PATERSON, NJ - Troy M. Ayers Sr., 42, is an expressive, passionate man who loves to talk, especially with his hands. He has a sense of humor and is not afraid to show it. A son of Paterson born and raised, he is tenacious, strong, and loves giving back to his city. Most notably, Ayers has been a leading public education and community relations officer for the Paterson Fire Department since 2010.
By outlining, and implementing, new education programs with Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott, he has placed a huge emphasis on fostering relationships with the people of Paterson to help the department prevent fires.
“Buildings will burn. We will put them out. That’s our main job,” Ayers, who has been recognized for his service many times, including with the Mayor’s Recognition Award, told TAPinto Paterson. “The community is the bigger job -- you have to connect with the community, you have to have a one on one relationship with them. They need to trust you, they need to believe you.”
Ayers explains that connecting the fire department to the Paterson community is important because it saves lives.
“We reach out and start educating them on the simple things like blowing a candle out when you leave the room, don’t overload a light socket,” he says. “Those little tips can save someone’s life.”
A regular fixture at community events and in local schools, Ayers' dedication to Paterson is demonstrated in many ways, including in his team’s participation in National Night Out “ … a community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.” Ayers and his colleagues made 70 stops in three hours during this past summer’s get neighborhood get togethers.
Referring to a recent event with the Red Cross that led to the installation of more than 150 smoke alarms in First Ward homes, Mayor Andre Sayegh said that “every fire prevention effort in Paterson has Troy Ayers’ name on it.”
“Troy offers even more evidence that the Paterson Fire Department is the best in the nation, and we are all lucky to have them protecting us.”
Adding his praise for Ayers' efforts was Chief McDermott who said that “Troy shows his love for Paterson every day, it comes out in everything he does, on the job and off.”
“There aren’t enough words to truly reflect the impact he makes in the community, the positivity he brings to the Department,” McDermott added. “While the men and women of the Paterson Fire Department are prepared to respond to any emergency, Troy’s efforts are helping to prevent fires before they start. That’s something that makes us all safer, and something we are all grateful for.”
Ayers has been working on rebranding the community relations division of the fire department, including by creating new uniforms for the firefighters in this division to show members of the community that their focus is on educating and interacting with them directly. Part of this, Ayers said, is staying true to the unit’s motto: Educating the Community for a Safer Paterson.
During his career Ayers has also worked as a firefighter, EMT, certified dispatcher, and arson investigator for the Paterson Fire Department. In 2018 he was named by former Mayor Jane Williams Warren to serve as fire commissioner, and, more recently, in a nod to his commitment to community, as a commissioner to the Paterson Municipal Youth Guidance Council.
By dedicating his career to connecting with the city, Ayers has made himself a role model for the community, even though he would not assign that title to himself. Being raised in the city’s Fourth Ward, he wants to inspire the people of Paterson to keep working for their goals, even if the odds appear to be against them.
“I look to do positive things so that they can look to me,” says Ayers. “There’s a way out of here.”
Ayers has faced adversity in his career, including from 2009 to 2010, when he suffered from a severe esophagus issue and had to stop working. Hospitalized for six months, including three spent in the intensive care unit, Ayers weight dropped to a critical 97 pounds. Nevertheless, Ayers came back to work at the fire department as soon as he could and to start giving back to Paterson and providing for his family again.
His commitment remains the same, he said, he wants to keep saving lives, and not just by teaching children about fire safety.
“If I get one kid that says they want to be a fireman, then I did my job,” he says. “One kid off the street is one life we save.”
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