2010-06-11 / Front Page

‘Save Engine 328’ Rally

Set For Wednesday, June 16
By Nicholas Briano
The community is out to rescue a lifesaving service that might well be eliminated by the end of the summer, due to the continuing draconian budget cuts ordered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Engine 328, part of the “Big House” in Far Rockaway, is once again on the budgetary chopping block. Engine 328, part of the “Big House” in Far Rockaway, is once again on the budgetary chopping block. On June 16 at noon, the community will hold a “Save Engine 328” rally in front of the “Big House,” the Far Rockaway fire station at 1615 Central Avenue.

After surviving a wave of service reductions this time last year, the local engine company is slated to be eliminated from the three-company Big House in Far Rockaway if the proposed closures are approved by the FDNY. So say firefighters who work on the engine and were told to get ready to shut down operations by the end of the summer.

The firefighters told The Wave this week that the closing of one of the two engine companies stationed at the firehouse would put the community at risk.

“We are such an isolated community,” one of the firefighters, who asked not to be identified because he has no permission to speak with the press, said. “In most places fire apparatus come from all directions to help out. There are no other directions in Far Rockaway, because we are surrounded by the bay, the ocean and Nassau County.”

He added, “in addition, the community is growing, with new apartment houses and new commercial buildings, as well as new schools. One engine company is not going to be able to handle the load.”

While fire department officials would not confirm the closing, saying only that “a number of companies would be closed, but no decision has yet been made as to which will be involved in the closings,” locals say the word is out to the companies that they will be closing and to get ready to shut down operation.

“[The department] won’t say anything official until they have to notify the community boards that their companies are on the list,” the firefighter added. “That will be sometime in July.”

At this week’s Community Board 14 meeting Chief McGrath of Battalion 47 said publically that none of the fire houses in Rockaway is slated to close. However, politicians and community activists will still be out in force next week to protest the proposal.

The law requires that the city notify a community board of any service closings in its district 45 days prior to the closing. However, the community boards do not meet in July or August, which would give the community a place to sound-off and possibly offer an alternative solution.

According to Fire Department guidelines, a typical fire requires a minimum response of four engines, even though the entire peninsula currently has just six engines and three truck companies.

Firefighters on the peninsula and politicians contend that it is geographically necessary to maintain the amount of fire department staff because the nearest fire department off the peninsula is on Brookville Boulevard and South Conduit Avenue, in Rosedale, more than five miles away from certain points of Rockaway. In the event of a multi-alarm fire, help could take as long as 15 minutes to arrive on the peninsula.

No case is perhaps a better example than the February 2007 six-alarm fire at 1056 Neilson Street, a six-story apartment building that is blocks from the Nassau County border. In this case the backup available was located in Hollis. Responding assistance, Battalion 54, had to travel in a circuitous course through Nassau County and eventually back into Far Rockaway, more than nine miles from their firehouse in Hollis.

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