Carrying on a long family tradition of serving within the Mineola Fire Department, former chief of the village’s fire department, Brian Santosus, was recently honored for his distinguished service during the Mineola Fire Department’s Installation Dinner after completing his sixth and final term as chief.
Looking back, Santosus said it was a great and rewarding experience when he was chief, even with the long list of responsibilities that the chief must oversee on a daily basis.
“Well you are it,” said Santosus, who is a city firefighter with Ladder 142 in Ozone Park, Queens. “The buck stops there, so you have the day-to-day operations of the entire department. Every day for the fire chief, there’s a fire, not literally a real fire, but there is always some type of fire that you have to put out whether there’s a personnel issue or there’s maintenance of the equipment or you have your general daily alarms—every day there are alarms that go off that the fire department is responding to. There’s just not a real fire every day, so you oversee the budget. I like to say ‘it’s the laundry and morale.’ You have to do it all.”
Although not taking all the credit, Santosus said that his job wouldn’t be possible without the other village firefighters that he worked with during his time.
“It’s not one guy that makes the chief or even a good chief, it’s the guys that I had under me,” said Santosus. “I had a support staff that was unbelievable between my father, and chief [Robert] Connolly and chief [Andrew] Martone, who were working directly under me. They were my two assistant chiefs and then all of my line officers and just the regular guys in the firehouse and the senior membership. My support staff was second to none and without those guys I wouldn’t have been a good chief. They made it possible.”
“Without those guys like Richard Nicolello and Ed Ra, as well as the village board in Mineola, and Scott Strauss, those guys are a pleasure to work with,” said Santosus. “Very rarely did you hear the word ‘no’ out of these guy’s mouths. They really have their finger on the pulse and they want what’s best for any community, not just the mayor of Mineola for Mineola, but Ed Ra and Rich Nicolello, who are so well rounded. They’re all great guys.”
As a village firefighter, one thing that Santosus loves most about Mineola is how diverse it truly is.
“This could get me in trouble, but I love the diversity of Mineola,” laughed Santosus. “What I mean by that is we are a small city, so we have every building type imaginable. We have your mid- to high rise, we have your multiple dwellings, your two or three family homes and then your single-dwelling homes as well as the major rail road that runs through here. So my idea of what I love so much about Mineola is that I love the city feel to it. I love how densely populated it is. That’s me though. You know what’s going on with the building boom in Mineola…I love it, but most guys don’t. I just love the diversity of Mineola and what we call in the fire service the fire load that we’re always up against. My guys are so diverse, which Mineola is way different and much more unique than many other communities around us.”
When Santosus became the department’s fire chief, it was a proud moment for his family, especially for his father Louis Santosus, who was chief and warden of the department himself many years ago.
“It was a very proud moment when he became chief because he really followed in my footsteps and it was great to see that happen,” said Louis. “He was following a tradition. I followed my uncle and now my son has followed me. At a very young age, he would ride with me in the chief’s car for fire calls. Firefighting is in your blood, you either love it or you hate it, and he loved it.”
According to Louis, what his son was able to accomplish as the department’s chief was nothing short of amazing.
“He’s a young man and he has a technique of getting people interested and keeping them interested,” Louis explained. “He’s the type of person that can get anyone to do just about anything because of the way he talks to them and the way he acts. They look to follow him because he’s a leader.”
So what’s next for Santosus when it comes to the Mineola Fire Department?
“I’m going to be backstep Brian,” laughed Santosus. “That’s firefighter terminology, which means the backstep is basically what we call it when we’re riding in the cab again with the guys.”