Melville business owner Brian Gill knows what it is like to be a volunteer first responder — the dedication, hours and financial sacrifices, including out-of-pocket costs, that it takes to serve the community.
Over the years, the insurance agent said, some of his clients have been helped by Melville Fire Department volunteers who've responded to scenes of car crashes. And with gas prices reaching record highs in recent months, Gill, recalling memories of his former days as a volunteer firefighter, said he reached out to the department in an effort to offer a measure of financial relief.
On Wednesday, at the department's headquarters on Sweet Hollow Road, Gill donated $25 gas gift cards, totaling $3,250, to each volunteer.
“With the price of gas going up so much we thought it was a good idea and way to reward first responders in Melville,” Gill said. “It’s a thank you, and to help offset the costs they’re incurring to fill their gas tanks.”
Long Island’s average gas price started breaking records in early May, according to AAA.
The average price for a gallon of regular gas on Wednesday was $4.505 in Suffolk and $4.497 in Nassau. The highest-recorded average price of regular unleaded on Long Island was $5.046 on June 15, according to AAA.
Aaron Bart has been a member of the department for six years, including his time as a junior volunteer. He said the money will be put to good use.
“It’s a very generous offer,” Bart said. “What people don’t know [is that] we have to drive our own vehicles to and from the station, and gas prices these days really add up.”
The department’s chief, William Schmitt, said the department responds to about 3,500 emergency calls each year, including for fire, medical rescue and car crashes.
“Volunteers respond at least once a day to calls to help the community using their own money and gas,” Schmitt said. “With gas prices going up every day it’s costing the volunteers more and more to put gas in their cars.”
He said his department has more than 100 members who serve in different capacities.
Carolyn Koegl, one of the department's five fire commissioners, thanked Gill.
“Brian and his staff reached out to us and came up with this idea and asked how we felt about it, and we are so thankful for it," she said. “It helps relieve some of the pain with the new gas prices as our volunteer members try to provide for their families, or attend college," or those on a fixed income, she said.
“Without them turning out every day and responding and helping out the community, it’s a thankless job,” Schmitt said. “But they do it without hesitation.”