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There has been death, laughter and camaraderie to last a lifetime.
In the past 100 years, firefighters at Blissville’s Ladder 128 in Long Island City have put their lives on the line for residents in western Queens and have become like brothers in the process, those celebrating the company’s centennial said last week.
“My father, he died in the line of duty here in 1964,” Bob Remhild, formerly of Flushing and now of Long Island, said of his father, Edwin Remhild. “He loved this place. The fire department is a very unique organization. You’re very proud to be a part of it.”
Ladder 128 has played an integral role in the community over the past 100 years, and the stories from within the house were feted as that which makes a life complete by the hundreds who attended Friday’s celebration at the Blissville location. The firehouse covers the areas of Blissville, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
“Ladder 128 has produced some true strong leaders,” Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said. “%u2026 You’ve responded to some of the toughest fires we’ve had. Members of Ladder 128 have served this city with distinction.”
Chief of Department Edward Kilduff called the centennial a tremendous milestone for the firehouse, nicknamed “tombstone territory” thanks to its location across from Calvary Cemetery, one of the largest and oldest burial grounds in the country.
“This is one of the most diverse areas in the city,” Kilduff said. “You have everything here from high-rises to tunnels to rail yards. The commercial buildings are extreme challenges for anybody. A place like this really represents the heart and soul in the Fire Department.”
The neighborhood has changed dramatically in the last century, Uniformed Fire Officers Association representative Eddie Boles noted.
“One time it was farms, then it was industrial and now there are high-rises coming in,” Boles said. “But some things never change — the thrill it is to go out every day and help people.”
Ladder 128 Capt. James Mills complimented current and former firefighters, saying the individuals gave their all no matter what.
“The quality and caliber of the men and women in this job never cease to amaze me,” Mills said. “From the new guys to the senior firefighters, I think we’re moving in the right direction and we’re prepared to meet the challenges of the next 100 years.”
The ceremony was often emotional for the firefighters, many of whom gave decades of their lives to the organization.
Middle Village resident John Killcommons, a 30-year veteran of Ladder 128 who started working there 50 years ago, said one of the worst fires he fought was when the Chiclet gum factory on the Brooklyn waterfront blew up in 1976.
“That was especially bad,” he said. “But we all look out for one another. We had a guy who lost a leg and we went to his house and built ramps. We always take care of each other.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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