Hunter, a lifelong Chappaqua resident, devoted 70 years at the Chappaqua Fire Department serving the community at different junctures as Fire Chief, Fire Commissioner and as a life-long member. Hunter passed away at age 92 in February. A Memorial Service took place following the ceremony at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin. According to Chappaqua Fire Chief Russell Maitland, a reception at the firehouse was planned for after the service “as Doug wanted a party for his final farewell.”
Chappaqua Fire Department
Thanksgiving weekend typically signifies the kick-off to the winter travel season. This year, however, is different. In today’s age of COVID, many Americans are opting to stay home. And, while that precaution eliminates certain risks, as first responders are only too aware, others can arise. Chief Maitland of the Chappaqua Fire Department reports, “People are home more, everything within those homes is experiencing more usage and we are preparing for more calls.” Local fire departments are always poised to respond to “doomsday scenarios,” but by following simple tips, a warm home can be maintained at a safe temperature.
Home for the Holidays
Year-round fire safety is high on the community’s priority list, but holidays bring seasonal risk factors. To ensure that family celebrations go off without a hitch, Armonk Fire Department’s Chief Goulet advises, “Some of the biggest sources of danger are the most preventable. For example,” he says, “Don’t burn your food, don’t deep fry a frozen turkey and if you choose to deep fry, don’t attempt it too close to your home.”
Chief Maitland cautions that “the safest candle is the one that’s not lit.” Candles should be positioned in areas that are not in reach of pets, children or flammable items. Similarly, holiday lights require careful inspection and proper installation. Fire departments urge checking that correct fuses are being used, turning fairy lights inside and outside the home off when sleeping, ensuring that bulbs can’t come into contact with flammable materials and using power strips with built-in circuit breakers.
In the case that burnt toast does trigger a fire alarm, Chief Maitland recommends using the event as a learning opportunity. “Kids are like sponges and pick up on fire preparedness,” he says, adding, “Families often unwittingly undo the lessons children learn at school fire drills when they ignore false alarms. Once your alarm goes off, we’re coming no matter what. Use it as an opportunity to have a fire drill at home. Otherwise,” he warns, “when an alarm goes off in earnest, families may be programmed to ignore it.”
As September demonstrated, storms can bring power lines down at any time of year, but winter is notorious for outages. Generators are prevalent in our communities, yet they come with their own hazards. Chief Maitland explains, “There’s a tremendous amount of human error when it comes to generators ranging from installation to improper usage.” During the past storm, Chief Goulet reports that his department responded to many carbon monoxide alarms stemming from generators and says, “Most were from actual carbon monoxide exposure. Just because a generator meets code doesn’t ensure it’s operating safely.”
Captain Santone, a 44-year veteran of the Millwood Fire Department, specifically points to portable generators, which typically come with short cords that position them less than three feet from homes. He says, “Generators really need to be far from homes, diverting exhaust fumes, which contain carbon monoxide, away from the structure. A long enough cord is essential.” Furthermore, generators that are too close to homes come with the added potential of spurring a fire in a home’s wood siding. On the topic, Chief Maitland recommends exceeding code guidelines, saying, “I would put them so far from the house that there’s no possibility of fumes entering.”
Carbon monoxide’s reputation as the silent killer is well-earned. “This is what keeps me up at night,” Chief Maitland says, “We get approximately 75-90 calls per year resulting from carbon monoxide alarms and at least 15-20 of those would lead to deaths if we didn’t show up. I can’t stress how important it is to have carbon monoxide detectors installed on every floor of a home and, ideally, in each bedroom. If your alarm goes off, exit immediately. In my dream world, when we show up, the entire family is waiting for us a safe distance from the property.”
The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Educating the public is a top goal for each local department. The more the community understands about fire safety, the less of a drain is placed on these all-volunteer departments’ resources. Chief Maitland says, “There’s an overwhelming amount of education that comes into owning a home. We are a community resource and will even come to your home and give recommendations to create a safe environment.”
Chief Goulet concurs and notes that the Armonk Fire Department creates and distributes flyers advocating safety tips. Currently, they are promoting the “Close Before You Doze” initiative. “Today’s furniture burns faster than materials used in the past. This gives people a smaller window of time to escape in the case of a fire emergency,” he explains, saying, “It’s enlightening to learn how smoke can be minimized and how many minutes can be gained by simply closing bedroom doors at night.”
