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Suffolk Legislature meeting stalled to deal with car fire

Riverhead police and firefighters responded to car on

Riverhead police and firefighters responded to car on fire in the parking lot of the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Credit: Randee Daddona

Two Suffolk County legislators, both with experience fighting fires, jumped into action Tuesday when, during a meeting at the county government office in Riverhead, a car in the parking lot burst into flames.

Rudy A. Sunderman, a newly elected legislator and Mastic fire chief, said a man ran into the Legislature about 2 p.m. to alert them of the fire.

Sunderman (R-Shirley) and Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park), a former commissioner of the Deer Park fire department, rushed to the scene. Sunderman retrieved extinguishers from his fire chief’s car and the two legislators quickly knocked down the flames.

“Duty called,” Donnelly said. A short recess was called while Sunderman and Donnelly attended to the car fire before the Riverhead Fire Department arrived, Sunderman said.

Sunderman said he didn’t know what caused the fire.

“We do this as a natural instinct,” Sunderman said. “You just go into action.”

Sunderman recently left his paid positions as Centereach Fire District manager and Center Moriches Fire District secretary after the Suffolk Board of Ethics issued an advisory opinion that he could not keep the posts while serving in an elected position. He remains the volunteer fire chief of the Mastic Fire Department.

No one was injured in the fire and only one car was affected, Donnelly said.

Steven J. Flotteron (R-Brightwaters), who stood by as the fire was put out, said he was proud to see his colleagues work together.

“It’s great seeing Republicans and Democrats putting out the fire in a bipartisan way,” Flotteron said, chuckling.

By 2:30 p.m. the meeting was called back into session.

“You’re always the fire chief,” Sunderman said.

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