East Hampton Firefighters Get Their Due

Ken Wessberg, second from left, who just finished another term as East Hampton Fire Department chief, handed the reins over to the newly elected chief, Gerry Turza, at the lectern. At right are First Assistant Chief Jamalia Hayes and William Bennett, who was recognized Saturday night for 55 years of service. Michael Heller

The East Hampton Fire Department held its annual inspection dinner at the Maidstone Club on Saturday night, with a number of members getting recognized for their years of service.

William Bennett and Frank Tillinghast were given plaques in honor of 55 years of service. Steve Griffiths, Robert Mott, and outgoing Chief Ken Wessberg were recognized for their 40 years. 

Officers thanked and roasted Mr. Wessberg, who completed his second tenure as chief, having served once before in the early 1990s. Taking over as chief is Gerard Turza Jr., who had served as first assistant chief. Jamalia Hayes is now first assistant chief, and Brian Stanis takes over as second assistant chief. 

In other awards, ex-chief Steven Tekulsky — an East Hampton Town justice — was presented with the Chiefs Appreciation Award for his invaluable assistance to the department, Chief Turza said. 

Capt. Duane Forrester was named officer of the year for his quick thinking at a fire at East Hampton Indoor Tennis earlier this year. Mr. Forrester was the first to arrive after a fire alarm was activated there and found a fire being fed by a ruptured liquefied petroleum gas line. 

“He approached it without protection of a hose line and shut the gas off, which helped keep the fire in check,” Chief Turza said.

Also Saturday night, Scott Fithian, a former captain, was named firefighter of the year, and Hook and Ladder Company 1 was named company of the year.

Other years-of-service awards were handed out to Ken Collum for 35 years; Paul Hatch, Thomas Bono, Robert Anderson, and Greg Brown for 25 years; James Conklin for 20 years; Joanne O’Brien, Stephen Field, and Thomas Strong Sr. for 15 years, and William Sullivan and Joseph Burriesci Sr. for 10 years.