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Mineola's Bravest Host German Junior Firefighters

Unique exchange program fosters training, camaraderie for junior firefighters.

On August 3, the Mineola Fire Department welcomed twenty junior members of the Hamburg-Stellinger Fire Department from Germany to ten days of sightseeing, training and fun as part of an ongoing exchange program.

"We picked them up from the airport in fire trucks," said former Mineola fire department chief Gary Mazur, who helps run Mineola's junior program with advisor Bill Gresalfi. "They were so excited to see Mineola."

The exchange program grew from a simple cordial gesture Gresalfi made by signing the online guestbooks of fire departments from around the world in July, 2005.

The unprecedented partnership between a North American and European junior fire department program has been commended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a partnership which has shaped young ambassadors and strengthened ties with other nations.

This year, supporters of the partnership arranged for members of both junior divisions to visit historical and cultural sites in Washington, DC, New York City and Long Island.

"We did everything you could have possibly done in two days in Washington, DC," Mazur said. The group also had a personal tour of Ground Zero and nearby FDNY Ladder and Engine Company 10.

Long Island sights included Teddy Roosevelt's house, the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and the Cradle of Aviation. Department members also spent a night watching the firefighting drill practices in Tully Park, a picnic on Tobay Beach and a barbeque in Southold. Participators in the junior departments also underwent grueling training on August 8 at the Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage.

The fifty combined junior members were also treated to dinner at Bairrada Restaurant. "They are very generous supporters," Mazur said of owners Manny and Roy Carvalho.

Mineola's junior firefighters made the trip across the Atlantic in 2008, training and touring sites like the Berlin Wall. They will send another crew in 2011.

The impacts of the partnership between the Mineola and Hamburg-Stellinger Fire Departments are enormous. "They host a Fourth of July party every year at their fire house and send us videos and pictures online for Christmas," said Mazur.

In 2009 the Hamburg-Stellinger Fire Department sent a refurbished Mercedes fire cab to the Mineola Fire Department as a gift, which was used for fire safety and community programs. Now at the Cradle of Aviation, the truck remains the only foreign equipment on display.

As part of its partnership, the Mineola fire department frequently sends care packages to Germany - including Skittles and Rice Krispy Treats - two indulgences that the German kids love but can't buy in their country.

"On their last night here, we had a big going away party," Mazur said of the German youths. "The ex-chiefs, mayor and local politicians all showed up. We exchanged caps with [the Germans]. The kids had a ball." The next morning, the German youths were treated to a large sendoff as neighboring departments placed their engines along Jericho Turnpike, blaring their horns and flashing their lights.

Individuals between the ages of 14 and 17 may come with a parent to the Mineola fire department on Monday nights to join. 

Jennifer March 07, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Thank you for answering my question. Why so defensive? I see people questioning the use of taxpayer money in the schools all the time, so why can't a taxpayer question other uses of tax money? I'm not questioning the use of it for fighting fires, obtaining proper equipment or conducting training, I'm questioning the use of it for something that perhaps should be funded by donations.
Artie Barnett March 07, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Well since most juniors will be tomorrows firefighters and this exchange program is largely about training, I think you should be satisfied with the expenditure. If not, maybe pull on a pair of boots and see what it's all about.
Jennifer March 08, 2011 at 01:06 AM
I know what it's all about...many a firefighter in my family. Just curious about what tax money is spent on when it comes to different organizations. Thanks for answering my question and thanks for all you do. Just trying to learn a little bit more!
Artie Barnett March 08, 2011 at 02:55 AM
All THEY do. I'm not one of them, I just appreciate their commitment to our community.
William Gresalfi March 08, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Josh if thats your name or not I am glad that you received your answer. Mr. Barnett hit it right on target. I am sorry that you feel that I did not read into your comment well I did. Did the taxpayers pay for the fuel used to take the firetrucks to the airport? YES The next sentence: Just curious, since I know that some Mineola residents send lengthy letters to the local paper ripping apart teachers, yet don't seem to question the use of funds for the fire department. Josh wouldn't you say that maybe this could be construed as an attack? I would like to ask one question what are the other public organizations have you been studying. There are other organizations that use public funds all the time are we to charge them for building use,fields and so on. Come on do they need to have fundraisers to pay for the use.

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