North Arlington’s brand-new Water Rescue Team already yielding huge benefits

This idea turns out to have been a no-brainer.

North Arlington’s Water Rescue Team has already responded to four calls and provided aid to neighboring municipalities over the course of the months since its inception in October. Most recently, the Water Rescue Team was requested by the Kearny Fire Department to assist with rescues along the Belleville Turnpike after a storm dumped several inches of rain in the area on Jan. 13. In less than 90 minutes, the team rescued 15 people from flooded vehicles with no major injuries.

“We are very proud of our fire department and this new team that is now trained to respond to incidents involving open water, swift water, rapid deployment, and also search, rescue and recovery,” Mayor Daniel H. Pronti said. “While the team has only been in place for a few short months, they have already proven to be a tremendous service to our community and the surrounding region.”

In December, the team was deployed to provide back up to the Fairfield Fire Department and responded to several calls for assistance, one of which resulted in the rescue of a resident trapped in a home. The team spent eight hours assisting Fairfield firefighters.

“North Arlington’s swiftwater rescue team demonstrates the unwavering commitment of our firefighters to safeguard lives. Each rescue is a testament to their skill, resilience and the profound impact they make,” said former Fire Chief and Training Officer Mark Zidiak.

After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department had been researching equipment, training and funding to support the creation of the water-rescue team. A $20,000 grant from the American Rescue Plan allowed 13 volunteers to be trained in swiftwater response.

“As the frequency of water events continue to rise, the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department plans to increase the number of those trained and to potentially expand that training to include Rescue Boat Operations and Swiftwater Technician,” Councilman Brian Fitzhenry, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said.

Thanks to grants, firefighters are outfitted with full personal-protective equipment including dry suits, helmets, boots, life vests, gloves and water safety accessories. Members were required to undergo a rigorous two-day, 16-hour class.

The inaugural class includes Team Administrator Deputy Chief Robert Fellrath; Capts. Brian Marshall, Marissa Piscal, John Gaffey; Lt. Anthony Bruno; and Firefighters George Hays, William Gallo, Daniel Keogh, Jenny Lok, Brandon Pipher, Amanda Riehl, Matthew Titterington, Mark Cunningham Jr. and Lindsay Weiss.

A second class for new members of the team is scheduled for the fall.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.