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Dec 29, 2017 2:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

A Familiar Face Is Leading Quogue's Volunteer Firefighters

Quogue Fire Chief Chris Osborne. VALERIE GORDON
Jan 2, 2018 1:08 PM

Quogue Village’s newest fire chief won’t need much time to acclimate himself to his duties.

In addition to serving as the village’s full-time code enforcement officer for the past 18 years, Chris Osborne previously served as chief of the Quogue Fire Department for four years—from 2009 to 2012—prior to his reelection to the volunteer outfit’s top post in early December.

“It’s definitely exciting,” said Chief Osborne, who was unanimously elected to another two-year term on December 4 by his fellow firefighters, and who officially started his position on December 15. “We’re moving forward with a lot of training and new people.”

The 51-year-old Quiogue resident, who has volunteered with the fire department for nearly 17 years, replaces longtime volunteer John Sipala, who will now serve as a warden.

In a recent interview, Chief Osborne explained that a priority of his new tenure will be to continue his predecessor’s renewed focus on training for the department’s 62 members. Because his volunteers do not respond to a lot of calls—the Quogue Fire Department averages between 190 and 200 alarms annually—Chief Osborne said they do not typically receive a lot of hands-on training, and that is why it is crucial for them to be able to hone their skills during live training exercises.

To that end, Chief Osborne said he recently met with the Village Board to see if any houses in the village that are scheduled for demolition could possibly be used for a live burn drill prior to being knocked down. He noted that fire department officials secured two homes in 2017, and could have access to three more in 2018. Additionally, the new chief said he wants his volunteers to work more closely with their counterparts in East Quogue, Westhampton Beach and Flanders under his watch.

“They work in a hazardous environment, and we want to try and cut down the risk to make sure that after our volunteers are done doing their job they go home to their families,” Chief Osborne said.

Mr. Sipala, who did not return calls this week, explained in a previous interview that the village’s volunteer firefighters typically respond to fewer than 200 alarms each year—a fraction of what other nearby departments must respond to annually. Quogue’s volunteers are only required to attend five three-hour training sessions annually, putting some at a disadvantage during alarms as they don’t usually receive a lot of training.

To help swing things back in their favor, Quogue’s firefighters are encouraged to log several hours of “confidence training” in the basement of the firehouse. According to the new chief, the area features plywood so it resembles the interior of a house. Firefighters then participate in drills.

“The guys need to get really confident with what they’re doing in hazardous conditions,” he said. “It’s important to get a variety of training.”

Ensuring that his firefighters receive ample training is not the only challenge facing Chief Osborne, who is married with three children. He must also work to balance his family with his professional demands. He credited his wife, Jamie, and their three sons—Ryan, 21, Patrick, 20, and Benjamin, 18—for allowing him to pursue a career as a volunteer firefighter.

“It is demanding to be an officer these days and it’s not easy to volunteer your time,” he said. “I think a lot of guys would agree that if you don’t have a strong wife behind you you’re going to have a problem.”

While she does not serve in the department, Ms. Osborne still volunteers when she can, often bringing sandwiches and snacks to firefighters when they are called into action during emergencies, including blizzards and hurricanes.

“The biggest thing I always tell everyone is we don’t get a paycheck,” the chief said. “The paycheck is when someone says, ‘Thank you for what you’ve done for me and my family.’”

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...hold on to your butts
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (590), southampton on Dec 29, 17 5:00 PM
Congratulations, Chris!
By Robert I Ross (241), Hampton Bays on Dec 29, 17 6:16 PM
Perhaps there is a leader who may be prompted for something more...
By Mr. Z (10697), North Sea on Dec 30, 17 12:08 AM
Chris Osborne belongs in a mental hospital, not in a leadership position. What’s he going to do? Scream at and threaten fires? What a joke. No wonder the QFD has the lowest rating with insurance companies....
By G (324), Southampton on Dec 30, 17 1:46 PM
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