Alert Hook, Ladder & Engine Company #1

 Congers Fire Department


Toyota dealer gives emergency responders hybrid lesson

Original publication: March 31, 2006

POMONA ? Toyota's hybrid vehicles were demystified last night for about 150 emergency responders from Rockland, Westchester, Orange and Bergen counties.

Paul Miller Toyota of Monsey hosted the seminar at the county Fire Training Center, highlighting the major differences between Toyota's hybrid Prius and Hylander and conventional cars in emergency situations.

"It's a system that's fantastic for the public. It just adds a new twist to what we need to do," county Training Officer Peter Byrne said. "There were a lot of myths, half-truths out there."  John Durso, a Toyota Motor Corp. service training specialist, showed responders how to identify a Toyota hybrid and determine if it is running, and where the various power components are located, including high-voltage cables run underneath.

"What I wanted them to get tonight is how easy it is to power it off, and don't be afraid of the car," Durso said after the presentation. "They should not be scary cars."

He said Toyota hybrids' high-voltage battery packs shut off immediately when the vehicles' computer sensors detect an accident, making them safe for extrication and other emergency maneuvers as responders help victims.

Durso also explained how emergency responders can determine if the high-voltage system does not power down and the various ways responders can disable it, and also how to disable power to the air bag system if the air bags don't deploy.

"It's new technology that really needs to get out to these guys," Jonathan Brett, Paul Miller Toyota's general manager, said. "We think it's important and we like to support the community."

Ted Ruehl, a Tallman volunteer firefighter, worked with the dealership to organize the seminar. It initially was going to be for Tallman firefighters, but Ruehl said he got the county involved because the information needed to get out to more responders. He was impressed with the turnout. "We should do it again," he said.

The Monsey dealership on Route 59 brought several hybrids to the seminar, which responders looked at after the presentation as Toyota technicians showed them the unique features.  Congers Fire Chief Tom Shields said the seminar was interesting. "I never realized how to power it down. I thought there was one battery pack, but there's actually two. It's nice to show us these cars. Now I'll have a better idea of how to do it," he said. "I think other manufacturers should step in like Toyota did and come around and do the same thing."

Pearl River Fire Chief Bill Harris said the seminar was helpful. "It's more education that our guys need," he said. "We need to know in a split second what to do. These people are taking steps to help us know what's going on."


Fire department holds carnival


(Original publication: July 5, 2004)

Whether it was to enjoy the rides or pay tribute to Congers resident and volunteer firefighter George Wohl, people enjoyed having the volunteer Fire Department's carnival brought back to the hamlet this weekend.

"It's good for the people of the town," said Congers volunteer firefighter Phil Leto. The department's first carnival since 1985 was a "huge success," he said.

The carnival was hosted by the Fire Department and held in the memory of Wohl, who had suggested for the past several years the department bring back its annual carnival.

Leto, then chief, agreed in June 2003 to help Wohl organize the event.

Wohl had remembered the carnival from when he was growing up in Congers, Leto has said. Wohl wanted to revive the tradition for the hamlet's children.

But Wohl, 59, died in December after he fell from a ladder putting up Christmas decorations outside his Lenox Avenue home. The department's fire alarm sounded and he apparently slipped off the ladder and struck his head in trying to respond to the call.

He died from his injuries later that day at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. He was the third member of his department to die in the line of duty.

Lifelong Congers resident Mary Livsey, who was Wohl's neighbor, came to the carnival all four nights. The carnival, she said, was a "great idea."

"I saw a lot of old familiar faces I haven't seen in a long time. I think it brings the town back together," said Livsey, who attended yesterday with her 11-year-old daughter, Cassandra, and said she brought her 5-year-old son, Jonathan, to Friday's fireworks display. The carnival began Thursday night.

New City resident Patricia McMahon came yesterday with her daughter, Kathleen, and 8-year-old granddaughter, Brianna.

"I think they should have it more often," McMahon said as she watched her granddaughter ride down a long bumpy slide on a burlap sack. "It's good for the kids."

The money raised will go toward the Congers Fire Department's 110th anniversary celebration in September 2005, when it will host the Rockland County Volunteer Fire Department Association's parade.

"Every day since Thursday there has been a steady crowd of people," said Leto, adding that "Friday night was exceptional" because of the fireworks. It was the first time in the hamlet's history that fireworks were held held in Congers, and the attraction drew 5,000 to 6,000 people.


