Mayor Keith Kazmark and the Borough Council, at the Apr. 6 meeting, honored our first responders – fire, police, first aid squad, and public works – for their heroism in responding to Tropical Storm Ida and the flooding which followed.
"These men and women are the backbone of our community," Mayor Kazmark said. "They saved lives, protected property, and did everything possible to keep us all safe. We salute them."
On Sept. 1, 2021, the Borough was struck with excessive amounts of heavy rain as well as excessive flooding. During a four-hour period, the Borough experienced over seven inches of rain, causing streams to overflow their banks and become swift-flowing rivers in the Borough's streets.
The West Paterson Volunteer Fire Department responded to 60 calls during this time period. Many people were rescued from their vehicles and houses by fire department personnel under extremely hazardous conditions, putting their lives in danger to rescue others.
The members of the Department of Public Works emergency crew that evening went above and beyond the call of duty, driving disaster-response vehicles to assist in evacuations, removing people from vehicles in the rising water, and swiftly moving to barricade streets.
The Fire Department was dispatched during the storm to 227 Lackawanna Ave. for a person hanging onto a tree in the water. Upon arrival, Asst. Chief Anthony Ficcara made an attempt, from the shoreline, to reach the person in the rapidly moving Dowling Brook, without success. Chief Ficcara then tied a rope around himself and entered the swift-moving and rapidly rising water without regard to his personal safety. He was able to rescue the resident with the assistance of Capt. Alex Fink and Firefighter Steven Spies, who controlled the lifeline connected to Ficcara, and George Galbraith Jr., a member of the Dept. of Public Works, who operated and properly positioned a five-ton OEM truck, which was used for a safety tie-off of Chief Ficcara.
The following honors were given at the meeting:
• An Honor Award was bestowed on Asst. Chief Ficcara
• A Life Saving Award was given to Capt. Alex Fink, Firefighter Steven Spies, and DPW worker George Galbraith Jr.
• A Civilian Service Award was given to Dept. of Public Works Supervisor John Pietrowski, and DPW workers Dave Spinelli, Jimmy Pacelli, Gerard O'Brien, Matthew Mulroony, Anthony Laguerra, and John DeCeasare.
• Unit Citations were given to all three volunteer fire companies: Rifle Camp Fire Company 3, Passaic Valley Hose Company 2, and West Paterson Fire Company 1.
• Uniform bars were awarded to Rifle Camp Fire Company 3 members Chief Paul Salomone Jr., Asst. Chief Jack Witting, Asst. Chief Andrew Roehrich, Capt. Alex Fink, Lt. Samuel Gaita, Lt. Michael Diana, Patrick Biernat, Kevin Connors, Todd Hollritt, Sebastian Rodriguez, Dylan Spies, Steven Spies, Nicola Zummo, Damian Carter, Isiah Davis, Chris Negron, Alex Samilow, George Spies, and Pete Wilk.
• Uniform bars were awarded to Passaic Valley Hose Company 2 members Asst. Chief Michael Herrmann, Asst. Chief Michael Muccio, Lt. Matthew Vargas, Gene Markowski, Joseph DeSomma, Charles Derrot, Michael Hicks, Raphael Nuzzo, and David Garcia.
• Uniform bars were awarded to West Paterson Fire Company 1 members Asst. Chief Anthony Ficcara, Asst. Chief Joseph Macones, Lt. Brian Ramirez, Michael Adis, Hermes Rodriguez, Anthony Bitondo, Tristian DePrizio, Richard Estey, and Luis Reyes.
• Commendations were given to Woodland Park Police Dept. Lt. Erik Luker, Lt. Daniel Russo, Sgt. Joseph Domicolo, Sgt. Mike Koehler, Sgt. Sean Morrison, Sgt. Leonard Schaefer, and Officers Timothy Condron, Richard Di Zenzo, Justin Castro, Marc Bonilla, Anthony Peluso, Derrick Morrison, and Lisandro Rosario.
• Commendations were given to Woodland Park Police Dispatchers Joel LaTorre and Dawn Klutsarits.
• Commendations were given to West Paterson First Aid Squad Capt. Andy Dillon, and member Sergio Valverde.
"We will never know how many lives were potentially saved by all the other rescues that evening," Mayor Kazmark said. "On behalf of all of our 14,000 residents of our town, I want to thank each and every one of you for putting your own safety at risk to keep our residents safe."