Fifty-three year Brewster Fire Department firefighter, Ex-Captain Robert "Bunky" Burns passed away on December 30,2022. My first remembrance I have of him was his southern drawl on our fire frequency. I was amazed that he was never south of Brewster!
When Bunky was a child, his father had a horse farm in Brewster. The road was called "Pony Road" by the Brewster natives and is now called Putnam Avenue (near Frank's Automotive). He and his brother had horses named "Happy" and "Rocket". They would ride their horses up the hill into the woods which is now Brewster Heights.
After Bunky grew up, he became a member of the Operating Engineers Union. He was a bulldozer operator. During the construction of the Sprain Brook Parkway, he operated FAT ALICE. Fat Alice was a bulldozer that was twenty-seven feet wide and nine feet tall. It was the biggest bulldozer on the East Coast. Three tractor trailers brought the three pieces to the site where it was then assembled. A ladder was needed to get up to the cab. It would push eight trailer loads of fill at a time.
Bunky also worked on the construction of Interstate 684 as well as I 84. He generally concentrated on the embankment grading. One day he was working on I 684 near the Swan Deli on Rt. 22. A game warden accused him of breaking some swan eggs to speed up the road project. He denied it and then whistled. A flock of birds and ducks surrounded them. Bunky took out some bread and fed them. He said: " I love animals. I would never hurt them, especially the swans." (One or more young people were apprehended for the incident).
Bunky was Captain of Company 1, the water source company. Drafting water is important because our hydrant system is limited. He was an excellent handler of the Hose Reel truck. The Hose Reel truck was used as a portable hydrant system. It held four thousand feet of five inch hose. He helped construct and maintain fire roads in the Town of Southeast. The most difficult fire road to construct was the road over Marvin Mountain. That Marvin Mountain fire road was necessary because of the numerous fires along the railroad tracks.
If you were to ask the old-timers in the Brewster Fire Department, they could tell you many funny stories involving Bunky.
We appreciate your service and miss you.
Ex-Chief Thomas Hughes provided much of the above information.
Frank Becerra provided the first eight pictures and the the last picture for this article.
The author has been a member of the Brewster Fire Department since 1976 and a member of Bunky's Company 1.