Captain Santone advocates for an annual heating system check-up. “A well-maintained heating unit is a fireman’s friend. Heating systems including fireplaces and chimneys should be regularly serviced and checked,” he says, adding, “When it comes to fireplaces, never assume that ash from a conventional chimney is cool. Embers can live for days deep within ash. Always dispose of ash in a metal container nowhere near the home.”
Persistence in a Pandemic
Our area fire departments have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to provide First Responder fire, rescue and EMS services. To safely do so, they made slight modifications to their routines. Chief Goulet explains, “During the start of COVID, we limited the number of people in training sessions. Eating is no longer permitted in the firehouse and our members wear PPE on calls. To date, none of our members have contracted the virus, even through the local uptick, so it seems like what we are doing is working.” Similarly, the Millwood Fire Department is taking extra precautions, often conducting front porch interviews before entering a structure. Captain Santone reports that in the uncommon event the department has needed to enter a home with COVID exposure, “we ask everyone to exit the structure, which they should do regardless of COVID, and we enter with our air packs; the same PPE we would wear in the case of a fire.”
Each of the firehouses will soon launch their annual year-end fundraisers. Donations are important, but these all-volunteer organizations rely mostly on participation.
New Castle Police Department
The Town of New Castle Police Department is a full service accredited law enforcement organization of 37 sworn officers and 16 civilian employees under the leadership of Chief James Carroll. Chief Carroll recently took over as Chief after 25 years of ongoing and dedicated service; he began as a Police Officer in 1993, and worked next as a Field Training Officer, and then made Sergeant followed by Lieutenant before taking on the mantle of Chief. He and his entire force are dedicated to the safety and welfare of all New Castle residents. In addition to responding to 911 calls, the NCPD offers a full range of non-emergency services; some examples include: Child Safety Seat Inspection, Vacant House Check, Senior Watch Program, and Nixle Communication. Additionally, the New Castle Police Department partnered with Chappaqua resident and DORCs (Distracted Operators Risk Casualties) co-founder Ben Lieberman, to implement the now nationally-recognized “Hands off the Phone and On the Wheel” initiative. The Town of New Castle enjoys a high quality of life with low crime rates, and is well known as a great place to raise a family. mynewcastle.org/181/Police-Department
Chappaqua Fire Department
The Chappaqua Fire Department is the very definition of what it means to be a good neighbor. In fact, the department’s slogan “Neighbors Helping Neighbors Since 1910” was adopted in 2005 as their mission statement; a code-of-conduct promise to serve day-in and day-out 24/7/365. Chief John Maduras commands this municipal service, overseeing a fully volunteer staff of men and women, all of whom are highly trained in all aspects of Fire Suppression, Rescue, Fire Prevention and much more.
They ask little in return other than that residents do their part to prevent fires and stop them from spreading. To this end, the CFD website is full of helpful tips and information. It is also the place to become involved; the CFD is continuously accepting applications for membership. chappaquafd.org
Millwood Fire Company
The Millwood Fire Company, a 100% volunteer company of nearly seventy members, proudly serves and protects the citizens of Millwood, New York a hamlet of the town of New Castle, as well as large portions of Chappaqua and Ossining. Responding from two stations, the MFC protects a fire district of approximately 10 square miles; primarily residential, the area also includes a handful of commercial developments, as well as a regional electrical substation, a regional water filtration plant, several public schools and several group homes. Under the leadership of Chief Jan Schwark, the Millwood Fire Company is always looking for men and women who are willing to put forth the effort and take a step forward in community service. No prior experience is required, and full state approved training will be provided. Anybody over the age of 16 and in good health is welcome to fill out an application. millwoodfire.org
Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps
For more than 80 years, the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps, aka CVAC, has provided emergency care to those who visit, live, or work in New Castle. Volunteers are members of the community who can and do give freely of their time. Motivated by a combination of community spirit, a desire to give back, camaraderie, and an interest in emergency medicine, CVAC members share a common passion for helping the community. They respond to over 500 calls annually, attending to all forms of medical emergencies in the New Castle district. Whether it’s an at-home accident or illnesses, or an on-the-road vehicular accident, CVAC is quickly dispatched and equally quick to the scene. After triaging the situation, CVAC usually transports the patient to a local hospital Emergency Room for further medical care. CVAC also reaches out with programs to educate the community on First Aid and CPR. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making sure CVAC is ready to respond to medical emergencies in the community. To find out more, and/or to volunteer (no experience or background in emergency care is necessary or required; training is free and provided by CVAC): chappaquaambulance.org
Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps
OVAC, the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps, is comprised of both volunteer and career members who provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Currently, there are 25 active members, and more than 40 lifetime members who have all given over ten years of service to the Ossining Community. Members come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, and range in age from 16-year-old High School students to retirees. Though diverse, they are bound by their desire to be of service to their neighbors. Monthly training is part of the required duties of membership; EMT classes are offered in neighboring communities in conjunction with the Phelps Pre-Hospital Training Department. OVAC members also train others, offering First Aid and CPR courses as needed for anyone interested. In addition to the primary responsibility of answering emergency medical care calls, volunteers participate in community events such as parades, standbys at church bazaars and street fairs, and make presentations in community schools. ossiningvac.org
First responder contact info
If it’s an emergency, dial 911! For any non-emergency, keep this list handy.
