Memory Lane



A Fire Fighter's Memories

The book, History of the West Sayville Volunteer Fire Department: centennial celebration, 1891-1991, is a very useful book for researching the West Sayville Oakdale fire department. It is shelved in our reference local history collection (Local History 363.37 West). As interesting and informative as the book is, we were fortunate to have Richard Wolfe, who has been a volunteer with the West Sayville-Oakdale fire department for 60 years, give us his personal eye witness accounts of some of the fires he has fought.

Mr. Wolfe’s fire fighting career began back in high school when he got a job with the New York State Conservation Commission. Back then fire fighters used Indian tanks (portable water tanks, held on the back by shoulder straps), and had no protective gear including masks. A fireman would battle a blaze until he got too sick to continue. There was no OSHA or extensive training done back when Mr. Wolfe joined the volunteer fire department in 1956. Working full-time during the day for many years for a gas company, in the evenings and weekends he would fight fires. As dangerous and time consuming as his volunteer work could be, he was hooked on the adventure, camaraderie, and sense of “doing good” he got from it. We assure you that after listening to our conversation with Richard Wolfe, you will have a greater appreciation not just for the volunteer fire fighters, but also for their families.

Some of the fires mentioned in the video: Southside Sportsmen’s Club in 1957, St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in 1967, Public Juniper Lumber Yard on August 17, 1969.

Richard Wolfe Interview