PATERSON, NJ - In what was called the most diverse class of recruits in the Department’s history 32 men and two women started their journey towards becoming Paterson firefighters when they entered the Passaic County Fire Academy last week.
11 recruits for the Passaic Fire Department and two for the Bergenfield Fire Department also participated in the event.
The path won’t be easy, they were told by several speakers, but all will have the support of their fellow classmates, as well as the seasoned firefighters that have gone through the same grueling training, and have the battle scars to prove they’ve been on the frontlines of protecting Paterson residents from fire and other emergencies.
Perhaps their first lesson, having to be able to pivot as situations change in an instant, came as the event kicked off with microphone difficulties forcing longtime Paterson Battalion Chief, and Director of the Passaic County Fire Academy, Jason Macones, to change course and speak from in front of the podium. Unfazed, Macones continued the program moving through a list of speakers that included Congressman Bill Pascrell, Mayors Andre Sayegh and Hector Lora of Paterson and Passaic, and both city’s fire chiefs, Brian McDermott and Patrick Trentacost.
Considered a legislative icon among those in the fire service, Pascrell shared his pride of being the author of two laws that have together allocated more than $29.5 billion to fire departments across the US, including nearly $30 million to Paterson. “I will always keep my promise to you because your dedication to serving our community is clear,” Pascrell, for whom Paterson’s Fire Headquarters was recently renamed, said.
“I will always have your backs.”
For Sayegh, who has repeatedly said that public safety is his Administration’s top priority, the day was a “proud moment,” not just for him, and the soon-to-be-firefighters, but also for the hundreds of family members that packed the auditorium. Paying homage to the readily visible diversity of the class of recruits Sayegh added “this is what America looks like!”
Sayegh’s counterpart from Passaic offered a litany of official duties of holding the office, such as cutting ribbons or touring new buildings. “I will never be called upon to run into that building when it’s on fire,” Lora added. “I will never be called upon to rescue children.”
Lora would go on to add that for the men and women of both fire departments it’s about more than responding to emergencies, offering his admiration for community efforts that include giving out toys to children at Christmas or cooking and serving meals for senior citizens.
Knocking back any criticism of a 24-hour work schedules that sometimes leave on-duty firefighters with what some perceive as downtime Lora said that “the moment the alarm rings all they think about is ‘I have to go save a life.”
“When others look from afar they are running in,” Lora concluded.
Hardly able to hide his pride during the ceremony was Chief Brian McDermott, the man that will be tasked with overseeing the recruit’s transition from civilians seeking to make a difference to full-time members of one of the busiest fire departments in the nation.
“This is my first class of recruits,” McDermott, still sporting a grin from ear-to-ear, told TAPinto Paterson after the event. Asked how he managed to get such a diverse class of recruits McDermott pointed to the community focused campaign, including free test preparation, the department led in the lead up to the firefighter exams being administered in 2018. “This is great to see,” McDermott looking towards the class. “Our Department is now an even better representation of Paterson.”
Offering his appreciation for the trust that Sayegh, as well as the Paterson City Council, have placed in him during his time at the helm McDermott said that “this will give us the proper support to Paterson.” Never missing an opportunity to praise those that work under him McDermott asked for an assurance that any article would note the work of his entire staff, their efforts proving again that the Paterson Fire Department has “the right people in the right jobs.”
Among the recruits set to embark on the training that will carry them into January was Mishynn Squire, one of two women in the class. Born and raised in Paterson Squire, said she is taking on the new career after several “life transitions” because she sees it as a way to give back to her community.
Showing no concern for fitting in to a historically male-dominated profession Squire echoed words by Ashley Sanchez, her only female classmate, who said that “we can do all the things the guys can do.”
“We are all here to support each other,” Sanchez added, “not doubt each other.”
Offering his own respect for the history of the Paterson Fire Department, was Jesus Ramirez who, just before taking one last photo with his sister Johana,herself a six year veteran of the Paterson Fire Department, said that “this is our chance to learn from the best.”
Hopeful future Paterson firefighters recognized at the event were:
Danny J. Reynoso
Jesus Ramirez, Jr
Blondell Stewart III
David Clemente, Jr.
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