The New York Fire Patrol is Arnold Roma’s passion and he will doeverything he can to revitalize it.
Retired police officer, registered nurse and volunteerfirefighter, Roma is doing his best to bring back the non-profitfire patrol right here in southwest Brooklyn to honor his son,Keith, who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks while workingwith it.
Keith worked in the same firehouse as I did – only 25 yearslater, Staten Islander Roma said, noting that he is eyeing anunused firehouse in Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park as a spot to storeequipment.
It was a great job being with the oldest fire organization inthe U.S. Our job was to save lives and after that was to saveproperty damage, he added.
Roma explained that the 200-year-old patrol not only savedlives, but did what it could to save fire victims’ keepsakes, pets,medication, medical devices and strongbox contents.
We did everything we could to keep residents in their homesafter a fire, he explained. People would love it because theydidn’t have to leave their homes and insurance companies loved itbecause they did not have to pay relocation fees.
But the patrol was shut down a few years ago when upstatecompanies funding it voted to disband.
In a way I can’t blame them. You have car companies and autoinsurance companies paying for fire patrol, Roma said. We weredoing things that these insurance companies couldn’t care lessabout, but the people care. It was the best job I ever had – youhelped people at their lowest moments.
Roma said that the new operation would be much smaller. Insteadof a company of 100, it will start out at less than 50 and will becomposed of retired police officers and firefighters, cutting costsfurther.
We have the support of unions, the mayor and the firecommissioner, Roma said, noting that he also got letters ofsupport from the Staten Island and Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce.Everyone wants us back because they know we are going to make adifference. We just have to get this legislation through to be anemergency service.
Currently, the patrol is incorporated as a 501c3 charity. But inorder for the patrol to operate as emergency first responders, theAssembly must pass a bill – the Keith Roma Fire Patrol Legislation- which is sponsored by State Senators Andrew Lanza and MartyGolden. The Bill is pending in Assemblymember James Brennan’scommittee.
We needed a new bill because technically it is a neworganization, Roma explained. It gives us permission to go behindfire lines. Without the bill, we have no authority to respondquickly and work as emergency first responders.
Roma said the patrol will be funded mostly by grants. Wealready got a grant from Homeland Security for $125,000 and put infor two additional ones, he said. The next step is to ask forfunding from councilmembers.
Roma said he hopes the patrol gets on its feet, at least for hisson’s sake. It’s about honoring my son and the other 31 memberslost in the line of duty, he said. This is my passion here. It’snot about the money. I am doing it in honor of my son and the goodpeople of our city.