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Oyster Bay officials: Fire extinguishers a must in taxis and limos

Taxis parked at the Massapequa Park LIRR station

Taxis parked at the Massapequa Park LIRR station in the Town of Oyster Bay on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. Next year Oyster Bay's new rule requiring taxis to carry fire extinguishers will kick in. Credit: Barry Sloan

Taxis and limousines in Oyster Bay will need to carry fire extinguishers to pass inspections in 2016 under a new local law.

Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr., who pushed for the regulation, said putting the equipment into the 250 cabs and car service vehicles means drivers can respond if there is a fire in their own conveyance or someone else’s.

“In arming them with fire extinguishers … there will be additional firefighting apparatus out there that can maybe save a life,” Altadonna said.

Altadonna, a former volunteer emergency medical technician, said you sometimes have a small window of opportunity to rescue someone from a burning car.

“You read of these horrific accidents and you see families, individuals, engulfed in flames in cars and you constantly see other people, witnesses, videoing, not being able to respond,” he said.

The regulation, which the town board passed last month, adds having a fire extinguisher within reach of the driver to the list of equipment needed in a vehicle for hire, to pass town inspection and receive a medallion sticker.

Those stickers begin to expire next month, and by the end of April, all vehicles for hire licensed by Oyster Bay will have to show they have a fire extinguisher installed, Altadonna said.

The rules do not apply to vehicles licensed outside of Oyster Bay that come into town, such as those from New York City or other Long Island municipalities. Nor does it apply to Uber or Lyft drivers, who are not licensed to operate in Oyster Bay.

Long Island Taxi Transportation Operators Association president Phil Fortuna said this was the first such policy in Nassau County. Fortuna, who owns Long Island Checker Cab, said association members favor the regulation. “You can’t put a price on public safety, so it’s money well spent,” Fortuna said.

Prices for extinguishers that are designed to put out fuel and electrical fires begin at $12.88, according to

Less than 1 percent of car crashes in the U.S. involved fires, according to 2013 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A higher percentage of passenger car crashes resulted in deaths when fire was present, according to those statistics. Of 5,000 passenger car crashes that involved fire, 577 resulted in deaths. That means that 11.5 percent of passenger car crashes where fire was present were fatal compared to less than 1 percent when there was no fire.

“We do recommend having a fire extinguisher,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA Northeast, the automobile association. “You have to have the right type, and you have to know how to use it.”

Oyster Bay’s regulations do not specify the type, but Sinclair said it must be able to handle oil and fuel fires and possibly electrical fires for hybrid and electric cars. Altadonna said it should be a standard fire extinguisher, rated for all kinds of fires.

Sinclair said the extinguisher needs to be secured so it does not become a projectile in an accident. He also said most car fires are under the hood, which people should walk away from because they can be dangerous.

“We recommend that if there’s a fire under the hood you do not open the hood,” Sinclair said. “Because … you might subject yourself to an explosion or a flare up.”

Altadonna said he hopes Oyster Bay’s new rule catches on elsewhere and more vehicles have extinguishers in case they are needed. “If there’s one near the driver in the passenger area, you can at least put the fire out enough to get out of the vehicle,” Altadonna said.

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