Five rookies were sworn in as new firefighters and four veteran fire officers were made permanent fire captains in a public ceremony Aug. 3 at Harrison Fire Headquarters.
The ceremony was preceded by a tribute to the late Harrison Firefighter Vincent Doffont, who died tragically at age 37 on March 21 after completing a training exercise.
Acting Chief Henry Richard and the Rev. Biao “Bill” Wu, priest in residence at Holy Cross Church, acknowledged the positive example Doffont set as a former Marine Corps veteran, police officer and member of the HFD since 2017.
Mayor James Fife welcomed everyone and introduced the additions to the HFD and the fire captains. “What a great group!” he said.
At that point, Harrison Fire Capt. Billy Faulkner, outfitted in a traditional kilt, piped in the honorees as they marched into the town’s primary fire station on Sussex Street where an audience of family, friends and fellow firefighters awaited.
First, Fife swore in the captains and they received their badges from the chief and Fire Director Harold Stahl.
Michael J. Granato, Eric S. Hausmann, Kevin T. DeGaetano and James K. Patterson are the new captains.
All have been serving in an acting capacity for the past two years, helping break in a new piece of apparatus and the new fire company assigned to it during the pandemic, storms and rescues.
“Their leadership has gone a long way to helping our department grow,” Chief Richard said.
The town governing body voted in June to approve the promotions but opted to defer the formal ceremonies until August.
When he took his oath of office, Patterson produced an old but well-preserved book, “Salute to Services: A Collection of Bible Verses,” that his dad, the late Kenneth Sr., had used when he was sworn in as an Army recruit in 1951.
Next to be sworn in were Probationary Firefighters Cristina Sanchez, Christian Marulanda, Travis Marra and Evan Morris, all of whom recently completed training at the Morris County Fire Academy and Firefighter Matthew Nicastro, who did training with a prior class, but was unavailable for a prior induction ceremony due to a scheduling conflict. He’s already completed Harrison-based field orientation.
“Our recruits came out 1, 2, 3 in physical training at the Academy and Sanchez finished as the ‘most improved’ among all trainees,” Richard said. Of a total of 54 firefighter candidates from Harrison, Kearny, North Hudson Fire & Rescue, Bloomfield, Montclair, Irvington, Perth Amboy and Morristown, only 34 graduated.
“This academy is probably the toughest in the state,” he said.
Some brief bios on the rookies:
• Sanchez, who attended Montclair State University, enlisted in the Air Force in 2006 where she received numerous citations including the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon Award is now serving in the N.J. Air National Guard. She previously handled data entry for a maintenance management analyst firm.
• Marulanda attended Bergen Community College and Community College of the Air Force. He enlisted in the Air Force in 2011 where he earned numerous awards including the National Defense service medal and is currently a member of the Air National Guard. Previously, he was an explosive detection K9 handler.
• Travis Marra attended Stockton University and previously worked as an account executive/operations analyst. In between classes at the Morris Fire Academy, he got married.
• Evan Morris attended Fairleigh Dickinson University. A certified CPR instructor, he previously handled training of security personnel for American Dream in East Rutherford.
• Nicastro, who was hired in March 2020, graduated from the Morris Academy in September 2020 and has been performing firefighting duties since then. He attended Arizona State University and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2012, earning many awards including the Inherent Resolve Campaign medal and serving as an active reservist until 2018. He previously worked as a fire suppression systems estimator.
All have completed EMT school.
(Bios on the new captains were previously published in a story in The Observer’s June 29, 2022 issue.)
The HFD is poised for additional growth, Richard said, with six recruits slated to begin a new round of training classes at the Morris Academy, starting Sept. 6. Assuming all six complete training, and counting three current firefighters in the military reserves, the department will have reached its maximum allowable strength (Table of Organization) of 45 personnel — the highest it’s been since 2010, when the state directed the town to trim its uniformed and civilian work force due to its then-shaky fiscal situation it has since reversed.
Now, the chief said, the department’s plan is to go to 49 personnel, with approval by the mayor and Town Council, to continue to strengthen the level of public protection for the still-growing population of Harrison, which recorded a jump of about 6,000 — to some 19,000 total — since the 2010 Census.
Along with the beefed-up personnel, the chief said the HFD has also begun to diversify its ranks, which now include six Latinos, two African-Americans and two women, with a third woman slated to start academy training 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