By Karen Zautyk
At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, fire broke out in a three-story, six-family home at 118 Devon St. All 24 residents were safely evacuated, but the blaze was so fierce, it took three hours to bring it under control.
At one point, conditions were so bad, the flames forced the firefighters from the building. But then, before they could all reach safety, the roof collapsed.
Several of the men were trapped, buried under burning debris.
They were saved by two fellow members of the Kearny Fire Department, who dug them from the rubble.
Those rescuers — Firefighter Michael Janeczko and Firefighter Andrew O’Donnell — have now been named the KFD Firefighters of the Year for 2013, sharing the honor as they shared the danger that night for the sake of their “brothers.”
The honorees were selected by the department’s Meritorious Acts Review Board, on which all ranks are represented. They will also receive the New Jersey State Firemen’s Benevolent Association Brotherhood Valor Award.
In 2012, O’Donnell was cited for another heroic act, earning the KFD’s Class B Medal of Honor, which is awarded “only when a member performs an act with great personal risk involved.”
According to a department statement, O’Donnell “acted courageously and without due regard to his own safety at a house fire on Laurel Ave.”
He was the acting captain on Engine 3 and arrived at the scene to find the second floor of the home fully involved. At the time, other KFD units were battling another blaze, on Harrison Ave. O’Donnell, with limited staffing, “directed his crew in extinguishing the fire and searching for trapped occupants.”
O’Donnell, a 1986 Kearny High School graduate, has been a member of the KFD since February 1999 and is currently assigned to Station 2 on Kearny Ave.
He is president of FMBA Kearny Local 18 and is an active member of the department’s Technical Rescue Team.
O’Donnell and his wife, Kathleen, have four sons: Griffin, Luke, Hunter and Cole.
Janeczko has been with the KFD since April 2007.
A graduate of Bayonne High School, he attended Jersey City State College and was previously employed as a senior manufacturing assistant with AT&T and as a train engineer for PATH. He is assigned to KFD Station 3 on Midland Ave.
Janeczko is active in Emergency Management and has been a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer for 20 years.
He is also a Lifeguard Instructor Trainer, Emergency Response Instructor Trainer, Water Safety Instructor and Disaster Instructor.
Currently, he also serves as an elected member of the Hudson County Democratic Organization Committee and he is the director of the Bayonne Community Education Indoor Soccer League.
Janeczko and his wife, Stacey, live in Bayonne with their two daughters, Alexa and Ella Grace.