Former Albertson fire chief named to FASNY board

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Former Albertson fire chief Jose DaRocha's picture in the headquarters of Albertson Engine Hose Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. DaRocha is now on the Board of Directors of the Fireman's Association of the State of New York (Photo by Rose Weldon).

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Albertson resident and former Fire Chief Jose “Joe” DaRocha has been elected to a five-year term on the board of directors of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York . 

DaRocha, 74, a member of the Albertson Engine Hose Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, was inducted at the organization’s 147th Annual Convention Aug. 10 in Syracuse. He had previously served two years on the board and been on the board of trustees for the FASNY-operated Firemen’s Home for 10 years.

A native of Manhasset Valley, DaRocha began firefighting shortly after graduating from Manhasset High School in 1963, where he had played football, basketball and baseball.

“Some of my friends belonged to the Fire Department already,” DaRocha said. “They approached me, they said, why don’t you join? So I did.”

He began his career with two years at Manhasset Lakeville Fire Department Co. 2, before moving to Albertson and joining its fire service, where he has stayed for 54 years and served as chief from 1981 to 1983.

DaRocha’s family also became involved with the department, with his late wife Ann serving in Albertson’s Ladies’ Auxiliary unit and eventually becoming president of its Nassau County chapter. Daughter Gina also joined the Ladies’ Auxiliary, and DaRocha’s two sons followed by serving in fire departments, with younger son Robert volunteering at the fire service in Westbury.

Joel Melamed, who entered the Albertson Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 as a junior fireman in 1994, was accompanied by DaRocha on many of his first calls. Now, as a 1st assistant chief himself, Melamed remembers DaRocha as a knowledgeable source for new firefighters. 

“I remember, in my first fire, I had to break a window. Joe told me, ‘Stand to the side of the window so the glass doesn’t hit you,’” Melamed recalled. “That was my first impression of him.”

Melamed also said he became more active in organizations, including Nassau County Chiefs, due to DaRocha’s advice to “get involved.”

“He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk,” Melamed said. “When we have to go in the middle of the night, he’s running circles around the young kids.” 

Over the course of his career, DaRocha has had close brushes with disaster, with the most prominent in his mind occurring  on Christmas Eve one year.

“We had Christmas Eve at my house. There was a fire, and so I left,” DaRocha said. “And the next thing I knew, I was in the hospital.”

DaRocha answered a call at a home in Roslyn Heights and fell through its skylight. Despite bruises, sprains and an injured ankle, he made it back in time for Christmas morning.

“I was bruised, but I was home for Christmas Day,” DaRocha said with a chuckle. “Thank God I’m still here. That’s the main thing.”

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