Promotions, a provisional chief, at Harrison Fire Department

Provisional Harrison Fire Chief Henry Richard

Four members of the Harrison Fire Department have been promoted to captain as the ranks of the HFD continue to rebound as the town tries to keep pace with recent population gains.

The town governing body voted June 21 to elevate Michael J. Granato, Eric S. Hausmann, Kevin T. DeGaetano and James K. Patterson to their new rank, effective Aug. 1. All had been working as acting captains assigned to Engine 3 for the past two years, but they’ve now been made permanent in that slot at an annual base pay of $115,754, plus longevity.

They’ll be sworn in Aug. 3 at a 5 p.m. ceremony at Fire Headquarters, Seventh and Sussex streets.

The new captains aren’t replacements for retirees — they’re key ingredients that allow the HFD to “place an additional company in service, now that we have permanent supervisors,” Fire Chief Henry Richard, who was named provisional chief in mid-February, pending a determination by N.J. Civil Service as to whether the town has to call for a competitive examination for the position, said.

Harold Stahl, meanwhile, remains as a part-time civilian fire director.

Richard said the HFD has four firefighters in the process of academy training scheduled to graduate in November and three other new hires waiting to start their training.

By year’s end, Richard figures to have a roster of one chief, four battalion chiefs, 12 captains and 28 firefighters for a total of 45 fire officers — which, by his calculations, should be sufficient to assign one battalion chief, three captains and seven firefighters per shift.

“That’s the highest we’ve been since 2010,” Richard said, when the state ordered Harrison to trim its civilian and uniformed personnel force due to deficit spending by the town.

Since then, however, the town has seen a tremendous surge in population, growing by nearly 43% since the 2010 Census to more than 19,000 residents and realizing a comparable uptake in ratables resulting from the redevelopment of the waterfront area where empty, inactive industrial structures gave way to new residential towers and midrise dwellings, along with new retail shops.

“The future looks good,” Richard said, “realizing that with the growth of the town, we have to grow, too.”

Here are brief profiles on each of the new captains:

• Michael Granato served with the Jackson Fire Department eight years before shifting to Harrison six and a half years ago. He was named a Hometown Hero in 2018 for life-saving action applying his abilities as a trained EMT.

• Eric Hausmann has worked 27 years with the HFD after spending one year with the West Orange Fire Department and four years in the Navy. He’s a two-time winner of Firefighter of the Year — in 2007 and, again in 2016 — when he applied his skills as an EMT in coming to the aid of a construction worker who had fallen five stories at a project site.

• Kevin DeGaetano was a Navy veteran before joining the New Brunswick Police Department, where he served five years.  He’s spent the past 17 years with the HFD.

n James Patterson has been with the HFD for 16 years.  He’s a trained counselor with the New Jersey Critical Incident Stress Team, whose members work statewide to aid fellow firefighters deal with psychological trauma. Patterson has been cited three times as Firefighter of the Year — in 2015, 2019 and 2021 — when he applied his EMT skills to aid a fallen cyclist in the annual Torch Run.

In other business conducted June 21, the mayor and Town Council adopted an ordinance temporarily modifying the town Police Department’s Table of Organization through year’s end to increase the maximum number of lieutenants permitted, from seven to eight, thereby allowing the promotion of Sgt. Joseph Nigro, who is No. 1 on a state Civil Service appointment list for that rank, according to Police Chief David Strumolo.

Strumolo said he’s hopeful three members of the department now serving as acting sergeants can be made permanent in that rank and four newly hired officers will complete an academy training program by year’s end.

In another personnel move, the mayor and council introduced an ordinance raising the annual salaries of municipal department heads, including construction official/municipal engineer, municipal clerk, chief financial officer, public works superintendent, tax collector and director of health and human services, over a 5-year period, retroactive to 2020 and extending though 2024, at the rate of 3% the first year and 2% for each year thereafter.

A public hearing on the proposed increases will take place next month.

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York