The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department (WHBVFD) needs help – stat.
Despite a successful fundraiser on Thursday, February 3 – at which $15,000 was raised – the department is in desperate need of one – possibly two – ambulances.
New Chief Joseph M. Vasquez Aldana told The Courier that on February 1 the WHBVFD’s 2008 ambulance was on the scene of a two-car accident on the westbound Belt Parkway just after Lefferts Boulevard. Parked behind the vehicles in order to block the scene, the ambulance had its lights flashing. Lieutenant Ronald Corchado was in the driver’s seat; Captain Daniel Amorim and EMT Alex Razumov were walking to the patients when, according to Aldana, a Jeep Grand Cherokee with three occupants struck the back of the ambulance, lurching it forward, striking Amorim and injuring the other two WHBVFD members.
“Highway 3 officers said the car was speeding,” said Aldana. “Ron [Corchado] had the worst injuries.”
Now, more than a week later, the department is waiting to see if the better of its two ambulances is totaled.
“The damage was very significant,” he said.
The second due ambulance, said Aldana, is from 1995 and has been having engine problems.
“If the one is not totaled, we can spend money on one ambulance instead of divvying it up,” he said, noting that a new ambulance costs $135,000. “Right now we’re down to one ambulance that barely works.”
The department, with 26 active members, said Aldana, is pivotal in responding to area emergencies – and has, “in the past few months, been busy, with both ambulances active.”
“The majority of the time, when one of us goes on a call we know the patient – it’s more on a personal level,” said the Chief. “But with this economy it’s been tough – we’ve been getting cut out of grants.”
The WHBVFD, with an annual operational budget of $70,000, depends solely on grants, funding from politicians and contributions. No member is paid.
So Thursday’s fundraiser at Russo’s on the Bay – an annual event – is very important to keeping the department running.
City Councilmember Eric Ulrich, an honorary Fire Commissioner, and Tina Marie Palmiotto, who began a scholarship in her son John Anthony Palmiotto’s name, were honored that evening.
“It was really nice, but bittersweet,” said Palmiotto, who noted that a few of the WHBVFD members grew up with John and even responded to the scene of the accident that claimed his life. “I was overwhelmed with emotion. There were a lot of people in that room that support the scholarship. Every time I turned around there was someone I knew or who knew my son.”
Aldana, who is a second generation Chief of Department, sworn in at the event by his father, Joseph Vasquez Aldana, a 27-year veteran, said they still need $100,000.
If you’d like to donate, send a check or money order “care of ambulance fund” to P.O. Box 177, Howard Beach, NY 11414.