Congers carnival honors late firefighter


(Original publication: July 1, 2004)

At almost every monthly meeting for the past several years, Congers volunteer firefighter George Wohl would suggest that the department bring back its annual carnival.

"It brought back childhood memories of when he was a kid," said Phil Leto, also a Congers volunteer firefighter. "He grew up in Congers, and every year there was always a little carnival for a couple of days. He missed that part. I guess he wanted to carry on that tradition."

When Wohl, a 34-year member of the department, brought up the carnival idea again last June, Leto, who was then the Congers fire chief, told Wohl that he would help him organize one. Soon afterward the men booked a carnival, which begins tonight and lasts until Sunday. The last Congers carnival was in 1985.

While the carnival is expected to bring out most of Congers, Wohl will not be there.

Wohl, 59, died in December. He had been on a ladder putting up Christmas decorations outside his Lenox Avenue home when the department's fire alarm sounded. He apparently slipped off the ladder and struck his head as he responded to the call.

Wohl was airlifted to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and died later that day from head injuries. He was the third member of his department to die in the line of duty.

"Like I said, it's just a terrible thing that happened," Leto said. "Finally after all these years of mentioning (the carnival), it comes together and he suddenly passes away."

Leto said this year's carnival will honor Wohl. "It saddens me that he can't be here, but I am happy it's in his name."

Kathryn Wohl, the late firefighter's wife of almost 31 years, said she was surprised when she found out that the department was dedicating the carnival to her husband.

"I fell to pieces" when she first saw the carnival signs posted in her neighborhood, she said.

Kathryn Wohl said when her husband wanted something, he was very persistent.

"I know he drove them nuts (about the carnival)," she said. "He literally drove them nuts. For years, I kept saying, 'Let it go, let it go, let it go.' "

Wohl said that her husband was excited when he and Leto booked the carnival.

"He was thrilled. That's all he cared about," she said.

Wohl's son, John Wohl, who is also a Congers volunteer firefighter, agreed.

"He always wanted to get something like this going for the Fire Department," John Wohl said. "Hopefully it will do well and everybody will have a good time."

Leto said there are going to be more than a dozen rides, including, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and a "Super Slide." There will also be food, from hamburgers and hot dogs to zeppole.

The Fire Department will also have a booth where it will be selling navy blue T-shirts that read "Congers Fire Department."

Proceeds from the carnival will be used to help pay for the department's 110th anniversary in September 2005 and the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen's Association parade, which the department is hosting.

Kathryn Wohl said she planned to attend the department's fireworks display tomorrow night.

"One thing George always loved was fireworks," she said. "Wherever there were fireworks, he was there."



Rockland County fire chiefs honor six


(Original publication: March 27, 2004)

TAPPAN Former Congers volunteer Fire Chief Philip Leto was named Chief of the Year last night at the annual dinner of the Rockland Fire Chiefs' Association.

Leto was among six association members who were honored, including the outgoing president, Bruce MacRae, who finished two years in office.

The awards were made at the Tappan firehouse by newly elected Fire Chiefs' President Douglas Babcock, who served as chief of the Hillcrest fire department from 1991 to 1993.

MacRae, a former chief of the Stony Point fire department, was presented with a plaque and gold past-president's badge.

Babcock said Leto, who finished a two-year term in January as Congers fire chief, was chosen by an association awards committee.

"We look at all of the in-office chiefs in the fall and we assess what they have accomplished for their department, their community and our association," Babcock said.

Leto's last year as chief included the deaths of three active firefighters, one in the line of duty, and a longtime member and former chief.

"Coping with a line-of-duty death prompted Leto to form a committee within this association that will help other chiefs handle that process," Babcock said.

The Charles "Smoky" Fales Award, which goes to a 50-year member of a volunteer fire department, was presented to Frank Knower of the Tappan Fire Department.

Knower is a lay chaplain of the Fire Chiefs and the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen's Association. He serves as a member of the department's fire police squad. He is also the immediate past president of the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association.

The award is named after Charles M. Fales, a former fire chief of the Haverstraw Fire Department who also served the Stony Point Fire Department. Fales was the county's first fire coordinator in 1948, and he was a volunteer for 67 years.

The Jerome Trachtenberg Award was given to former Nanuet Fire Chief Socky Trojahn, who is president of the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen's Association. Trojahn was also president of the Chiefs' Association from 2000 to 2002 and has served as chairman of the Rockland County Fire Advisory Board.

