MANHATTAN VALLEY — Two of three sleek ambulances belonging to the Central Park Medical Unit — custom designed to squeeze through the park's narrow passageways — were destroyed when a massive fire ripped through a parking garage Thursday morning, FDNY officials said.
The flames erupted inside the E&B Operating Corp at 143 W. 108th St., near Amsterdam Avenue, about 3:30 a.m., leaving five firefighters hurt while totaling the ambulances and a "couple dozen" cars, an FDNY spokesman and a garage worker said.
Rafael Castellanos, president of the CPMU, said the ambulances cost about $150,000 each and are specially designed to fit under the park's overpasses and tunnels.
"It's a horrible, very sad day," Castellanos said. "There's a lot of history behind these ambulances, how many people they've saved. There's nothing that's salvageable. It's a total loss."
Castellanos said the CPMU is comprised of 150 volunteers and has an average response time of three minutes, but that could be increased now that the unit is down to one working ambulance.
"The ambulances are crucial and need to be replaced as soon as possible," he said. "Hopefully the public will reach out to us and cover us a little bit because I'm sure the insurance is not going to cover everything."
Castellanos said donations can be made by going to Cpmu.com.
Five firefighters were treated for minor injuries at an area hospital following the blaze, officials said. More than 106 firefighters worked to bring it under control about 5 a.m.
Those who parked at the garage arrived Thursday morning to find their cars badly damaged by the inferno.
"I'm shocked. I can't get over this," said Mary Lou Mayo, 69, who teaches at a New Jersey college. "You leave your car here and don't expect this to happen. You don't expect your car to get destroyed."
Fire marshals were still trying to figure out what sparked the flames, officials said.