By Danny Schrafel
To say the least, Dix Hills Fire Department volunteers had their hands full Saturday night – just like they have all year long.
As volunteers battled their eighth blaze of the year – a roaring house fire on Kenmore Street from which a man in cardiac arrest was plucked from the residence and two volunteers were treated for injuries – they were also grappling with a crash of a Wyandanch-Wheatley Heights first responder car. And if that wasn’t enough, a Suffolk County police highway patrol vehicle and another car collided on Deer Park Avenue and the South Service Road of the Long Island Expressway.
“I always say, ‘It’s Dix Hills – anything that can possibly happen, will,’” Chief Robert Fling said.
Fling was first on the scene at the Kenmore Street blaze at 11:25 p.m., and he knew that someone was trapped inside. Police had radioed, “Step up, FD – someone’s inside,” and officers had already smashed the bedroom window on the left-hand side of the house, hoping to locate the man. The rear of the home was engulfed in flames, and a pet dog and cat died in the fire.
Fling said he got into the window, swept the floor and the bed in search of the man, but came up empty. By then, the first engine had arrived, and the chief directed volunteers to stretch a line to the front door. Soon after, firefighters fought their way in and pulled the man out; he was located just outside the bedroom in the hallway.
“He was probably in bed and tried making out the front door, which wasn’t going to happen,” Fling said.
Once he was safely outside, volunteers immediately began CPR and intubated the man, who was in cardiac arrest. He was given a cyanide antidote kit to reverse the effects of smoke inhalation.
By the time he arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital, the elderly man had regained a pulse, Fling said.
“Once you get a couple of breaths of that smoke, you’re probably unconscious within 30 seconds,” Fling said. The chief added that the combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, “toxic twins” found in smoke at structure fires, poses a particularly deadly threat.
One Dix Hills volunteer was treated at Huntington Hospital for a hand laceration; a second volunteer was treated on the scene for smoke inhalation.
About 70 firefighters and rescue personnel were on the scene with nine trucks and four ambulances, and had the fire under control within 40 minutes. Dix Hills volunteers were supported by the Deer Park, Greenlawn, Huntington Manor, Melville, Commack and North Babylon fire departments and the Brentwood Legion and Wyandanch-Wheatley Heights Ambulance Corps.
Fling led the response, with support from Assistant Chiefs Tom Napolitano and Joe Williamson.
Suffolk County Police Department’s arson squad and the town’s fire marshal are investigating the blaze; town spokesman A.J. Carter said the cause of the fire is undetermined and does not appear suspicious.
Fling said the department has been well positioned to cope with the eight blazes recorded in calendar year 2015 – the last was on Seaman Neck Road in the morning hours of March 31.
The number of fires is “odd,” but not unprecedented, he said.
"It's happened before. I want to say in maybe 2005 or 2006, we had a string of 14. So when all is said and done, I'm still behind the 8-ball," he said, with a laugh. "It happens."