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Phil Cammann Makes Second Bid for Fire Commish

Bridgehampton Fire District election is Dec. 11.

Philip Cammann, a volunteer in the Bridgehampton Fire Department since 1980 who helped launch the department's first responder program, will make his second run for fire commissioner next week when he faces off against Tom Dombkowski on Tuesday.

Dombkowski was appointed a few months ago to fill a seat left open when John Muse – the man who defeated Cammann seven years ago – resigned, leaving a two-year term up for grabs currently.

Cammann, who was the founding chief of Southampton Volunteer Ambulance in the late 1980s – and this past spring was named Southampton Town EMS Advisory Committee Volunteer of the Year – said he believes his experience as an emergency medical responder who is a good listener suits him well to fill Muse's shoes. 

"I think we have the potential for a good working group," said Cammann.

Cammann said that about half of Bridgehampton's 1,200 calls last year came in the form of ambulance calls, and that Muse – a former EMT – kind of served as "an unofficial rep for the EMS. I'd like to carry that torch along."

The three standing commissioners are all ex-chiefs who remain active in the department and Dean Foster – who is running unopposed to fill a five-year term as commissioner – is not a current member, providing a "voice from the community," as Cammann said.

"The three members on the board right now bring a wealth of knowledge as far as being fire chiefs and knowing fire service goes," Cammann said. "What's missing is someone who represents 50 percent of the calls."

Cammann, 53, grew up in Manhattan but said Bridgehampton was always more of a home to him. His grandparents built a house in the area before he was born, and for about 30 years, ran Renovations Plus, a renovation and home improvement business. But all along, a calling nagged him to get in the emergency medical field full time.

In 2010, Cammann graduated from Stony Brook University as a paramedic and while he says he still misses his old business, he adds with a laugh, "Ask me that question on January fifth when there is two feet of snow on the ground."

He is married to Terry Hoyt, an assistant captain in the department's ambulance company who also works at Southampton Hospital. 

As far as issues facing the district goes, Cammann said he wants to see an open dialogue between the board of commissioners and the department, and as a unit itself, said the people who make up the department are its biggest assets.

"All the equipment in the world isn't going to put out fires if we don't have a good, dedicated bunch of individuals," he said, adding that recruiting and making sure the ambulance is properly staffed would be a couple of his priorities.

He also noted that running a fire district now involves more time, effort and space than it ever did, which voters recognized last year when they approved a bond referendum to purchase the Pulver Gas property for $3.9 million.

"It's not like it was 30 years ago. Now it's a business," he said. "You need office space. The job of the fire department chief used to be to go and put fires out. Now they have to put documents together for everything; we have computers in the chiefs vehicles now. And the same thing with the ambulance."

So how to balance that with keeping costs down?

"I don't have the answer to that one. But it has to be an open discussion," he said.

The election is Dec. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Fire Department on School Street. All registered voters in the district — which runs from parts of Wainscott to parts of Water Mill, and includes Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, are eligible to cast ballots.

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