June 27, 2007

Firefighters fan the flames of learning

Onondaga County students attend a fire science program at the C’ville fire station.


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Allie Milano, 13, learns about the forces behind a fire hose during a program teaching Onondaga County students the science of firefighting at Cortlandville Fire Department on Tuesday.

Staff Reporter

Moments after dousing a cauldron of hot diesel flames with a fire extinguisher outside the Cortlandville Fire Station, ninth-grader Rozalyn Johnson spoke excitedly about the chemistry involved in the extinguisher and the elemental makeup of fire.
Then she paused, smiled, and admitted that, beyond the interesting science involved, putting out the flames was simply “cool.”
“I guess I’ve always kind of had an interest in pyrotechnics,” Johnson said. “So when someone said fire, and all the science behind it, it sounded like quite a lot of fun.”
Johnson, who attends Grant Middle School in Syracuse, was one of 17 students who were treated Tuesday to a strong dose of science, along with some up-close excitement, by members of the Cortlandville, Homer, Cortland and Marathon fire departments.
The students were among 40 total students in Onondaga County — one from each middle school — participating in Science Horizons, an intensive, one-week program sponsored by Bristol-Meyers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company with a facility in Syracuse, that allows students hands-on experience with various types of science, said Ben Gnacik, a teacher at Frasier Middle School.
These particular students chose the Cortlandville demonstration, which was arranged by Syracuse University professor and Marathon volunteer firefighter John Tillotson, over two other available field trips Tuesday, Gnacik said.
“We wanted to teach the kids something about the science involved in firefighting,” said Tillotson, who teaches science education at the university. “And it’s also a great way to teach them about the work firefighters do, and spread a little bit of fire awareness.”
Students Brian Goodnough and Justin Kieber-King received an introduction to the struggles firefighters face as they enter a dark room to look for people in a fire, weighed down by heavy equipment and unable to see through a heavy gas mask.
The two students were given the seemingly simple task of entering a darkened, unused meeting room and locating another student, who was hiding, playing the “victim,” beneath a table.
Tillotson instructed them to stay low — while there was no fire in this case, heat always rises, he pointed out — and to always hold on to the lead searcher’s ankle, so as not to lose one another.
After about 10 minutes of running into walls and getting tangled up in chairs, Goodnough and Kieber-King said they had a new respect for firefighters.
“It’s really hard to move, you can’t see, and all the equipment is getting caught up in stuff,” Goodnough said. “It was definitely hard, I could see it really tiring someone out in an actual fire.”
Tillotson pointed out that, thanks to a new, fiber-carbon wrap material used for the firefighters’ air tanks, the equipment is actually significantly lighter than it used to be.
“After a while it gets pretty depressing because you can’t see anything, and for all you know you’ve already missed the person you’re looking for,” Kieber-King said.
Firefighters showed students a thermal imaging camera used to locate someone in a fire, and many were impressed by how sensitive to heat the camera is.
“I thought it was pretty interesting that it could pick up your footprints — the heat from your shoes transferred down to the floor — after you stepped away,” said Gabby Santoferrara from Solvey Middle School.
She added that part of the reason she was interested in the Cortlandville program was because her father is a firefighter.
Nicole Peinkofer said she was most impressed by a demonstration of the various tools firefighters use to rescue people from automobile crashes.
Capt. Pat Carrier, of the Cortlandville Department, had wowed the students by removing the windshield of a car with a small saw in a matter of seconds and then removing the door of the car with a large spreading tool known commonly as the “jaws of life.”
“My dad was actually in a car accident and he got pulled out thanks to one of those, so I thought that was really cool,” Peinkofer said.
Tully student Nick Paccia said he was interested in all of the demonstrations.
“I was amazed how much pressure is pushing back on you when you use the hose,” Paccia said.
Gnacik said the students will be going on similar field-science trips the rest of the week, including an extended tour of Bristol-Meyers Squibb this morning.
“It’s so typical, if you have an interest in science, to just sort of assume well you’ve got to be a doctor, so this program is aimed at allowing students to experience all different fields of science,” Gnacik said.



Wal-Mart facade design approved

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 gained a handful of approvals Tuesday from the town planning and zoning boards.
Planning Board members settled on a colonial-style facade design and the zoning board granted three sign variances for the project.
Wal-Mart architect Steve Thompson, of Rochester-based Bergmann Associates, made his fourth appearance before the Planning Board since the beginning of May, presenting two versions of the facade for the project.
Although both were done in brick and earth tones, the board preferred the version that did not include false facade streetscape elements reminiscent of a row of narrow stores.
The board had asked for a colonial design and that the front of the store not be too heavy on horizontal lines.
A previous proposal had included several bright colors in a streetscape design, which Planning Board member Nick Renzi had called “garish.”
His assessment remained the same, in reference to anything incorporating streetscape features.
“It’s simple; it’s elegant,” Renzi said of the accepted design.
The variances allow for a freestanding sign with an area greater than normally allowed, a building-mounted sign to be illuminated and for a greater number of building mounted signs than is usually allowed.
Wal-Mart engineer Stephanie Albright, with Rochester-based APD Engineering, said more signs had been provided to direct customers around the northwestern corner of the 208,000 square foot building and through the drive-thru pharmacy lane on the eastern side of the building.


