The Dix Hills Fire Department is planning to build a $550,000 training facility at its station on Deer Park Road just south of the Long Island Expressway to help volunteers hone their skills, but residents are concerned about the risks of controlled burning near homes.
Fire Commissioner Larry Feld said a local facility will allow volunteers hands-on firefighting experience under safe conditions right in their own neighborhood. The site would be about 150 feet from the nearest house, according to Feld.
"We want to supplement the training the county does," Feld said. "Our call volumes are increasing, fires are hotter and more dangerous. We want more training."
At a public hearing last week three residents raised objections to the facility over concerns including air quality, excess light, noise, smoke, what will be burned, drainage and funding.
But after meeting with department officials two of the residents said they feel a bit more comfortable with the idea.
"If they follow through with getting us more information," said Wendy Wallack. "As long as their talk matches the eventual reality, then I can feel calm about it."
Steve Lettis said while he feels more educated about the building, questions remain.
"I'm still concerned because they are going to be burning fires there," he said. "We want more information and more proof that we shouldn't worry."
The department needs a waiver for a height and area requirement and site plan review from the town for the two-story, 27-foot high, 2,170 square-foot prefabricated building. The proposed building would be built at Station 1 on Deer Park Road south of Mac Niece Place.
The town board is expected to vote next month to waive the need for the variances and site plan review by the planning board and zoning board of appeals.
Feld said the smoke from the controlled burns would be equal to that given off by a wood-burning fireplace, training would take place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and occasionally from 7 to 9 p.m. during the week. He said he offered to let interested residents tour a similar facility and view a video of what the proposed building would look like.
"We want them to be satisfied," Feld said. "We want them to know what we will be doing."
The district has 175 volunteers and covers an area of 25 square miles serving a population of about 27,000. Currently members train at the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank.
Feld said the district has been setting aside money for the facility in its Capital Reserve Land and Building Fund for about 10 years, so there will be no increase in fire district taxes.
Ken Naglitsch, the third resident who objected to the facility at the meeting, said he is not yet sold on the idea of a training facility in his neighborhood. "It's still a smokestack and a nuisance," he said. But he did say he would like to tour one of the other facilities. "That would be helpful."