It will head west on Hempstead Turnpike and end at the rear of Tri-County Flea Market.
Both these events, and others that have taken place throughout the year, are intended to commemorate the anniversary of a volunteer fire department that has done so much for the community.
On Dec. 23, 1948, John Cashman heard someone in a nearby home shout "fire." Cashman saw heavy smoke coming from the rear windows of the building and being a New York City firefighter, he attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose. This incident led to the process whereby the Levittown Fire Department was created two years later, with Cashman, charter member of the department, serving as the first chief.
Interested individuals gathered informally in early 1949 to discuss ways of providing the newly built Levittown with proper fire protection. Previously the area was protected by the Hicksville, Bethpage, Wantagh, and East Meadow Fire Departments and because of a lack of fire alarm boxes there were many delays when a fire occurred.
A preliminary report was drawn up by the committee which recommended the establishment of the Levittown Fire District. In October 1949 the committee began collecting signatures on the required petitions for the Hempstead Town Board and to lay the groundwork necessary to acquaint officials with the proposal, which included the purchase of apparatus, the training of volunteers, and construction of suitable quarters. On August 22, 1950, the Hempstead Town Board authorized the creation of the Levittown Fire District and on that same day the newly appointed Board of Fire Commissioners passed a resolution creating the Levittown Fire Department. This was one of the largest and most completely equipped departments ever to be commissioned at once, rather than growing in gradual steps.
On January 1, 1951, after months of intense training, the Levittown Fire Department went into operation, providing fire protection for the newly established Levittown Fire District. Led by Cashman, the department consisted of Ladder Company 1, Engine Company 2, Engine Company 3, Rescue Company 4, and a Fire Police Company. Unlike other fire departments, which over a course in time experienced normal, gradual growth, the Levittown Fire Department, as a fully established Department, assumed the responsibility of providing fire protection to a fully established community.
The emergence of a fully established and trained department was the accomplishment of many dedicated men, residents of the new pioneer community, who banded together and organized the Levittown Firemen's Association.
Foremost among the initiators of the Levittown Firemen's Association were Cashman and Howard C. Haggerty. As the membership began to grow, meetings were held In the Five Corners Restaurant in Bethpage until the Abbey Lane School was completed. Men such as Arthur H. Pfeifer, Warren Grant, Thomas Sweeney, Lud Wolf, Fred Bauer, Jim Kiernan, Mike Cuskelly, Bill Walsh, Edmund Brennan, Tom Tierney, Bill Heffernan, Dick Bourke, John Fitzsimmons, Danny Seip, Tom Kenny, Ed Hlaadki, Frank Johnson, Frank Maurice, Jim Higgins, Gene Nazarowiz, Frank Law, Tom Courtney, Herb Cochrane, Joe Wachter, Chris Wilkenson, Gus Olsen, Al Cacioli, Joe Courtney, and many others met for the first time and established lasting relationships.
Many of the members lacked previous fire fighting experience but within the department were several men who had prior experience with other volunteer departments and others who were New York City firemen. A training program was set up and Market Lane became the department's training ground. Tree houses were built for ladder training, other departments donated pumpers and various training stations were set up and manned with instructors. Groups proceeded from station to station as they did in the military service. Market Lane took on the appearance of a military base, as men showed up wearing Army, Navy, and Marine gear brought home from World War II.
In addition to the fire training, the Rescue Company underwent weeks and weeks of classes in first aid. At the time the Company was activated all of its members were qualified in Advanced First Aid and Rescue.
The first elected Board of Fire Commissioners consisted of Howard Haggerty, Bert Tanner, Art Pfeifer, Thomas E. Sweeney, and Lud Wolf. During that first year Sweeney resigned and the board appointed Thomas F. Courtney to fill the vacancy. Courtney, a charter member of the department and of the board of commissioners, continues to serve on the board.
Using surplus apparatus purchased from other fire departments, the department operated from a wooden garage structure located on the site of the present headquarters building on Gardiners Ave. The Board of Fire Commissioners had contracted for the purchase of four new pieces of fire apparatus but they had not yet been delivered when the department went into operation. The first firehouse that was built was Station 2, located on Hickory Lane. The headquarters building on Gardiners Ave. was started in 1951 and completed in 1952. During the remainder of 1951 the department received its four new pieces of apparatus- two 750 gallon pumpers, a 500 gallon heavy duty rescue truck, and a 55' junior aerial ladder.
In 1956, as the need presented itself, the Fire Police Company was deactivated and replaced by a new company, Engine Company 5, which was assigned as its apparatus a 1952 Mack Pumper. Again in 1962 the growing needs of the district called for the construction of an additional firehouse. Station 3 was constructed on Wantagh Ave. and two more companies, Ladder Company 6 and Engine Company 7 were activated.
Over the last 50 years, the Levittown Fire Department has maintained a policy of keeping abreast of an ever-developing community and anticipating the best way of satisfying its fire protection needs.
In the main corridor of Fire Headquarters, the photos of ex-chiefs chronologically, in order of service, provide a pictorial history of the Levittown Fire Department. The dedication and contributions of the officers present a stone upon stone compilation of the structure of today's department.
Currently, the department, which has an average of 278 volunteers, is headed by Chief Ronald Kerwin, with Deputy Chiefs John Rottkamp, Brian Holt and Mike Janovsky. There are now three firehouses in the district incorporating the seven companies- four engine companies, two ladder companies, and one rescue company. Each company is headed by a captain and two lieutenants.
The company pictures which line the walls of the company rooms in all three firehouses provide a pictorial tribute to all the members who contributed their bit to make the Levittown Fire Department what it is today. While throughout the years the faces change, the excellent degree of dedication endures throughout and records of long periods of service are represented.