Firefighter Honored for 55 Years of Service

The East Hampton Fire Department chiefs presented Kenny Brown, an ex-chief and active member, with a plaque for his 55 years of service. They also gave his wife, Linda Brown, a bouquet. The chiefs, from left, are Jamalia Hayes, the second assistant chief, Chief Ken Wessberg, and Gerry Turza, the first assistant chief. Michael Heller

The East Hampton Fire Department gathered for its annual inspection dinner on Saturday night, regrouping for another year and honoring those who have served.

This year’s chiefs will continue in their posts for the 2017-18 year, with Kenneth Wessberg at the helm, Gerry Turza as first assistant chief, and Jamalia Hayes as second assistant chief. Among the first people recognized during the dinner at the Maidstone Club was Kenny Brown for his 55 years of service.

Mr. Brown, who will turn 73 in June, still responds to calls as a member of Company No. 5. “You can’t get some 22-year-olds out of bed in the middle of the night,” Chief Wessberg said of Mr. Brown’s dedication. Mr. Brown said Monday that he is still qualified to drive three of the trucks and goes to calls whenever he can. He has no plans to retire. “They’ll take me out of there feet first,” he said with a laugh.

An 11th-generation member of East Hampton’s Hedges family, he was born and raised in East Hampton and served the community for 35 years with the East Hampton Village Police Department. He retired as a police lieutenant in 2001. “I don’t regret one minute of it,” he said of his many years of public service.

He joined the fire department at 18, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. He considered joining the New York City Fire Department for a time, but said, “I’m a country boy, not a city boy.” He served as the department’s chief from 1978 to 1982.

The fire chiefs not only recognized Mr. Brown, but also his wife, Linda Brown, with whom he will soon celebrate 51 years of marriage. They gave her a big bouquet of flowers. “She’s always supported him with the fire service,” Chief Wessberg said.

The big winner of the evening was Rory Knight, who took home the Firefighter of the Year award. Mr. Knight has  been in the department only about five years, according to the chief, but is a dedicated member of the ladder truck company and was an integral part of the East Hampton team that fought the raging Sag Harbor fire in December.

Joan Jacobs, who has served as the department secretary for the past four years, received a chief’s appreciation award. “She was a great, great secretary for the chiefs,” Mr. Wessberg said, adding that she never said no to a request, even if he asked at the last minute. Ms. Jacobs has been a member of the fire police company for nearly 20 years.

The Officer of the Year award went to Sam Fisher, a lieutenant with Company No. 4. A member for about five years, he was recognized for helping the chiefs respond to automatic fire alarms.

Several others were recognized as well. Three members — John Anderson, Francis Mott, and Mark MacPherson — received plaques for 40 years of service. Jack Engelhardt and Robert Lawler earned pins for 35 years of service. Alex Walter, John Diamond, and James Brooks got 30-year pins, while John Tarbet, John Geehreng, Francis Bock, and Chief Turza were recognized for 25 years with the department.

Edwin Geus and Christopher Hatch got 20-year pins, and Jonathan Dayton, Isaac Lopez, and Dudley Hayes — Chief Hayes’s father — got 15-year pins. Pat Bezubek, Dan Schaefer, and Alex Tekulsky were recognized for 10 years of service.