Southold Fire Department Captain Barry Standish always tells his trainees that “a quiet firehouse is a good firehouse.” But that still means you have to be ready when the alarm goes off.
Since he joined the Southold Fire Department eight years ago, Mr. Standish has rose through the ranks to become a training leader, head of the department’s probationary firefighter program and the volunteer in charge of the department’s juniors.
We spoke with Mr. Standish about what drives him to serve, the importance of training, and the group of firefighters who call themselves “Barry’s Brigade.”
Q: What made you become a firefighter?
A: I lost a brother in a fire. I jumped out of a second story window and I survived. And I always thought, if there was a way I could give back… this is my way of giving back.
Q: You’re also a member of the Plum Island Fire Department. Were you a Southold firefighter first?
A: No, I was a firefighter at Plum Island for a year. Then I met Billy Byrnes, who’s our chief, and told him that I’d like to join Southold Fire Department. He sponsored me for Packard Hose company.
Q: What don’t most people know about volunteering?
A: I don’t think people realize in the department, we’re like a brotherhood. We are all one. We laugh about it. We have different companies, and we bicker back and forth and there’s jokes but when it comes down to the real deal, we are all one. We stay together, we stick together. People don’t understand that.
Q: I have to ask: who are “Barry’s Brigade?”
A: [laughs] Oh yeah, my probies (probationary members).
I’m very intense [with them]. I feel if I don’t train them right and something happens to them, I’m liable. It’s all about saving your life. If you’re in there and something goes wrong, you better know how get out of there.
The fire department is all about giving and teamwork. I always say, I’m only as good as the people behind me … It’s all about teamwork. We will never leave you alone. We go there together and we go home together.
Q: Which emergency call is most memorable?
A: We had an accident up on Route 25 right by the town beach. This gentleman hit three cars and it was really my first motor vehicle accident. I grab the Jaws [of Life] and we run over to cut this guy out of the car and this guy was — I hate to say — mangled.
We put him on a board, we dragged him out to the helicopter on the town beach. I was so upset. I went home and prayed for this guy.
You don’t know what happens when they leave, because we never see them again. A year later, the guy showed up at our rescue meeting to thank us and I could not believe it.
Q: What keeps you volunteering?
A: I think it’s giving. It’s just a good feeling. We don’t do it for money. You have to have it inside.