At long last the Town of Harrison has an official fire chief.
Henry Richard, who has been provisional chief of the Harrison Fire Department since May, was sworn in as the HFD’s permanent chief on Dec. 7, along with four new rank-and-file firefighters who completed 12 weeks of training at the Morris County Fire Academy.
“This brings us up to 43 members of the department,” Chief Richard said.
“We have another (firefighter) candidate going into the academy in February and that individual has already secured certification as an EMT on his own. Our official T.O. (Table of Organization) calls for 45 so, once the (state) Civil Service (firefighter) appointment list comes, we’re probably looking to hire at least one more.”
Overall, the T.O. breaks down this way: 28 rank-and-file firefighters, 12 captains four battalion chiefs and one chief.
HFD’s newest probies are: Cecilia Morales, who becomes the third woman to join the department; Anthony Colegrove, Zachary Joskowitz and Devon Galano.
Morales grew up in Newark where she served as an EMT after having attended Passaic County Community College.
In late December 2021, Morales made news when working for the federal Transportation Security Administrator at Newark Airport — she was credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who’d stopped breathing by successfully applying the Heimlich maneuver — a technique she’d picked up from her EMT experience.
Colegrove, who was raised in Hoboken, attended Elmira College in New York. He previously worked in the digital-marketing sector.
Joskowitz, originally from Bayonne, attended New Jersey City University. His prior employment was for a catering business in Bayonne. Joskowitz’s grandfather, John Berberick, a retired Bayonne firefighter, held the Bible as his grandson took his oath of office.
Galano, also a product of the Peninsula City, is an alumnus of St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. His previous job was logistics manager for a freight company in Fairlawn. Galano’s dad, Damon Galano, is a police officer with the Bayonne Police Department.
Joskowitz successfully completed his 10 weeks of EMT school while Colegrove and Galano are expected to follow shortly. Morales is already fully-certified.
The rookies, whose starting rate of pay is $40,207 a year, have already been assigned shifts spread over a 24-hour period, the chief said. The Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file firefighters, is currently in negotiations with the town on a new labor pact.
The rookies are currently training to operate the HFD’s two engines and one ladder truck around town and learning duties they’ll be assigned at the department’s lone firehouse on Sussex Street.
Meanwhile, Chief Richard is getting used to hearing the unconditional title of fire chief. The Howell resident came to the HFD in December 1994 and began learning the trade of firefighter.
Thereafter, he rose through the ranks, attaining captain in December 2004, battalion chief in February 2010 and, in October 2019, to deputy chief — a position the department was forced to relinquish after the town’s then-shaky financial picture led the state to impose certain spending restrictions and monitor its budget. A civilian director took charge for several years.
But as the town began attracting developers to transform its dormant industrial waterfront into residential towers and new retail spaces, its fiscal picture improved and the state relaxed many of its former restraints.
Under that new climate, the town named Richard provisional fire chief in May 2022 but held off making him permanent in the title until October 2022 until Civil Service ruled the town needn’t call for a test for the fire chief’s position.
And last week, the town made it official, with Richard taking his oath of office at the Harrison Fire Station.
“I have great pride in leading the men and women of the Harrison Fire Department,” Richard said. “I feel we’re up for any challenges that may come up. We just recently promoted four additional captains to continue to provide good leadership for our department.”
Mayor James Fife said of the newly-sworn chief: “He’s a fine young man and we’re happy to have him.”
Looking ahead, Richard said with the town continuing to grow, “it’s important to get another firehouse on the southern side. The population is certainly going to go up and we need to be able to provide an apparatus quickly to service those residents. We’ve looked at a few properties and we’ve spoken with the town about a couple of different options.”
The town purchased a new ladder truck three years ago and a new engine two years ago while a third new engine has been ordered and is due to arrive in February, Richard said.
Also, he said, “we just purchased some boat inflatables with a trailer and we’re scheduled to do two weeks of swift water training at Scudder Falls in Ewing. We’ll send everybody at different times. It’s a much-needed program, given all the heavy rainstorms we’ve been having.”
For now, the marine equipment will be stored in the town garage near PATH, he said.
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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