by Elaine Marranzano
A retired fire truck belonging to the Village of Sleepy Hollow is bound for Haiti – a gift from the village to the island nation struggling to rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The donated “ladder truck” – the kind that comes to get you if you are stuck on the eighth floor during a fire – was purchased new by the village in 1995 for $500,000. It was taken out of service in 2016 due to rust on the undercarriage.
“It would have cost about $100,000 to repair, and we knew we would never get that money back,” said Sleepy Hollow Fire Chief John Korzelius.
After failing to sell at auction, the truck was destined for the scrap heap until Korzelius met Haitian native Paul Desdunes, a New York State Trooper working out of the Tarrytown barracks.
According to Desdunes, who lives in Pomona, NY, Haiti is poorly equipped to fight fires in Port Au Prince, the nation’s capital, where tall buildings are springing-up as part of ongoing recovery efforts.
“Haiti’s fire department is very small, and we don’t have the equipment to fight fires in the high-rise buildings,” said Desdunes. “This truck will create a sense of security and save lives. We are very grateful for the donation.”
The ladder truck, formerly part of Sleepy Hollow’s five- truck fleet, will be driven or towed to the Brooklyn docks and transported to Port Au Prince on a ship owned by the Haitian government. Sleepy Hollow will incur no transportation costs.
“We are really pleased that a truck that served us well over the years will not be scrapped, but rather be put back into use,” said Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray. “That is thrilling.”
This is not the first time that Sleepy Hollow’s cast-off firefighting equipment has found new purpose. After Hurricane Sandy, an old Sleepy Hollow pumper truck was donated to the struggling community of Broad Channel, Queens whose own truck was underwater. It’s still running today. Written on the side: Donated by the Village of Sleepy Hollow, NY.
“Donating this ladder truck is a way, way better plan of action than selling it for a couple thousand dollars,” said Korzelius. “I believe where it’s going, it’s going to be worth gold.”
Sleepy Hollow’s volunteer fire department has 50 active members, three “pumper trucks,” one ladder truck and a rescue vehicle equipped to function “like a rolling tool box.” A replacement ladder truck, already on-order at a cost of $1 million, will be delivered in the near future. A temporary, used ladder truck, costing approximately $20,000, has been filing-in until the new truck was ready.