SUNY Cortland alumnus ‘left his mark’ as firefighter

Thousands attend funeral for Daniel Pujdak, who died Thursday after falling from a roof while fighting a blaze in Brooklyn

From staff and wire reports
NEW YORK — At 23, firefighter Daniel Pujdak, a 2005 SUNY Cortland graduate, was already a hero — eulogized by his city’s mayor.
Thousands of firefighters saluted one of their own as Pujdak’s casket arrived on a fire truck at St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood for the funeral Mass on Tuesday.
Pujdak died Thursday after falling from a roof in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood — less than a mile from the Greenpoint home where, days earlier, his tight-knit family gathered to celebrate his younger brother’s graduation from SUNY Cortland. He was the fire department’s first fatality since 2006.
It was a routine run: a small apartment fire, apparently caused by a careless smoker. But for Daniel Pujdak, with less than two years on the job at Ladder 146, it was the last call of his career.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told mourners that firefighting “gave Daniel the deep satisfaction that comes from serving and protecting others and it meant a great deal to him when he was assigned to Captain (Jerry) Horton’s command at Ladder 146 here in the community that he loved so well.”
Despite majoring in kinesiology, or exercise science, at SUNY Cortland, Pudjak always strived to be a firefighter, said Sherry Snell, secretary to the chair of the Physical Education Department at Cortland.
Snell worked closely with Pudjak while he was at Cortland — he was a work-study student for four years with her department.
“He talked about it a lot — his passion was always to become a firefighter back in his hometown,” Snell said. “He was one of those kids who was always wanting to help out. Quiet, but when he smiled, you could see he was just a genuine caring individual.”
Pudjak’s family confirmed that he had died working at a job he had wanted since he was a child.
“He always talked about helping people,” Matthew Pujdak told the Daily News. “He wanted to make people’s lives a little better.”
“I never worried about him,” said Matthew Pujdak. “I was confident that he could handle himself.”
Staff reporter Corey Preston contributed to this article.


Grants to aid students with disabilities

Cortland, Groton school  districts and OCM BOCES given $2.6 million to prepare the students for jobs, college.

Staff Reporter

Cortland, Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES and Groton school districts are among the 60 Model Transition Project grants awarded a total $41 million for the next three and a half years to benefit students with disabilities at about 150 high schools.
All of the state Education Department grants — which fund programs to prepare students with disabilities for jobs or college — collaborate with local Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities.
The Cortland grant of $680,334 does not have any partner school districts, but it does partner with the J.M. Murray Center, Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, Tompkins Cortland Community College and Access for Independence, said Judi Riley, assistant superintendent for Pupil and Personnel Services.
Riley said the grant would allow the district to hire a school psychologist to do vocational assessments and provide a lead role in the oversight of the program.
She said the grant would also support hiring a clerical worker, someone to work with parents and one to two employment specialists. She said some of the employees would be hired through the J.M. Murray Center.
“We were thrilled when we received notification of the grant,” Riley said.
The OCM BOCES grant totals $1,273,046 and will serve about 400 students at OCM BOCES campuses in addition to two high schools in the Syracuse area — Westhill and Marcellus.
Judy Frumkin, director of special education at OCM BOCES, said all the campuses would be involved, including the McEvoy Center in Cortlandville. She said about 400 students with disabilities would be served during the life of the grant.
She said the grant would give students with disabilities career experience and the chance to explore different occupations.
Pam DiPaola, director of special services and grants in the Lansing School District, said five school districts, including Groton, collaborated and applied together for their $653,529 grant. The other districts are Candor, South Seneca and Trumansburg.




Woman indicted in Dryden toddler death

A Dryden woman was indicted this morning for the murder and sexual assault of her 2-year-old niece, according to the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office.
The Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office said this morning that Marie A. Manos, 34, of 758 Ringwood Road, Apt. 2, was indicted on charges of second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse, felonies, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
Manos is accused of holding Grace Manos’s head underwater in a bathtub at her home and sexually abusing the girl on May 16. The girl died a day later at University Hospital from injuries sustained from the attack, police said.
Officials have not released much information about the timeline of alleged crimes, but have said Manos was a regular babysitter for the child.
Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson said Manos confessed to the crime on videotape while in police custody.
Manos is in the custody of Tompkins County Jail without bail. She did not have a court date in Tompkins County Court scheduled as of this morning.