Engine Company 328 Saved From Budget Cuts
It was announced this week, with the passing of the fiscal year 2011 budget, that Engine 328 in Far Rockaway, along with 19 other fire companies throughout the city slated for closing, has been spared by the Mayor and City Council.
Two weeks ago local firefighters, politicians, community leaders and residents protested in front of “The Big House” on 1615 Central Avenue for the “Save Engine 328” rally. The threecompany “Big House,” after surviving a wave of service reduction threats last year once again was saved from budget cuts.
The argument by politicians and fire officials at that rally was that it’s geographically necessary to maintain the local company because the nearest fire department off the peninsula is on Brookville Boulevard and South Conduit Avenue, in Rosedale, more than five miles away. With Queens sitting near the bottom of response times in the city, already 20 seconds above the citywide average of 4:02 minutes, it is necessary to maintain the current number of companies in Queens. In the event of a multi-alarm fire, help could take as long as 15 minutes to arrive from that Rosedale firehouse to the Rockaway peninsula.
Queens Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who is chairperson of the Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee and main critic of the closings, said the number of fire related fatalities has hit a 20-year low, but insisted the numbers will only rise if fire companies were to be eliminated.
Fire Department guidelines state that structural fires require a minimum response of four engines to each fire. The entire peninsula currently is covered by just six engines and three truck companies.