The award is named for attorney Jerome Trachtenberg, founder of the county's Legal Aid Society and dean of Rockland's legal community. He practiced in the county for almost 60 years.

Trachtenberg helped organize the Rockland Fire Chiefs' Association and belonged to the county and state volunteer firefighters associations. He was a past president and commissioner of the West Nyack Fire Department.

The Andrew Fredericks Instructor's Award was presented to Thomas Bierds.

Bierds, a former Rockland Lake fire chief and current assistant chief in the department, has been an instructor at the Fire Training Center for almost 20 years. He is also a former shift supervisor at 44-Control, having retired from the Sheriff's Emergency Dispatch Center several years ago.

He currently leads the Fire Chiefs' False Alarm Task Force.

"Tom has been involved as an instructor in just about every area of training we do at the center," said Deputy Fire Coordinator George Drescher. "It's really an award from his peers, and that says a lot."

The award is named for Andrew Fredericks, a nationally known fire instructor and former volunteer with the Suffern Fire Department. Fredericks was a member of Squad Company 18 of the New York Fire Department who was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The President's Award, being given for the first time, went to Frank Hutton, a member of the Nanuet Fire Department who also serves on the board of directors of the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen's Association.

Hutton was the major organizer of a countywide committee for recruitment and retention of volunteers in the fire service in Rockland. His committee has since expanded its scope to include obtaining affordable housing for volunteers in the fire departments and ambulance corps countywide.


More Cold Weather Coming


(Original publication: January 13, 2004)

MONTEBELLO After a weekend as cold as this past one, it's probably good to put the plumber's telephone number on speed dial.

Chris Raffa spent a few hours at Pam Weinstein's yesterday, thawing frozen pipes that had shut down the heating system for the downstairs, relegating family life to the upstairs for two days.

"I have a 4-month-old," Weinstein said yesterday as Raffa used a thawing machine on the house's pipes to get water circulating. "I've been keeping her upstairs. We moved all her toys up there."

The mild snow that came yesterday after the cold snap added to problems. Some schools opened late, and highway crews watched for slippery roads. Companies like Raffa's have been working more overtime than usual, even for this time of year.

"It's unbelievable," said Linda Raffa, one of the owners of Pat Raffa Plumbing, Heating and Air-Conditioning Inc. in Haverstraw. "On Friday we probably did 50 percent more business than usual and Saturday we did twice as much as we usually do."

The lower Hudson Valley is in for more of the same temperatures or worse.

Forecasts call for temperatures pushing toward zero for the rest of the week and the early part of the weekend, with estimates of 2 to 4 inches of snow overnight tomorrow into Thursday.

"That's our next shot of arctic air," said Nelson Vaz of the National Weather Service. "With the winds picking up to 15 to 20 mph, The wind chill's going to feel like 10 below Tuesday into Wednesday. And that's pretty much going to stay with us into the weekend."

By Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, temperatures will be back to more seasonable levels, near freezing, Vaz said.

Over the weekend, Congers Fire Chief Ken Kunz said his company was called out a couple of times for frozen pipes, which trip automatic alarms in empty commercial buildings when the heating systems shut down.

Another incident involved a resident who left the spigot open at one end of his frozen pipes as he thawed the pipes. The man unplugged the iced pipes, Kunz said, but left his house before the water was running, so he wasn't there when it spilled over and ran under one of the outside doors.

Raffa said it takes a few hours to thaw a heating system's pipes and up to an hour to thaw water pipes.

The Weinsteins made a mistake that many homeowners make when the weather gets below 25 degrees, Raffa said. They had a fire in the fireplace. It warmed the living room enough that the downstairs thermostat shut down the basement furnace for that area.

Without the furnace running at least a little on the ground floor, the heating pipes froze.

Weinstein said she made it through Saturday without heat downstairs, but her maternal instincts brought her to her mother's house in Pearl River. That and a hankering for some of her mom's home cooking.

"I figured I could get a free meal out of it," she said with a chuckle.


Congers firefighters pay respects to 4th fallen brother


(Original publication: December 19, 2003)

Congers volunteer firefighters have had a tough year.

The department coped last week with the death of 34-year member George Wohl, the fourth department volunteer to die this year.

Wohl, 59, was putting up Christmas decorations Saturday afternoon at his home when the department's fire alarm sounded. He called to his wife, Kathryn, that he would be responding. She then heard a loud noise, went outside and saw him on the ground.

