They call it Bryan's Fire. That was the March 2004 blaze that gave Huntington Manor volunteer Bryan Winzer the angry pink scar that rings his face in the precise shape of his firefighter's air mask.
Winzer, who had just been hired as a city firefighter, had evacuated his volunteer company from the third floor of the worsening fire at Hickory Place and Fourth Avenue in Huntington Station. He was alone, making a final sweep for stragglers when it happened.
Everything in the room spontaneously ignited; temperatures shot to around 1,200 degrees. Firefighters call it a flashover, and nothing survives for very long. Reeling with pain, Winzer stumbled toward the window, only to pitch head-first into a hole in the floor. He was stuck.
Downstairs, departing firefighter Michael Bruno happened to cast a backward glance and noticed a hand dangling from the ceiling. Bruno, 30, owns a local business installing lawn irrigation systems. He volunteers, he says, because "I need to belong to a brotherhood."
"Fireman down!" Bruno yelled that day.
Getting Winzer and his bulky gear down through that flaming 16-inch hole in the ceiling is one of those things, Bruno and former Chief Michael Pastore say, that takes strength you didn't know you had.
Winzer would need skin grafts for severe burns on his back, arm and stomach, but seven months later, Winzer was back at Pastore's side, wriggling through the rubble of a collapsed auto dealership on Jericho Turnpike, where they raced a rapidly spreading fire to rescue a man trapped under a desk. He shrugged off the idea that once being burned would make him shy of such danger.
"I volunteered seven years ago," said Winzer, 32. "When you say 'I do,' that's what it means."
To his fellow volunteers, Winzer's return has proven something important about the power of their traditions.
"It's a brotherhood, and it's another family," said Pastore, who repairs parking meters for Huntington Town. "We watch out for each other and we're there for each other so we can be there for the community.
" ... Some people think we're crazy ... But when you join here, you know why. It's in your heart that you want to do this."