(as researched by Henry Wehner)
In all of Laurelton’s 80+ years of service to their district residents, we have had only two Line-Of-Duty deaths. Unfortunately this is two too many. These two brave firefighters did not die in vain. Their deaths lead to one of the most treasured traditions in the history of Irondequoit firefighting. Born out of this tragedy was The Fire Departments of Irondequoit Annual Memorial Service.
On August 27, 1952, at 10:18am, an alarm came in for two Town of Irondequoit sanitation workers (Carl VanSchaick & Earl Richmond) overcome by gas fumes in a manhole at Helendale Rd and Druid Hill Park. Fearing noxious gas, Laurelton Firefighters Arthur Sink & Bernard Bauman put on Chem-Ox masks and attempted a rescue. Unfortunately, these masks (the best the fire service used at the time) were unable to keep the men from losing their own lives. Both rescuers lost their lives in a selfless attempt to save others. Rochester Gas & Electric workers had to recover the bodies of the four men because they were the only company using Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA’s). The investigation that followed showed that it was lack of oxygen, not the gas that took all four men’s lives. The filter-type masks that the firefighters used offered no protection for this lack of oxygen. SCBA’s are now universally used throughout the fire service.
After this tragedy, in 1953, Laurelton approached the four other fire departments in the Town of Irondequoit with the idea of an annual Memorial Service to honor all of our fallen Brothers from the five departments regardless of the cause of death.
The other fire departments serving the Town of Irondequoit are: Ridge Culver, Point Pleasant, Sea Breeze & St. Paul Blvd.
The fact that these Fire Departments, in the year 2002, just celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Memorial Service shows the importance of Tradition and Brotherhood in the Fire Service. The Laurelton Volunteer Fire Association feels extremely honored to have initiated this tradition that still is going strong. Our thanks go out to all of our Irondequoit Brothers & Sisters for helping this tradition continue.
In 2001, the Town of Irondequoit dedicated a tree at Town Hall to honor the memories of these four men.
Once a year, around Memorial Day, the Irondequoit Fire Departments join together to honor their fallen brethren. The five departments take turns hosting this service on a rotating basis. When it’s their turn to host, the department chooses a place of worship within their district where all gather together to remember those friends we have lost in the past year. After the service, a small luncheon is provided where department members can reunite & catch up with fellow firefighters that we may not have a chance to see on a regular basis.
In 2002, the fire departments in the Town of Irondequoit celebrated the 50th anniversary of this Memorial Service. As we begin our next 50-plus years, these departments have asked the Irondequoit Police Department & Irondequoit Ambulance to join us every year as we become one family in celebrating the lives of all of our lost members. The Irondequoit Fire Departments, Irondequoit Police Department & Irondequoit Ambulance work together on a daily basis to help protect the lives & property of Irondequoit’s residents. We feel honored to gather together, as Brothers & Sisters of the Town of Irondequoit, and remember, mourn & celebrate the lives of all of our friends who have given of themselves to the family that is Irondequoit’s Emergency Services.
In Albany on October 7, 2014, Laurelton firefighters Bernie Bauman and Arthur Sink were recognized at the New York State Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial and their names were engraved on the wall recognizing NYS Line-Of-Duty deaths. A contingent from Laurelton attended the ceremony. With tireless and time consuming effort, then Lieutenant George Nalivyko searched for relatives of our two fallen firefighters. At that time, no relatives of Arthur Sink’s were able to be found, but Lieutenant Nalivyko did find Bernie Bauman’s son and reached out to him to attend the ceremony in Albany with us, and he and his wife were very happy to make the trip. They were given a proclamation from the Governor and an American flag in memory of Bernie Bauman.
After the trip to Albany, the story made the local Democrat & Chronicle newspaper and Arthur Sink’s niece saw the article, contacted one of Firefighter Sink’s daughters and she reached out to Laurelton. We were so pleased to be able to give Firefighter Sink’s proclamation and flag to his family.
Once again, Lieutenant Nalivyko energetically took it upon himself and requested to the Town of Irondequoit that a sign be erected right next to the manhole where the tragedy occurred to commemorate all four men who died that day. The Town came through and on August 27, 2015, at 10:18am, 62 years to the minute, members of the Laurelton Fire Department, the Town of Irondequoit and the town’s Department of Transportation gathered for the dedication. And this time, both firefighters had family members in attendance, as well as family members of Carl VanSchaick & Earl Richmond.
As of 2016, The National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial in Emmitsburg, MD has a pre-1981 Line-Of-Duty Death Memorial in the works. Firefighters Bauman and Sink’s names have been submitted to be included on the memorial.