Bloomfield Bravest mark promotions



Photo courtesy of James McCarthy/ Two generations of Bravest: retired East Orange Dep. Fire Chief Joseph H. Mc- Carthy, (c.), flanked by sons Bloomfield Fire Chief Joseph M. McCarthy (l.) and Bloomfield Fire Capt. James McCarthy.


Photo courtesy of Steven Zurlo/ Steven Zurlo and his wife, Tara, with their children, Alexander, 2, and Isabella, 4.

The third generation of the McCarthy clan is carrying on a noble tradition.
Firefighter James McCarthy, who will mark 24 years with the Bloomfield Fire Department this fall, is celebrating that benchmark a bit early after having been promoted to captain recently along with four other colleagues.
McCarthy, together with Firefighters John Gray, Steven Zurlo, Kevin Nelson and James McMann, were all appointed to their new rank by the township governing body on Aug. 8 and sworn in on Aug. 19, the actual effective date.
At the same time, Fire Capt. Cliff McCulloch was elevated to the rank of deputy fire chief.
McCarthy, 45, a 1984 Bloomfield High School alumnus, is following in the footsteps of several family members: His grandfather, Joseph M. McCarthy, got things rolling when he joined the East Orange Fire Department in 1943, advancing, eventually, to the rank of deputy chief.
“My uncle Vinnie was a captain with East Orange and my dad, Joseph H. McCarthy, is a retired East Orange deputy chief,” James said.
After the family relocated to Bloomfield, it was only natural that the next generation of McCarthys would continue to serve with the Bravest in that community.
And so, James’ oldest brother, also named Joseph, became a member of the Bloomfield Fire Department, outdoing his predecessor McCarthys by attaining his current rank of chief of the department.
Now it’s James’ turn to start moving up the ladder.
“I’m looking at this as the start of a whole new chapter,” he said.
A member of the Emerald Society’s Essex County chapter, James McCarthy was part of a large Bloomfield Fire Department mutual aid contingent – including new Dep. Chief Cliff McCulloch – that stood by at New York Fire Department firehouses in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge, Park Slope and Coney Island sections during the 9/11 attacks.
McCulloch, who graduated from Bloomfield High in 1975, is the newest of the department’s four deputy chiefs. About 14 years ago, he was made lieutenant – a rank that no longer exists – and four years after that, he made captain.
The father of seven children, ranging in age from 3 to 30, McCulloch, who’ll be 54 next month, also has six grandchildren. He’s a member of the Elks and St. Valentine’s Athletic League.

Photo courtesy of Steven Zurlo/ Steven Zurlo, Kevin Nelson, John Gray, and Cliff McCulloch from left to right.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Nelson/ Kevin Nelson with his wife, Brooke, and daughters, Sloane, 7, and Bree, 4.

He didn’t begin his firefighting career until age 30. “I worked for an oil company and a couple of the guys who were part-timers there were also on the Bloomfield Fire Department,” McCulloch said. “They kept telling me I should join up and then, one day, they sat me down with an application and I filled it out.”
McCulloch is a past president of the FMBA Officers Local 219, having served two terms.
He’s also earned two commendations: the first in 1989 for rescuing a boy from a burning building on Ampere Ave. and the second – which he shared with two colleagues – a few years later for extricating a man from a fire at a Berkeley Place residence.
Recalling the 1989 incident, McCulloch said: “I had to go through a closet to get to the
third floor where the boy was. When I got to the top of the stairs, I yelled to him to come to me, which he did. Mike Zurlo (whose son Steven is among the new captains) was on the nozzle when I got the kid out. How we got down so fast I have no idea – it’s just a blur.”
Capt. Steven Zurlo, 37, is also one of Bloomfield’s own, having graduated from Bloomfield High in 1992. His dad, Michael Zurlo, retired from the department in 1998 and his brother, Michael Jr., has been a Bloomfield firefighter since 1996.
A former volunteer with the Bloomfield Emergency Squad, Zurlo is an EMT with a nursing degree from Bloomfield College who works part-time in the emergency room at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.
Zurlo, who was a trumpeter in the Bloomfield High marching band, applies his musical talents with the Fire Department: he plays taps at funerals and memorial
services. And, the onetime Eagle Scout is an assistant scoutmaster. He and his wife, Tara, have a son, Alexander, 2, and a daughter, Isabella, 4.
Capt. Kevin Nelson, 37, is in his 15th year with the Fire Department. The Bloomfield resident says he “grew up around a firehouse – I’ve always wanted to do it as a kid.” Nelson is so much into it he got a master’s degree in fire science at Fairleigh Dickinson
University and he has taught the subject for the past six years at New Jersey City University.
He and his wife, Brooke, have two children, Sloane, 7, and Bree, 4.
Capt. James McMann had been serving in the Military Police with the Air Force
when he decided to try a different type of uniform so he followed the lead of his first cousin, Frank Maglione, a captain in the Bloomfield Fire Department.
“He left (retired) and I came on,” McMann said. That was in December 1994.
McMann is EMT-certified and a state-certified fire inspector who served in the department’s fire prevention bureau two and a half years.
Originally from Paterson, McMann now lives in Lincoln Park with his wife Maria, who hails from Bloomfield; son, Michael, 14; and daughter, Gia, 10.
Capt. John Gray, who will mark 17 years with the Fire Department in December, is another local lad who graduated from Bloomfield High in 1982.
Four years later, at age 19, he got a B.S. degree in microbiology from Rutgers University but he said he didn’t really know what he wanted to do after that.
“I’d been working as a sales rep for a local lumberyard during summers and Christmas season and they offered me a job on the road,” Gray recalled.
But, after a lot of firefighter buddies pushed him to join up, he warmed to the idea and put in his application. He continued his sales work – but only on the side – while the Fire Department became his regular job.
In his firefighter role, Gray is a past treasurer and vice president FMBA Local 19.
He’s also a member of the Nutley Elks and a 17-year veteran of area high school football officiating. And, for the past five years, he’s been a Division 3 college gridiron official.
Gray, 46, has a daughter, Kelly, 19, and son, Jack, 17.
A captain’s base pay is $114,000 and a deputy chief earns $123,000 a year.
“We’re at full strength for all supervisory ranks,” Chief McCarthy said. “We’re short six firefighters.”
McCarthy said the Township Council has authorizing hiring to fill the positions, pending the state Civil Service Commission promulgating a hiring list.

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