In the late evening of March 16 at 11:14 p.m., the pagers of East Meadow Fire Department (EMFD) volunteers activated, announcing “smoke in the building” at Ralph’s Italian Ice Shop on Carman Avenue in Salisbury.
By 11:16 p.m., Chief of Department James Walsh transmitted his response. He was quickly informed by EMFD Dispatch that Nassau County Police Department officers on scene confirming smoke in the building. In the minutes that followed, assistant chiefs Phil Fertitta, Peter Cheswick and Paul Kosiba would also transmit their response.
At 11:18 p.m., Chief Walsh arrived on the scene announcing a “Signal 98”—signifying that the first pumper in was connected to a fire hydrant and the hose was stretched toward the fire. A Realert of the initial companies asked for for additional manpower, while also adding Rescue 5 into the alert for EMS.
Seconds later, taking no chances, Chief Walsh upgraded the alarm to a “Signal 10,” meaning a working fire with upgrades to a general alarm response and adding Engine 611, and 612, a firefighter assist and search team (FAST), and mutual aid assistance from several neighboring towns to either assist at the scene, or protect the balance of the fire district.
At 11:19 p.m., Engine Co # 4 (614) transmitted their response, immediately followed by Ladder 617, Engine 613, Heavy Rescue 616, and Ladder 619.
A minute later, “first due” Engine 614 arrived on the scene. As the crew stretched two large attack hose lines to the fire building, other members stretched the supply line to the fire hydrant. The fight was now on to save the row of stores, as Carman Avenue filled with fire apparatus.
As additional firefighters arrived, hose lines were deployed to different businesses in hopes of getting ahead of the fire.
Firefighters were quick to realize that the fire was actually not in the ice cream shop, but in fact, in the laundromat at the opposite end of the row.
With firefighters moving in to attack the main body of fire above the ceiling, others took up in the attached businesses to prepare for any horizontal fire spread.
Within 20 minutes all visible fire had been knocked down as firefighters continued to pull ceilings and walls to check for fire extensions. Rescues 4 and 5 established a medical treatment area in the event of injury. There were none.
In all, approximate 80 East Meadow volunteers from seven companies led the attack, with another 20 firefighters from the mutual aid departments: Westbury, Levittown, North Bellmore, North Merrick, Wantagh, Hicksville and Bellmore.
The Nassau County Fire Marshal was on scene to determine the cause. PSEG was called to cut the power to the buildings. The East Meadow Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary responded with energy fluids for spent firefighters.
Although smoke, water damage, and the opening of ceilings and walls, was significant in the laundromat and deli, the fire itself was mostly held to the laundromat with little to no extension into the other stores.
—Submitted by John J. O’Brien, East Meadow Fire Department