Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
Ex-Chief Louis Santosus, a lifelong Mineola resident, is celebrating his 50th year with the Mineola Fire Department.
Santosus attended Mineola Public Schools, graduating in 1962 and joined the FD one year later. The department will honor Santosus on March 16 at the 50th Anniversary Ceremony of Company One.
He rose through the ranks of Engine Company 1 and has served as vice president, president, second lieutenant, first lieutenant and led the company as captain.
Santosus served as Second Assistant Chief, First Assistant Chief, and Chief of the Mineola Fire Department. He was awarded Company 1 Firefighter of the Year, Town of North Hempstead Firefighter of the Year, and Firefighter of the Year of the Mineola Fire Department.
“It’s something that you do out of love for the job,” he said. ‘Fifty years is a long time and you can only do those things if you have a family that supports you. My wife is very supportive.”
During his tenure as First Assistant Chief, Santosus, with support from the department helped organize the Mineola Junior Fire Department as Explorer Post 160. It is now the premier junior fire department in the region.
In 1983 after serving as chief of the Mineola Fire Department, Santosus served on the Village of Mineola board for 17 Years, as trustee and deputy mayor. His service to the MFD continued when Santosus served as secretary, vice chairman, and chairman of First Battalion Chiefs Association.
The advents in technology are what have changed so much in the last 50 years for Santosus. Years ago, FIRECOM, an alarm service to alert fighters off site, wasn’t around.
“We used to pick up the phone when we got to the firehouse and the first one there became the dispatcher,” Santosus stated. “You’d have to stay in the radio room and write on the chalkboard where the call was. We didn’t have walkie-talkies at the time. You rode the rear step of the truck. There were no covers. In the winter, you froze; in rain you were soaked.
A lot of calls are etched into Santosus’ memory, but he doesn’t have to go back far to recall the worst scene he had to witness. In 1982, Santosus rode the truck that responded to the train accident that claimed the lives of nine teenagers at the now defunct Herricks Road crossing.
“We got the call as a van fire on the tracks,” he said. “When he got there…that was probably the worst. It was terrible.”
If there’s one piece of advice Santosus can bestow upon youngsters itching to fight fires: it has to be in your blood.
“You have to want to do it and you have to respond at all times of the day and night,” Santosus affirmed. “You can’t pick your calls. You have to go to every call you hear. I always tell kids, ‘if you hear a call, you go to it.’”
Santosus is currently serving as charter member of the Nassau County Critical Incidence Stress Management Team, and as warden of Engine Company 1 of the Mineola Fire Department.
Santosus and his wife Patricia raised four children Patti, Bonnie, Gary, and Brian and have nine grandchildren. Brian is an ex-captain of Company 1 and both he and Gary are lieutenants in the FDNY.
—Rich Forestano contributed to this story