By Ron Leir
On Jan. 20, 2013, Kearny firefighters were battling a fire at a 3-story, 6-family building at 118 Devon St. when part of the roof gave way, pinning Capt. Gary Dye and Firefighter Michael Kartanowicz under rubble.
Eventually, they were pulled out by Firefighters Michael Janeczko and Andrew O’Donnell who were acclaimed as Firefighters of the Year for their deeds.
Both of the injured men – Kartanowicz took a few months to recover from surgery – have returned to work and last Tuesday, Kartanowicz, 36, was promoted to fire captain in ceremonies at the Town Hall assembly chambers filled with family, friends and colleagues.
He’ll earn $103,637 a year in his new rank.
Born in Bayonne and a Bayonne High School alum, Kartanowicz moved with his family to Lyndhurst. In 2001 he completed an undergraduate degree in communications at William Paterson University and became a Kearny firefighter in 2005.
Kartanowicz told The Observer he took the Civil Service test for firefighter twice before being offered the Kearny job in April 2005. He didn’t have to think twice about accepting because firefighting had always been his career goal, he told The Observer.
“Just doing good for the community” was what motivated him, Kartanowicz said. “You go home every day with a good feeling knowing you did good for others – what could be better?”
A member of the Fire Department’s confined space/ tactical rescue team, Kartanowicz was cited for his participation in the rescue of a man working at the site of the new Wittpenn (Rt. 7) Bridge who had broken his leg in a fall on a barge during the early winter of 2013, according to Fire Chief Steven Dyl.
Ironically, it was only a short time later, that same winter, when a trapped Kartanowicz was pulled from the Devon St. fire.
He was also cited for rescue actions performed during Superstorm Sandy in fall 2012, Dyl said.
Dyl said he’s currently training as a swift water rescue technician to aid people who may be snagged in rivers, creeks or flooded streets.
Noting that the new captain logged a score of 93.45 on his Civil Service promotional test, Dyl called Kartanowicz “an asset to the department” and one of the department’s “up and coming” members. “He’s going to be one of our rising stars,” the chief said.
Aside from his skills as a firefighter, Dyl said,
Kartanowicz has a winning personality, always displaying “an infectious smile and compassion.”
The chief recalled one of the then-firefighter’s supervisors telling him about an incident that reflected Kartanowicz’s feelings for others. “His company had just put a fire out and were taking a breather and Mike looked at the family [displaced by the blaze] on the sidewalk and noticed how desperate they looked, so he said he was going to take them out for pizza,” Dyl said.
“Mike is the kind of guy to go that extra mile,” the chief said, “and he does that all the time. … He’s like the energizer bunny rabbit.”
Kartanowicz and his wife Marcella have two sons, Ryan, 4, and Drew, 1.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor and council:
• Authorized a $2.3 mil lion capital bond ordinance providing $1.14 million for road and sewer improvements (including repaving Midland Ave., from Kearny to Schuyler Aves.); $570,000 for Gunnell Oval improvements; $570,000 for upgrades to Hickory St. playground and Pettigrew (behind Washington School) playground which haven’t been touched in 14 years; and $95,000 for continued environmental monitoring of the First Aid Squad building on Maple St.
• Waived a local noise ordinance for a state Department of Transportation project to rebuild a section of Rt. 7 (the Belleville Turnpike) over the Conrail Bridge this fall and winter. DOT plans to close the Pike, between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., during weekdays and weekends. “The closest resi dents are a mile away,” Mayor Alberto Santos said, so no one should be impacted by the noise levels.
• Awarded a $175,883 con tract to 4 Clean-Up Inc. to prepare a municipal parking lot at 101 Kearny Ave. off Dukes St.
• Made Kevin Murphy permanent in his position as assistant public works super intendent at an annual salary of $79,497, effective Aug. 6. Murphy has more than 20 years’ experience in public works.