He was airlifted to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla by helicopter and died there later that night from head injuries. The 2:54 p.m. alarm Wohl heard was false, an apparent alarm malfunction.

The department also was shocked Nov. 16 when life member and fire police Capt. Robert Sampogna, 68, died at home.

On Sept. 26, Vincent Magnatta, a former Congers fire chief and 57-year member, died at his home in Florida. He was 80.

And on Aug. 9, Alert Ladder and Engine Co. past president John Van Housen died. He was 58 and a life member.

"The guys are holding up OK," Congers Fire Chief Philip Leto said. "Some of them, the younger guys really didn't know, but George, Bob and Van Housen were very active and around the firehouse all the time. They miss them all equally."

Wohl is the third member of his department to die in the line of duty. On Nov. 2, 1987, firefighter George O. Sandfield, 70, suffered a heart attack in the firehouse after responding to a call to a gas leak. He was chief in 1956-57 and a 44-year member. On Nov. 7, 1993, assistant chief Walter Augustyn, 60, died after a fire. He was a life member and past chief.

Leto has been a member for 15 years and chief since January 2002. His two-year term is up Dec. 31.

"This is the last few weeks, and I can't say I'll be happy to see it over," Leto said. "But it has been a rough year."

Last night, hundreds of uniformed volunteers gathered at TJ McGowan Sons Funeral Home in Congers to honor Wohl.

"One thing that really hit me was years ago, George's father was active in the department and he ran a carnival here at the firehouse," Leto said. "We haven't had one since I joined and, every year since, George said we should have a carnival. Well, I finally scheduled one for next July 4th weekend, and George won't be here to enjoy it. But I'm going to dedicate it to George in some way."

Mass will be celebrated for Wohl at 10 a.m. today at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, 82 Lake Road in Congers. The funeral procession will include firetrucks from Congers and around the county.

"We had an old-timers dinner Nov. 8, and George and Robert both made it," Leto said. "A week later, Robert was dead. That's why you have to do these things. You never know how long you have."

Firefighter dies rushing to help


(Original publication: December 15, 2003)

A Congers firefighter died over the weekend after he apparently slipped from a ladder and struck his head as he responded to a fire alarm.

Kathryn Wohl called 911, and Clarkstown Police and emergency services workers responded at 2:55 p.m. He was airlifted from Rockland Lake's north parking lot by to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

By 3:15 p.m., the fire department had been called to set up a landing zone, Wren said. "It was a very quick response by police and emergency personnel," Wren said. Wohl died Saturday night.

Wohl was a 34-year veteran of the department whose sons, John and George III, are volunteers for the Congers department. His father also was a volunteer and his brother, Chris Wohl, is a Congers fire commissioner. His wife, Kathryn, is active in the department's Ladies Auxiliary.

"For three decades, George Wohl served the people of his hometown, bringing a smile to the faces of everyone he came across," Congers Fire Chief Phil Leto said yesterday. "He was always available to help out any time we asked, and we will miss him tremendously."

So many members of the family were in the department, a common joke among firefighters was the Congers firehouse had "10 Wohls and one roof."

"He had two families, the family he was born into and the fire department," Wren said last night. "They're all pulling together now."

Wohl also was an electrician with Local 363 and an amateur historian. He collected postcards depicting Congers at the turn of the 20th century. He was the fire company's historian. He knew the history of just about every building in Congers and was a railroad buff, his fellow firefighters recalled.

"The Congers Fire Department has lost an invaluable member of its ranks," said Congers Fire Department President Frank Voce. "George was always a friendly face around the firehouse who was always willing to help his brother firefighters and the community he so loved."

The 2:54 p.m. alarm that Wohl heard was false, from an apparent alarm malfunction.

He and Kathryn Barry married 30 years ago. Their son John lives in Congers and George III lives in Highland Mills. Wohl is also survived by a sister, Barbara Sharp, Elma, N.Y. His parents, George O. and Elaine Kern Wohl, are deceased.

Calling hours are from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at T.J. McGowan Funeral Home in Congers. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Paul's Church in Congers. Burial follows at Gethsemane Cemetery in Rockland Lake. A firematic service is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday at McGowan Funeral Home.



Rockland jumping into fire training


(Original publication: October 1, 2002)

White smoke rose from the rusty red metal box that firefighters call "the can."

