A former fire chief returns  to his old station
Vincent “Charlie” Moller outside the Sayville firehouse last weekend with family members and former firefighter colleagues. Inset: Moller seen here, center, smoking a pipe in March 1971 during a local fire that destroyed the Shoreham in Sayville.

SCN/ Perrotta and File photo

A former fire chief returns to his old station

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
8/29/2019


SAYVILLE—A former fire chief from decades past was treated with a surprise visit to his old firehouse over the weekend. 

Vincent “Charlie” Moller served as chief of the Sayville Fire Department from 1971 to 1973. Moller, a Queens native who currently resides in Osprey, Fla., worked a couple different jobs throughout his life, but was mainly a truck driver for Anderson Windows, Sears and other companies, according to his oldest son, Charlie, 77. 

However, it was his time with the Sayville Fire Department that he was most passionate about. 

Moller became a first-generation volunteer firefighter a couple years after moving with his family to the Sayville community. “He just wanted to serve his local fire department,” the oldest son recalled. 

It was during Moller’s time as first assistant chief that a fire destroyed the Shoreham Hotel and Restaurant in Sayville in March of 1971. This publication noted in its original coverage of the incident that the once-famed landmark had, during the time of the fire, become the subject of numerous complaints, ranging from accusations of being used as a speed trap for police at the end of Foster Avenue, as well as a hangout for teenagers. 

About 150 volunteer firefighters from Sayville, West Sayville, Bayport and Bohemia responded to the early morning call for “mutual aid,” according to the reports. It took around two hours after firefighters arrived on the scene to bring the fire under control. But even then, smaller pockets of flames continued for several hours. No injuries were reported at the time. 

Moller and his wife, Katherine, who skipped the trip to Sayville due to illness, are expected to celebrate their 78th anniversary this year. The couple has five children, nine grandchildren (two are deceased) and 13 great-grandchildren. Their granddaughter, Kat, was an up-and-coming jet dragster racer. She died last year during an exhibition race in her home state of Florida when a piece of debris hit her helmet. She was 24 years old. 

Kat’s mother, Debbie, who is also one of Moller’s primary caretakers, said it has been about 15 years since her father-in-law visited Long Island and his former firehouse. “He lived for it,” Debbie said, regarding his time with the department. She also recalled Moller’s early days in Florida when he came to work at her family’s auto shop. “Being a former firefighter, he was a stickler for fire safety,” she laughed. 

While Moller remained relatively quiet during the get-together, those closest to him kept repeating the same thing: “He remembers everything.” 

The department’s commissioner, Donald Corkery, joined the team while Moller was chief. “He was a funny guy, but he was serious,” Corkery said. “He did the job.” 

Robert Smith, who has been with the Sayville Fire Department for over 40 years, said a lot has changed since Moller’s time with the department. “Back then, we used to be called ‘Smoke Eaters,’” Smith said, adding that the masks, gloves and boots that firefighters wear today are much safer than they were years ago. “Now you don’t go in[to a fire] without the proper gear. The changes are all for the best.” 

Moller left Long Island in the early 1980s for upstate New York, where he stayed for a couple of years before settling in Florida. 

The former fire chief headed back home Tuesday morning.