PATERSON, NJ- “100 percent confident” is how Paterson Fire Department Captain Scott Parkin described his feelings as he prepared to be lowered nearly 80 feet towards the bottom of the Great Falls that were flowing faster than normal thanks to the deluge of rain that came less than 24 hours before.
“I was not worried, not a little bit.”
“What I did was easy,” Parkin said nonchalantly as he recounted the rescue climbing over the railing and letting go of the catwalk so that his brother firefighters could lower him down in what would become the successful rescue of a stranded 50 pound pit bull that somehow made his way to a ledge below Mary Ellen Kramer Park.
“They had the job of making it easy for me,” he continued describing how the members of Paterson Fire Department’s Rescue 2 devised the plan and and constructed the lowering and haul system that would be the only thing keeping Parkin out of the water below below. Of course, Parkin said without a hint of nervousness, if he had ended up separated from the ropes and in the raging waters, his other colleagues from Engine Company 4 were just downriver to pull him out.
“Nobody gets to see what we do, how we prepare,” for situations like the one they faced Sunday. “Their skill shined, the poise they put forth was flawless. I owe them a debt.”
Parkin would go on to describe the hundreds and thousands of hours of training he and his crew have gone through, in all manners of rescue, including swift water, ice, high angles, trenches, and confined spaces. Never knowing what a call might bring, Parkin said, they have to always be ready, “that’s why we train so much.”
Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott, echoing Parkin’s comments that firefighting and rescue is always a team effort, said that “it’s easy to lead when members are ready, willing, and able to get the job done, no matter the task.”
“Whether it’s a dog in the chasm, a child whose exit is cut off by fire, a CPR in progress or a spouse in need of a helping voice after losing a loved one; this is what being a Paterson firefighter is all about.”
The bravery exhibited by Parkin and all of Rescue Company 2 on Sunday, he concluded, “is an example of the daily actions of all our members,” adding also that he is “proud of them all.”
It wasn’t just his unrelenting confidence in the men he serves alongside that prepared him and allowed Parkin to dangle precariously above the Falls without a “thought that this could go wrong.” The thirty year veteran of the Paterson Fire Department, a second generation firefighter, also had history on his side.
His father, Joe Parkin, Sr., joined the Paterson Fire Department in March 1957, and incredibly performed two similar rescues during his more than 27 year career. The younger Parkin, who has also served alongside his brother Joe Jr., himself a retiree of the Paterson Fire Department, recalls easily his time spent around firehouses growing up.
And while Scott said his father wasn’t one to “bring home the serious parts of the job,” and in some ways dissuaded his children from entering what would become a family business, Scott never doubted what he wanted his career path to be.
“I grew up seeing the camaraderie, how they all got along, how everyone looked out for each other,” Parkin said sharing memories of building his own firehouses out of cardboard boxes and painting a go-kart to look like “dad’s Hook and Ladder 2.”
“I always knew that’s where I was headed,” the last active Parkin said. And once both Joe Jr. and Scott officially joined the Paterson Fire Department the elder Parkin was “100 percent behind us,” offering his years of training and experience as guideposts should they ever face similar situations in their roles as members of Paterson’s Bravest.
Reminded that the rescue was one of an animal, not a person, and asked whether or not the risk was worth it, Parkin didn’t hesitate in his answer. “We had to try, we can’t show up and not do anything.”
Simply put, he said, “that’s not who we are.”
“We are not special,” Parkin said of his fellow firefighters in closing. “What we do is special.”