On weekday nights, volunteer firefighters sit in a smoke-filled metal box designed to train them to recognize the signs of a flash-over, a fire that explodes from hot gases, then races across a room faster than a human can move.

Two dozen members of the Alert Hook, Ladder and Engine Company No. 1 in Congers withstood the smoke and 800-degree heat inside the can on a recent night at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Ramapo. Among them were new members of the Congers Fire Department, where people wanting to join may soon find themselves on a waiting list.

When many volunteer fire departments across the state and nation are watching their memberships stagnate or decline, some in Rockland are seeing theirs rise.

Since 1997, Congers' volunteer ranks have gone from 64 to 85 members. Most joined in the past three years.

Just one new member joined the Sparkill department in 1995. Last year, 11 joined that Fire Department, just four short of the total who signed up in the preceding five years.

Tappan firefighters took in 17 new volunteers last year, while the average had been four in the previous six years. The Spring Valley Fire Department, which had averaged three new members annually, grew by 15 in the year 2001.

Firefighters didn't see a connection between their rising ranks and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

"In the beginning, we had a lot of requests for applications," said former Congers Fire Chief Frank Heinemann. "But that seemed to dwindle very quickly. I think we got three people, if that."

Instead, firefighters credited many efforts, including a countywide recruitment campaign, with bolstering their ranks. They also said departments reached beyond customary sources for recruits and showed them that duty can be fun.

Christina Maffeo, 19, and Randi Dolan, 18, are among the newest of Congers' volunteers, having taken their oaths in July. They also are among nearly 100 women firefighters in Rockland.

Both acknowledged the fright they felt as they sat in the smoke and heat of the can. Learning the basics of their duties requires 39 hours of classes over 13 weeks.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," said Maffeo, a student at Rockland Community College. "It's scary to think of flash fires going over your head."

She and Dolan said they felt better for the experience. They faced a challenge and were prepared for the real thing.

"It's the most hazardous situation you'll face in the fire service," Dan Perrella, training officer for the Congers department, said of flashovers as a group prepared to enter the can, a room fabricated from two shipping containers.

The fire would pass over them on this night, but the training exercise would allow them to see how the smoky gases could build up and lead to a dangerous flash.

"When the fire comes at you, it comes at you from floor to ceiling. There's nowhere to go except where you came from," Perrella said of the real thing.

More than fighting fires


A week earlier, Dolan and Maffeo had relaxed at a picnic after a Fire Department golf outing. There were hot dogs and hamburgers, cold drinks and raffles.

That's also part of fire service.

Congers' Assistant Chief Kenneth Kunz said volunteers couldn't be made to feel that firefighting was a second job.

"You have to make it fun, too," Kunz said. "It has to be something that people want to do."

Heinemann, chief from 1997 and 2001, agreed.

"It had just become work," he recalled. "You'd clean the firehouse, clean the trucks, get things done. It became like another job."

So a family picnic was resurrected after a 15-year hiatus. A bowling team was organized. The golf outing was reactivated.

"It's not just a golf outing," Chief Philip Leto said as firefighters returned from the links while others played boccie. "It's a fund-raiser, too. This is one of the things that makes it good."

He said half the membership came to the firehouse Sundays for equipment inspections.

"You have to be ready for any incident at any time," said Leto, a New York City firefighter.

He and other volunteers talked about contributing to their community, and the camaraderie from working with neighbors.

Charles Caselli, a Congers firefighter for 27 years and a Clarkstown Highway Department worker, had childhood memories.

"I'd watch the trucks going by with the lights flashing and the siren going, and I'd say that when I got older, I was going to do that," Caselli said. "Then the more you're into it, you don't want to be out of the loop. You find out what's going on in the county in general, not just Congers. You meet a lot of people from departments all over the county, even in the state. It's a big brotherhood, and you don't want to lose that bond."

Depending on volunteers


All of Rockland and Putnam counties depend on volunteer firefighters. Westchester's largest communities have paid fire departments; others have combined paid and volunteer units. Nearly 75 percent of the nation's 1 million firefighters are volunteers.

The number of volunteers in the state and in the nation has declined by as much as 10 percent since the mid-1980s, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council and the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control. Reasons cited included the increase of two-income families, more rigorous training standards and competing demands on time.

"We're bucking a trend here in Rockland County," said Gordon Wren Jr., the county's fire coordinator, "and the reason is that we started a recruitment and retention committee three years ago."

