Fighting fires is a family affair

Bazarewski, along with her father and brother, helped extinguish an East Meadow house fire last month, sparing much of the home from destruction.
Bazarewski, along with her father and brother, helped extinguish an East Meadow house fire last month, sparing much of the home from destruction.
Courtesy John O'Brien

On March 24, North Bellmore firefighters, including all department chiefs, responded to a house fire on Cayuga Avenue in East Meadow. “We’re going to work,” was the call that came from dispatch, according to East Meadow ex-Chief John O’Brien.

Three of the 80 firefighters who tackled the blaze, sparing much of the house from destruction, were family: Kaitlyn Bazerewski; her father, ex-Chief Robert Bazarewski; and her brother, firefighter Nicholas Bazarewski.

After two decades of firehouse life, Kaitlyn, 26, made North Bellmore F.D. history on March 7, when she became the department’s first female captain, leading Company 2. She is following the example of her father, a 30-year department veteran who is now a commissioner.

“I grew up there,” Kaitlyn said. “I was always going with [my father] to parades, sporting events, races . . . Summer was always barbecues with those guys.”

Kaitlyn also works as a New York Police Department officer in the 103rd Precinct, conducting midnight patrols in Jamaica, Queens. She joined the Fire Department in 2013, and her brother followed two years ago.

At the Cayuga Avenue call, Kaitlyn and Nicholas were inside the house, pulling ceilings and walls to take down hidden pockets of fire and helping to put the fire out in 30 minutes.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said this week. “It’s a great experience being at a fire like that and having family by your side.”

Growing up in a fire department family meant that Kaitlyn learned some of the workings early, attending drills and ceremonial dinners. She called her friends’ parents uncles because “that’s how close we were.”

Her best friend from childhood is still her friend. Arthur White III joined the department at the same time as Kaitlyn, and they moved up through the ranks together. White served as captain until this year, when Bazarew-ski succeeded him.

She said she received some of her preparation for the new responsibility after Arthur’s father, ex-Chief Arthur White Jr., died last June. Kaitlyn took on many of Arthur III’s tasks as captain while also helping with funeral preparations. “I was being a leader in the firehouse . . . while the captain was mourning his father,” she said.

First Assistant Chief Brendan Narrell said last week that he has known Kaitlyn since she was young, and although it’s exciting for the department to elect a female captain, in Bazarewski’s case, he was not surprised.

“I can’t say enough great things about her,” Narrell said. “She’s worked incredibly hard to get to where she is. She’s an excellent firefighter and an excellent leader. She’s done a lot of great stuff for her company on the administrative and training side.”

Kaitlyn said that her father, as an ex-captain and chief, and current commissioner, is “definitely happy” about her move up.

“He would say it’s nice to see that being in the firehouse when I was younger, I grew up and wanted to follow in his footsteps and give back to the community,” she said.

Kaitlyn spoke matter-of-factly in an interview last week when describing the responsibilities that she will take on as captain, and the feeling of facing danger alongside her close family members and friends.

At the firehouse, she said, she will handle the day-to-day operations of running the building — “making sure new membership is getting training from senior membership, maintaining the fire trucks, making sure everything’s in working order,” she said.

As for the family business: “We get along well, which makes the job a little easier.”