The Washington Heights Fire Company. MHNN file photo.
ORANGE COUNTY – The New York State Police are investigating allegations of missing funds from the Washington Heights Fire Company in the Town of Wallkill. The fire company was slated to host the 108th annual Orange County Volunteer Firemen’s Association Parade in Middletown on Saturday, September 23, and the parade was abruptly canceled Tuesday after rumors of missing money that was earmarked for the annual convention and parade.
Sources have told Mid-Hudson News that approximately $30,000 was given to two members of the fire company’s convention committee to pay vendors associated with the parade. A source says that another member of the committee was recently approached by a vendor seeking their payment. Knowing that a large amount of convention money was given to two committee members to pay vendors, the third member sounded the alarm, and law enforcement was notified, triggering an investigation by the troopers.
Members of the WHFC did prep work for the convention last week. (Social media photo)Washington Heights Fire Company member Gordon Healy, a member convention committee, was also the president of the county firemen’s association. He has resigned from his association position and his picture has been removed from the association’s website. The association issued a statement on Tuesday, canceling the parade that was slated to have 36 fire departments participating. The statement said, in part, “It is with a heavy heart that we announce that the 108th Annual Convention of the Orange County Volunteer Firemen’s Association will no longer be supported by and hosted by the Washington Heights Fire Company.” The association statement also referenced the widespread rumors of embezzlement surrounding the parade and distanced itself from the rumors. “Please know that the OCVFA has not been involved in anything that may be rumored, and the Association will continue to operate under the direction of the Executive Board led by 1st Vice President Helena Grunwald.”
On Tuesday, the fire department posted a message on social media, addressed to the community that hints at missing funds. The post says, “It is with a heavy heart that we are forced to cancel the parade to be held on Saturday, September 23, 2023. Unfortunately, for reasons that we cannot at this time share, we believe that it is in the best interests of everyone involved to do so,” and hinted at financial issues, adding, “We will make all efforts to return any prepaid monies. We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience and understand that so many people have spent a great deal of time planning this event. Once we can provide a proper explanation to everyone, we will do so.”
In 2020, Washington Heights Fire Chief Chuck Healy was removed from office after making racially insensitive remarks on Facebook.
(Source: Mid-Hudson News)