Firefighters visit schools and launched an advertising campaign paid for by Orange and Rockland Utilities. They speak to civic groups to inspire prospective members and dispel notions that firehouses are all-male, all-white domains.

"It feels like a high school, because there are so many young people," Wren said of evenings at the Fire Training Center. "Some get dropped off by their parents because they can't drive at night."

Yet, there's still a lot to do, he acknowledged, noting that of Rockland's 3,000 volunteers, nearly two-thirds were senior citizens or were not actively fighting fires. Such volunteers may direct traffic, assist the chief, communicate with other departments on radio and oversee first-aid operations.

Departments still are looking to increase their memberships. One plan calls for departments successful in recruiting to share their experiences with others.

Wren also thinks rules should not be so strict that volunteers face automatic termination for not responding to a set number of alarms. Work and family situations have to be considered.

"It has to be enjoyable," Wren said. "You don't want to be yelled at by a drill sergeant."


Congers golf outing raises $5,000


(Original publication: September 17, 2002)

The Congers Volunteer Fire Department raised more than $5,000 yesterday at its golf outing at the Rockland Lake Championship Golf Course.

Kevin McGrade and Keith Brennan, co-chairmen of the event, said the proceeds would go toward the celebration of the department's 110th anniversary in 2005, when the department is expected to host the annual Rockland County Volunteer Firemen's Association convention and parade.

There were 121 golfers participating in yesterday's event. In addition to Congers firefighters, volunteers from Valley Cottage, New City, Nanuet, West Haverstraw, Nyack and other departments were represented.

Participants also came from from the Rockland County Sheriff's Department and the Clarkstown Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.


Firefighters salute fallen 9/11 heroes


(Original publication: September 12, 2002)

LIFE may have been going on around them, but it seemed that for the two dozen volunteer firefighters, yesterday morning stood still.

Automobiles buzzed past Alert Hook, Ladder and Engine Co. No. 1 on Lake Road in Congers, and just down the block, a harsh whistle announced the passage of a CSX freight train through the hamlet.

The line of firefighters in their dress blues extended across the driveway as Kevin Reynolds, a volunteer for 33 years, pulled a yellow rope that elicited five evenly spaced gongs from the firehouse bell.

It was the traditional way of announcing the death of a firefighter on a day when he and his comrades were remembering 343 firefighters whose lives were lost at the Twin Towers.

"The waste of all those lives," Reynolds, 64, said later of his thoughts while ringing the bell. "I had worked there when they built the World Trade Center. I was a cable splicer for Con Ed, and I did a lot of work around there. Week by week, I saw it going up. It was a sight to see. It wasn't a good sight to see it come down."

A recording of "God Bless America" was followed by another of Alan Jackson singing: "Where were you when the world stopped turning. ... Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones? Did you bust out and cry for the red, white and blue?"

Firefighters took turns at a microphone reading the names of other firefighters who had answered their last alarm a year ago. The Rev. Arthur Mastrolia of St. Paul's Church said the Firefight-

er's Prayer.

"It got tougher as the names went on," said Christie Capello of the department's auxiliary. "You hear the first five, then the first 10, then it's 30. Reality sets in. As it went on, it got harder and harder to hear each name."

One was John "Dan" Marshall who lived in Congers.

"We graduated together from Clarkstown North High School," Congers fire Chief Kenneth Kunz said of Marshall. "You lose one, it hurts. You lose 343, it hurts more. Standing here a year later, it's tough."

Congers firefighters were among those from 10 Rockland departments dispatched to Westchester a year ago after the terrorist attack.

"We thought we were going down there," Kunz recalled. "It was total shock. We were concerned about our loved ones. We didn't know if there would be other attacks. We were in Westchester for 16 hours."

The observance began with silence at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit, and ended at 10:30 a.m. with a recording of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace."

"There are tears for the families," said farmer Niles Davies Jr., a volunteer for 46 years. "I think of Danny Marshall all the time. I didn't know him, but his sister, Doreen, was a baby sitter for us and worked at our farm stand."


CFD In The News

Firefighters assist stranded man

(Original publication:1/27/02)

Two volunteer firefighters walked a man and his dog to safety after they became stranded on the ice at Congers Lake yesterday.

Congers volunteer Fire Chief Philip Leto said the man apparently took a walk on the lake with his dog and decided he couldn't get back safely around 5 p.m.

