southampton politics, southampton council, craig catalanotto

Story - News

Jul 9, 2019 12:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Firefighters From Dublin Join Southampton Firefighters In Fourth Of July Parade

The Southampton Fire Department greeted 40 members of the Dublin Fire Brigade for a visit to town on Wednesday, July 3, at the fires station on Hampton Road.   CAILIN RILEY
Jul 9, 2019 2:14 PM

In late 2017, Hampton Bays resident Graham Fynes, a native of Ireland, was on a Skype call with his oldest brother, Daniel, who still lives in their native Dublin. They were an ocean apart but had remained close and, along with their other brother, Chris, were all following in the family tradition of working as firefighters—Daniel and Chris as full-time paid employees of the Dublin Fire Brigade, the largest fire service in Ireland, and Graham as a volunteer with the Southampton Fire Department.

While they were talking that night, Daniel had an idea. What if they arranged a trip for members of the Southampton Fire Department to travel to Dublin to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade? Graham said he liked it, and promised to mention it to his fellow firefighters.

He then presented the idea to Matt Shimkus and several other Southampton firefighters at a Halloween party, not sure what the response would be.

“They were, like, ‘That would be amazing!’” Graham said, recounting the conversation while at the Southampton firehouse on Hampton Road last week, waiting for his brothers, father, and several other members of the Dublin brigade to arrive at the station. “They were really into it.”

He added, “But we were all drinking, so I thought maybe the next day they’d forget about it. But then Matt rings me the next day and says, ‘So when are we booking our flights?’”

In March 2018, several members of the Southampton Fire Department spent five days in Dublin, marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and spending time with members of both departments and the Fynes family, including Graham’s father, Damien Fynes, a retired district officer with the brigade.

The trip was such a hit that they repeated it this past March.

And, last weekend, the Southampton Fire Department returned the favor, serving as hosts for members of the Dublin Fire Brigade over the Fourth of July weekend. A group of 40 Irish firefighters arrived in Southampton on Wednesday afternoon, July 3, getting their first cultural experience—Hamptons-bound holiday traffic—moments after stepping off the plane.

They arrived to the firehouse more than an hour later than expected, but it did not seem to diminish their spirits. After dropping off their belongings and freshening up at the dormitories at Stony Brook Southampton College, where they stayed through the holiday weekend, they pulled into the Southampton Fire Department on Hampton Road riding on fire department trucks, to applause and cheers from their American peers.

Hugs and greetings were exchanged, and they spoke among themselves about their plans for the weekend, which included marching in the Southampton Village Fourth of July Parade, trips to the beach, and a United States vs. Ireland softball game, which promised to be interesting, given the fact that the Irishmen had little or no experience with the sport and would likely be consuming a few adult beverages throughout the course of the game.

For Graham Fynes, 29, the visits to Ireland and the chance to play host has been a gratifying experience. The youngest of three boys, he said becoming a firefighter was something he gravitated toward since he was a baby. After moving to the states to work for Summerhill Landscaping, it wasn’t necessarily an easy goal to achieve.

He lives across from the Hampton Bays Fire Department but was told he could not join because he is not a U.S. citizen. That’s the case with almost every department in Suffolk County. But in response to the desire of many nonresidents to join, the Southampton Fire Department changed its bylaws, and Mr. Fynes signed up. According to Mr. Shimkus, there are five or six other Irishmen on the force, as well as a handful of legal residents from other countries.

It has meant the world to Mr. Fynes, who grew up watching his father and other family members march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, where spectators line the streets and are packed, seven or eight people deep, behind barriers as the firefighters pass by.

“It was incredible,” Mr. Fynes said of being inside the barriers for the first time, in his home country, alongside his American firefighters. “It was a very proud moment for me to be able to do that.”

Graham stood alongside his brothers and father outside of the Southampton firehouse on Wednesday night, a broad smile across all of their faces as they spoke. They shared a laugh when asked about the differences between the two departments, saying that perhaps the best feature the Southampton department has over the Dublin brigade are the larger trucks, which, as they pointed out, matters a lot to them, since they are all well over 6 feet tall.

Of course, the Dublin brigade works in an urban area, and the vast majority of its force is made up of full-time employees. But they said they have great respect for the Southampton firefighters, putting in their time while also managing other jobs and careers. Trading stories, making lasting friendships, and seeing another perspective are all reasons why both the Irish and American firefighters say they enjoy the chance to connect with each other. But they stress that they have far more in common than one might think.

“You get to see how it’s done in different places,” Daniel Fynes said. “There might be different equipment, but, ultimately, the job is the same. We have fires, and we put them out. We have an admiration for them because they do it on their own time. But for us, whether you’re full time or volunteer, it makes no difference. It’s great to see how it’s done, and appreciate how it’s done.”

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

By E12East (2), Southampton on Jul 11, 19 10:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
Almost as boring as the parade.
By even flow (994), East Hampton on Jul 11, 19 1:57 PM
GREAT group of firefighters!! GREAT night at NS Carnival!! Will they be back next year?!?!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jul 11, 19 6:01 PM