Chappaqua Police Department, 914-238-4422
Chappaqua Fire Department, 914-238-4205
Millwood Fire Department, 914-941-2222
Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 914-238-3191
Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 914-941-9196
New Castle Animal Control, 914-238-6889
Information Courtesy of the Chappaqua Fire Department, the Millwood Fire Company, the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and The Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
They are the volunteers who respond in the dead of the night when a fire breaks out. Or a senior takes a fall. Or a car plunges into a ditch. They give up their sleep, their weekends and their comfort to keep the rest of us safe.
Most people don’t give the town’s volunteer firefighters and ambulance corps members a second thought until they need to dial 911. But a group of Girl Scouts from Chappaqua Troop 1029 is trying to change all that. In 2014, the troop created an annual event to honor the town’s volunteer first responders with baked goods, banners, drawings and expressions of gratitude.
Now in its sixth year, the event, called, “Thank a Volunteer First Responder Day,” is held every year on the day after Memorial Day. This year, that date falls on Tuesday, May 28th. That evening, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., the Chappaqua Fire Department, the Millwood Fire Department and the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps will open their doors to the community.
“It’s a great event,” says Greg Santone, Chiefs’ Aid of the Millwood Fire Department. “Our members look forward to it every year. It’s especially gratifying to see all the little kids bringing their drawings and climbing all over the rigs. And we love giving families a better idea of what we do.”
The idea for this annual event started in 2014 when Troop 1029’s members were in fifth grade and looking for a project they could do to earn their Bronze Award—the third-highest community service award in Girl Scouting. “Our troop is always looking for ways to give back to the town,” notes Elizabeth Kasulka, parent co-leader of the troop. “Chappaqua Girl Scouts already deliver cookies to every veteran in New Castle on Veteran’s Day. We thought it might be nice to extend the same appreciation to our town’s volunteer first responders.”
That first year, the members of Troop 1029 pasted flyers in all the shop windows announcing the event. They set up a booth at the Chappaqua School Foundation’s annual Harlem Wizard’s basketball game and had community members sign posters of appreciation. They made banners and collected drawings from younger troops. More than a dozen scout troops showed up at that first event, as well as many other families from the community. “The troops brought all these delicious baked goods,” says Kate Clough, lieutenant of the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps. “We have a high school volunteer unit and the snacks really went over well with the teenagers.”
Thanks to the success of the first “Thank a Volunteer First Responder Day,” the troop petitioned the New Castle town board to make the day an annual event. Town Supervisor, Robert Greenstein, designed a banner that is displayed every May at the triangle coming into Chappaqua. “It’s nice that the event is right after Memorial Day,” says Greenstein. “It’s a reminder that our volunteers are much more than people who march in a parade. They’re there when you really need them.”
Every year, the event has grown in size–just as the girls have grown. The current troop members–Erica Dunne, Charlotte Harrison, Stephanie Kasulka, Lauren Schmutz, Emma Terjesen and Eileen Trotta–are now in tenth grade and hope to pass on the tradition to a younger Chappaqua Girl Scout troop in two years when they graduate high school.
