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Lindenhurst opens new modern firehouse with ceremony Saturday

Fire chiefs tour the new Lindenhurst firehouse with

Fire chiefs tour the new Lindenhurst firehouse with the village mayor, Sept. 8, 2015. Credit: Johnny Milano

Lindenhurst Village firetrucks may start to have fewer scratches now.

A new firehouse decades in the making is set to be unveiled Saturday in the village, replacing a building nearly 100 years old that was so outdated, the fire department's vehicles had to be customized just to get through the doors.

The previous firehouse allowed trucks a clearing of about an inch on each side, said 1st Asst. Chief Paul Vinciguerra. Members had to wait until the truck pulled out of the firehouse in order to have enough room to open the rear doors and get inside, he said.

"There's so much more room now," department Chief Mike DeGregorio said of the building. "I'm in awe."

The new building is also safer. The previous firehouse had sustained severe fire damage in 1978, and an architect determined in 2012 that steel girders supporting the building were almost completely eroded.

The nearly $5.9 million structure on Wellwood Avenue is the village's second attempt to build. In 2008, officials sought to build at a cost of $7.5 million in bonding, a proposal that residents soundly rejected.

This time, the village issued low-interest bond anticipation notes to pay for the work, village Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Cullinane said. The result has been a minimal increase to residents' tax bills, he said.

With the project so long in the making, the concept became almost mythical among residents and department members. Over the past year, rumors circulated, including that the new building was still not big enough for trucks, and that the firehouse had a $100,000 chandelier.

Instead of frills, officials said, the new house is more efficient. The radio system has been updated, a generator capable of supplying constant power during blackouts was installed, and the lighting, heating and cooling systems now have motion detectors, Deputy Mayor Michael Lavorata said.

"To say it was inefficient before is an understatement," he said. "Everything is 21st century now."

And, in a nod to the 1978 fire that accelerated the building's deterioration, the new firehouse has a sprinkler system, he said. The lobby of the building also will feature an engraved granite tribute to 9/11 victims, along with a piece of steel from the Twin Towers.

The department, which has four chiefs and 240 volunteer members, handled more than 3,000 calls last year, the chiefs said. They hope the new house will boost members'morale.

Jean Szabo, captain of the rescue team, said she's already excited about the changes. "Just to have hot water when you turn on the faucet -- it's the little things," she said.

Previously, on nights when members had to be at the house on "standby" -- such as during superstorm Sandy -- lack of space meant many had to sleep in the back of an ambulance or on the floor in sleeping bags, she said.

Should another Sandy-like storm take place, Mayor Tom Brennan said, the new firehouse can also be used as a seat of government and command center.

"This doesn't belong to the fire department, it belongs to the taxpayers," DeGregorio said. "Hopefully, it'll be here another 100 years."

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