Thomas Golden isn’t new to Port Washington and certainly not the Port Washington Fire Department.
Golden, whose Port Washington roots date back generations, first volunteered with the fire department in 1986 at the age of 18.
Some 33 years later at the age of 51, Golden has now been elected the 51st chief of the department he has spent over half of his life serving.
Golden said his interest in serving began with visits with his aunt to the Flower Hill Hose Company when he was five-years-old. He was later convinced to join Protection Engine Company by his cousin Richard with whom he served side-by-side.
He always knew he wanted to help others so he basically had a choice between becoming a police officer or a firefighter, he said.
“I accomplished both those goals,” Golden said. For his paid profession, he served in the NYPD from which he is now retired.
While being employed as a police officer, Golden moved through the ranks in his hometown fire department, first serving as a captain in 2000 followed by 2nd assistant chief and 1st assistant chief.
As chief, he succeeds Bryan Vogeley, another lifelong Port resident, who served in the position from 2017 until March of this year.
Vogeley serves in the department with his father, Rev. Charles R. Vogeley, who is the department chaplain.
Golden said he and his predecessors worked great as a team and he learned a great deal from them.
Chief Brian Waterson, who Golden served under as 2nd assistant chief, now serves as the 1st assistant chief under Golden.
“I am very fortunate to have Chief Waterson underneath me because he’s been there,” Golden said. “He knows the routine, he’s there to assist.”
Matthew Kerin now serves as the 2nd assistant chief, which Golden says members of the department call “the baby chief.”
Kerin also works with the Nassau County Fire Marshal’s Office as one of the dog handlers.
“We have a lot of talent,” Golden said. ‘I have a great team around me.”
The Port Washington Fire Department consists of around 300 volunteers in four companies; Protection Engine, Flower Hill Hose, Fire Medic and Atlantic Hose and Ladder companies.
Golden discussed how changing work trends have affected the former surplus of volunteer responders.
He said back when he first started, everybody worked in Port Washington, whether it be for the town, Lewis Oil, the water department, or Port’s many “mom and pop” stores.
“During the day time, then you had a lot more people responding as volunteers because they were in town,” Golden said. “Today is a little more of a struggle because most people are working second jobs or working out of town.”
His goal as chief is to continue to provide the best service and care to his community. “Hopefully during my time, we don’t have anyone hurt or seriously hurt, and no major fires,” he said.
In the future, Golden said, he hopes to upgrade the department’s radios, which he said in certain areas get interference from nearby cell phone towers.
He said under Vogely, the department upgraded their Scott Paks, which is the self-contained breathing devices the firefighters wear when responding to a fire.
Golden said he enjoys being involved in Port Washington and offering a helping hand for community events. Recently, the department provided a fire boat for Port Rowing’s Row for Autism.
Golden said every year the department sends a fire truck and firefighters to visit the schools in Port Washington to teach students about fire safety.
Though he said, “when it all comes down to it, they really just want to look at the truck.”