MANVILLE, NJ – Hundreds of firefighters and first responders who battled the massive warehouse fire at Veterans Industrial Park in Hillsborough were honored at a tribute dinner last night at the Manville VFW.
Several state and local officials attended the “Hillsborough Fire Thank You Dinner” to offer their praise and thanks to the emergency workers for their collective effort fighting the Feb. 11-12 fire that destroyed 500,000 square feet of warehouse space in two buildings at Veterans Industrial Park.
The World War II-era complex on Route 206 South is owned by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
It took 15 hours to contain the blaze, with 107 fire departments, rescue squads and other first responders from throughout New Jersey taking turns working the fire, which spewed thick, black plumes of smoke eastward over the Jersey shore, driven by high winds that helped to fuel the fire.
Only two minor injuries were suffered by firefighters. More than one dozen businesses in the complex were affected.
The buffet dinner began at 6 p.m. with live entertainment, giveaways and awards, and concluded at 10 p.m.
Speakers included: Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th; state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, a Hillsborough resident, and state Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker; Hillsborough Mayor Frank DelCore; Millstone Mayor Raymond Heck and Manville Mayor Richard Onderko. Also, Hillsborough Fire Commissioners Bruce Vatter, John Catrombon Jr. and Patrick Buckley.
“It’s important for us to pay tribute to those who put their lives on the line to protect us,” Ciattarelli said. “We don’t take the time often enough to express our gratitude to these outstanding volunteers.”
“You can’t say enough about them, how they give of themselves to benefit the community,” DelCore said.
The Hillsborough mayor also praised the firefighters from outlying towns who backed up and relieved local firefighters, as well as local residents and businesses that extended themselves to provide food and coffee to the firefighters.
“It all makes me proud to be a resident of Hillsborough,” DelCore said.
Host and organizer of the event was Derek R. Basista, CEO and president of Charity Events Group, a Manville-based non-profit corporation that helps other non-profits with their business needs and fund raising.
Donations raised in conjunction with the event will be donated to the New Jersey Fallen Firefighters Memorial Fund, according to Basista.
“After that fire, I knew I had to do something,” Basista said. “I just wanted to say ‘thank you,’ but on a grand scale,” he added.
“We will never have all the words to say ‘thank you’ but we hope in some way by bringing in the countless people who helped keep the fire under control, we can share a night of great food, music and friendships,” Basista said.
Ciattarelli also presented a joint Senate and Assembly resolution to the family of Doris W. Flatley recognizing her 35 years of service to Hillsborough Volunteer Fire Co. #3 on Woods Road. Flatley, who was the first female in Hillsborough to be elected an officer, died on March 17.