The fire started in the cockloft, the space between the roof and the ceiling, said firefighter Robert Calise, a Fire Department spokesman. It was reported at 3:03 p.m. and was under control a half an hour later, but was still being investigated after being deemed suspicious, Calise said.
The fire damaged the heating and air-conditioning units, said Kathy Sexton, first vice president of the ambulance service.
The building's back rental hall was later condemned by the heating companies and damage estimators. The damage put the facility out of service, said Sexton.
She said the organization, which serves as a backup emergency service for the police, also responds to the community's needs.
The Glendale and Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance corps now respond to emergency calls until the Woodhaven returns to service.
"We have a lot of people who come down to donate their time, Sexton said. "We're mostly emergency medical technicians, and a lot of these people do this for a living, but everyone who volunteers here has their own jobs."
Sexton said the back hall and the roof sustained fire damage and the entire facility suffered water damage. "On Election Day, polls are usually set up in our back hall, but as a result of the damage, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill residents had to vote at another location," she said.
"We lost supplies and equipment and, right now, we have no heat," Sexton continued. "Basically we run solely based on volunteers so it's not state funded. It gets kind of tight, financially speaking, because we live solely on donations."
The fire took place on a particularly bad day for the volunteer ambulance corps. Sexton said the fire occurred on the organization's 35th anniversary and the ambulance was in the service station because its gas tank had been filled with bad diesel fuel.
Jon Andrew Zwally, president of the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said its call volume has increased slightly. He said the fire damage can hurt the Woodhaven facility because it will be out of the public eye for a while.
"We are also helping them out with equipment, bandages, cervical collars and we're taking their phone calls," Zwally said. "Whatever we can do."
Sexton is appealing to the community for help.
"Hopefully, the insurance will take care of most of it, but if anybody would like to donate to the ambulance corps, it doesn't have to be monetary," Sexton said. "We lost all our office supplies, all our furniture, the rugs, everything."
Donations can be sent to:
The Woodhaven Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps
P.O. Box 1211
Woodhaven, NY 11421
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