“It’s refreshing to be recognized by younger people in the community,” says Russell Maitland, First Assistant Chief of the Chappaqua Fire Department. “Their understanding of the services we provide is the first step for them to become our future first responders.”
Community members are invited to join Chappaqua Girl Scout troop 1029 on Tuesday evening, May 28th, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Chappaqua Fire Department, the Millwood Fire Department or the Chappaqua Ambulance Corps to show their appreciation for the volunteers.
By Grace Bennett
1) Describe the Dusk to Dawn mission. I know you and Mike Wolfensohn work so hard on this fundraiser each year.
John: Dusk to Dawn is the primary fund raising event for Dawn’s Ray of Hope, Inc. www.DawnsRayOfHope.org Dawn’s Ray of Hope is the charitable organization created in honor of Dawn Re to carry on her efforts to raise money to aid in the fight against cancer. With significant money already going to cancer research, we wanted the money we raised to go where a smaller amount of money can make a larger impact. We donate to local charities that provide support and assistance to cancer patients, and to cancer patients themselves who need financial assistance to pay medical bills. Our donations to both Support Connection in Yorktown and Gilda’s House in White Plains have enabled them to offer much needed programs to help not just the patients, but their families who also are going through a tough time. By paying for part of some local residents’ medical bills, we have been able to make an immediate impact on those families as well as being able to alleviate some their financial burdens so they can focus on recovery and family.
The Dusk to Dawn event is an all-night co-ed softball tournament/marathon which combines Dawn’s two favorite fund raising activities–the ACS’s Relay for Life and the LLS’s Snowball Softball Tournament. Teams make a $750 donation to enter the tournament and are assigned a game slot to compete against “Dawn’s Team.” (Yes, Dawn’s Team plays each game…from dusk (about 5:30 p.m.) on Friday night, ‘til dawn (or whenever the last game ends–usually around 7or 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.) And since teams are of varying abilities (all skill levels are welcome!), we play with wood bats and a 16” Chicago style softball which helps to balance the game. We also have a barbecue going, with hamburgers and hotdogs, refreshments (non-alcoholic) and snacks available all night for just a nominal charge.
2) What are your goals each year?
John: Our primary goal is to raise as much money as possible by bringing in as many teams as we can to play. We have been lucky enough to have a full schedule with 10 teams participating in each of the last few years; but (by shifting the schedule and adjusting the game slots) we do have the ability to make room for more.
We also want to have fun. Dawn was all about fun and I can’t think of having an event in her memory and not have fun be an integral part of the formula.
Last (and certainly not least), we also hope to make this a community event, where people who are not on (or affiliated with) teams will come, watch, hang out, enjoy the barbeque, and (of course) make a donation. Quite honestly, we’re trying to figure out how to make that last part happen.
3) Any highlights from this year you want to share?
John: Truthfully, the night is full of memories and highlights. The game against the “Chappaqua Moms” is always a favorite because it is fun year-after-year, and everyone on both teams plays with the right attitude. This year’s Chappaqua Moms game was especially fun for me since Mike and I were honorary CMs and got to play on the team!
Playing alongside our kids and their/our friends never gets old, providing a lot of smiles and proud papa moments. One highlight this year was playing against a group from the HGHS Class of 2012. They played in our first tournament in September 2011 as Greeley Seniors, and returned this year as young adults to support us.
We also appreciated the HGHS Women’s Soccer Team coming to grab dinner after their game on Friday night. The young ladies on the soccer team have played in prior Dusk to Dawn tournaments, but were unable to do so this year as they had a game of their own.
But each game has great moments. Whether we’re playing against the team from CM, the Chappaqua Fire Department, Quaker Hill Tavern, the Support Connection in Yorktown, or the New Castle Adult Softball League (i.e., the Scramblers, Dirty Ol’ Dawgs, 8 Men Out, Raptors, Without a Prayer–to name a few)), there’s always something we remember and laugh about!
4) What’s your hope for the future?
John: We’d love to see Dusk to Dawn continue as a community event here in Town for many years to come, with more and more people becoming aware of us and our mission, and coming to support the players and the organization. We know that there are many worthy charities out there to which a lot of folks in our Town give a lot of their time. But by the same token, we think our event is easy to support. What better way is there to support a charity than playing softball and eating at a barbecue with your friends? And after that, who knows? Maybe our event can serve as a model that could be run simultaneously in different communities in Westchester.