The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department was busy helping others in the aftermath of the storm, even though they suffered severe damage to their facility and equipment.
The department lost three fire trucks, two ambulances, and life-saving equipment in flooding. However, they still used their facility to provide community members with food and any help they could provide.
The firehouse had roughly six feet of water inside at one point. While the fire trucks sat inside, they were “smothered in water,” according to Mitchell Udowitch, the fire department's treasurer.
“We had two ambulances in the firehouse that drown, along with a brush fire truck that suffered damages because it was outside during the storm,” said Mitchell Udowitch, the department's treasurer.
Likewise, some of the members who reported for duty during the hurricane had their private vehicles destroyed. “We took a big hit,” Udowitch said, “but the volunteer fire departments around the country came through for us.”
Now the firehouse is getting little help of its own. Last week, management from Duane Reade/Walgreen's were at the fire department's headquarters at 102-33 Davenport Court to present a $25,000 donation.
Jonah Cohen, chief of the department, was thankful for the donation and praised the entire Howard Beach community for volunteering its time to help each other during hurricane relief efforts. “It's nice that people volunteer their time,” he said. “It's not only us, but there are a lot of people in the community that volunteered.”
He went on to say that while it's not official, the money will likely go to buying a new ambulance.
“Being part of the community, we understand the value the volunteer fire departments bring,” said Greg Calvano, senior director of store operations for Duane Reade. “We're here to help people get well, stay well and live well, without the local officials and fire departments to help us keep our stores open we couldn't do that.”
“This is very important, this saves lives,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “This community is not safe without this fire department. They are doing something that is absolutely necessary.”
“Many people in this community would have, unfortunately, not survived without the volunteer fire department,” added Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.