A throng of uniformed firefighters, friends, family and elected officials gathered to commemorate the centennial of Engine 285/Ladder 142 in Ozone Park on May 8.
“Inside the walls of this firehouse, generations of firefighters have learned from each other, mentored new firefighters, and insured that the traditions of this department, the core values we are built on of honor, dedication and service never waver,” said FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Robert Turner.
The firehouse was opened in 1915 during a population boon throughout Queens. With an expanding population came an expanded service.
When the firehouse first opened its doors, firefighters worked a 151-hour shift, on call at almost all times. There were three hours a day that each firefighter had off. For that commitment, they were paid $1,500 annually.
Through the years, there have been myriad changes, as firefighter David Sears lamented while speaking at the centennial ceremony.
“The changes make us long for the time in our career that we missed,” Sears said. “That sweet spot when everything was good.”
Despite the turnover of brave men and women proudly representing the FDNY, new equipment, contracts and gear, the dedication has remained the same.
Sears spoke to some of those constants.
“There is another thing that remained constant: our dedication to keeping this firehouse moving in the right direction,” Sears said. “To preserve our tradition and strengthen our reputation. To continue our commitment to our mission to protect and save the lives and property of our neighbors here in Ozone Park, as we have for the last century.”
That dedication is evident in the firefighters that have, over the past few years, been recognized for individual achievement.
Two firefighters from the firehouse – Anthony Romano and Michael Czech – were both awarded the James Gordon Bennet Medal in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The medal is the highest award for bravery in the department.
“Individual recognition is incredible, but it speaks to the overall training and preparedness of these companies at every job,” said Chief of Operations John Sudnik. “[The] willingness to go towards danger, rather than away, is what defines us as a Department.”
That pride and dedication is exemplified by the five men from Engine 285 and Ladder 142 that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in the line of duty.
In 1923, Lt. James Griffin of Engine Company 285 and Firefighters Michael Hanley and John Dunne of Ladder Company 142 were killed by a train while aboard a fire apparatus responding to a call.
Robert Smullen of Ladder Company 142 lost his life in an accident while responding to call in 1966.
Thomas Earl of Engine 285 was killed by a roof collapse while fighting a fire in 1976.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Firefighter Ray York of Engine Company 285 lost his life responding to the World Trade Center along with 342 other members of the department.
“We miss our brothers every day, but especially on a day like today,” Sears said. “They may be gone, but we know they are here in spirit. These lives remind us to make the most of the time we have.”