More than three months after a fire forced the Queens Village Hollis Bellerose Volunteer Ambulance Corps out of its headquarters, the organization is ready to return to operations on Braddock Avenue - albeit in a 10-by-46-foot trailer by the curb.
Since the Feb. 21 blaze almost totally destroyed the inside of the corps' offices at 235-01 Braddock Ave., the volunteers have relied on the generosity of the Jamaica Estates Holliswood South Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps, sharing that facility's office space and ambulance parking. But with the arrival of the new trailer May 31, Marty Braun, the corps' first vice president, said the only remaining obstacle was getting the electricity turned on.
"Everything seems to take a lot of permits and a lot of time," he said.
It also takes flexibility. Braun predicted changes as the crew adapted to a facility with one-quarter the space to which they were accustomed.
"We're going to have to restructure how our crews operate," he said. "We'll have to cut back to the bare minimum."
That means little or no furniture and nothing in the way of crew entertainment. Much of the clerical work will have to be done at volunteers' homes. And crews will either have to use a portable bathroom or rely on the continued generosity of the Jamaica Estates corps.
But Braun said the volunteers do not intend to work out of the trailer any longer than they have to. Ambitious renovation plans are in place for the old building. The training room in the rear is slated to become a garage and a new second story will be built to house the displaced training room.
Getting the $100,000 ambulances off the street was a priority, Braun said. In addition to the danger from thieves or vandals, he said there was a good deal of sensitive equipment, such as defibrillators, which could be damaged by the cold. He added that the community was also eager for the parking spaces that move would free up.
The project is expected to cost $450,000. That money should come from the insurance settlement from the fire, donations from the corps' recent fund drives and grants Braun hopes to obtain.
Braun, 35, has volunteered for the corps since he was a child. He recalled when the organization first moved into the building in 1973.
"They modified it from a bar," he said. "The back room became the training room. The bar was removed and additional office space was added downstairs."
The building sustained heavy interior damage when fire broke out Feb. 21 shortly after 3 p.m. Two off-duty volunteers eating lunch across the street alerted the Fire Department when they saw smoke. Other than a firefighter who strained a back muscle, there were no injuries.
Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2003 Community News Group
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