"He was about 100 feet off the shore," Leto said. "Firefighters Peter Eckhart and Pat Butler walked him safely back."

Leto said the 35-year-old Congers man, whose name was not available, was sitting on the ice when firefighters reached him. The man was treated at the scene for a cut to one hand by the Congers-Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

The incident took place at the foot of Stern Place off Gilchrest Road at the south end of the lake. Neighbors on Stern Place spotted the man and called Clarkstown police.

Leto called for the New City fire department's underwater rescue team as a precaution, but it was not needed.

Restaurant X to close for while after fire damage

(Original publication: Jan. 08, 2002)

CONGERS One of Rockland's best-known restaurants will be closed for at least several days as workers clean up from a weekend fire. A blaze Sunday night damaged two of Restaurant X's dining rooms, Peter X. Kelly, the owner and chef, said yesterday. "There's water damage, smoke damage, all the windows are blown out," Kelly said. "We'll start redoing it as soon as we can clear the room. We will be operational very soon." Clarkstown Fire Inspector Mark Papenmeyer determined that the fire was caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials.

Restaurant X has four dining rooms and a bar, and Kelly said it was possible that part of the restaurant would be used while the damaged rooms were repaired. The damaged dining rooms seat about 80 people, Kelly said.

Kelly opened Restaurant X, on Route 303 in Congers, in 1997. At that time, he redecorated the restaurant, which had been known as the Bully Boy Chophouse. Kelly owns four restaurants, Restaurant X in Congers, Xaviar's at Piermont in Piermont, Xaviar's at Garrison in Garrison and Freelance Cafe & Wine Bar in Piermont. They were the top four picks for the "New American" restaurant category in the 2000 Zagat Survey for Southern New York.

Restaurant critics said yesterday that the closing of the restaurant even temporarily was a big loss for the area.

"It was really one of the very best restaurants and most sophisticated restaurants in Rockland. That's just awful. (Kelly) is such a hardworking, great chef," said Gerry Dawes, who worked as a food critic for The Journal News for more than two years. "He just runs a first-rate, super-professional operation. It's a terrible thing to hear this happened. I sure hope he's going to come back to it quick." Bob Lape, a critic for WCBS 880 radio and Crain's New York Business, said Restaurant X was particularly popular because it was larger than Xaviar's at Garrison in Putnam County and less expensive.

"It's an awfully good restaurant. I'm really sorry to hear that," Lape said. "He's an industry leader, one of the best around in the East. The restaurant's been just a hallmark for excellent food since he got it." Kelly said he had received a lot of support from the community since the fire. He said a company party scheduled for last night in Congers would go on as planned at the Garrison restaurant. "The phone's ringing. It's amazing the outpouring of support," said Kelly, who praised the Congers Fire Department for keeping the damage from being worse. "I don't think people are concerned about their reservations, they're concerned that everybody was safe." Lape said Kelly's work ethic made him confident that Restaurant X would reopen quickly. "He's a strong, young guy with a really good imagination and a good team," he said. "He's really industrious."


(Original publication: Nov. 22, 2001)

Robert Kraft is proud to be a retired firefighter, and according to a number of Rockland officials and residents, the Congers man is one of several people who represent the best of the county.

Kraft and seven others have been chosen for the 2001 Pride of Rockland awards by county legislators. The honors, to be presented at a ceremony next month in New City, were selected from among 90 nominations in eight categories.

The ceremony will be dedicated to the firefighters, police officers and emergency services workers who perished saving lives in the World Trade Center attacks, said Legislator Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, who created the awards. And for Kraft, who will receive his honor in the Emergency Services category, that is only fitting.

"When you lose one fireman, it's tough for the whole department. We're all brothers," said Kraft, who has been a life member of the volunteer Congers Fire Department since 1950 and served in a number of county posts, including chairman of the Rockland County Fire Advisory Board and trustee for the county Fire Training Center. Kraft had been a good friend of John Daniel Marshall, a longtime Congers resident who died Sept. 11, only two years after he had become a New York City firefighter.

Kraft, a Korean War veteran, said yesterday that he was "flabbergasted" to be recognized for the honor. But the man who nominated Kraft called him a worthy honoree.

"For his entire life, he's just been a consistent volunteer for the community," said nominator Robert Donaldson, a Clarkstown police lieutenant. "When programs were going to fall apart, he was the mainstay that held them together."

The above articles are from the Journal News.