UNION, NJ – Union firefighters, township officials, friends and family were on hand Friday night for the Township of Union Fire Department’s 2019 Awards/Retirement Ceremony at Galloping Hill Caterers. 

Seven Union firefighters were celebrated for the recent retirements:

  • Battalion Chief Chris Kovacs – 1994-2019
  • Captain Gary Steitz, Sr. – 1990–2020
  • Firefighter Al Srnka – 1992–2019
  • Firefighter Dean Manfra – 1994-2019
  • Steven Ervelli – 1995-2020
  • Raymond Reilly, Jr. – 1994-2020
  • Mechanic Dennis Gallagher – 1994-2019

Awards and honors presented at the ceremony included:

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Letter of Commendation (Civilian):

Edwin Donnelly, Sr.

On April 10, 2019, members of Tour 2 responded to 983 Stuyvesant Avenue for a motor vehicle accident.  A vehicle had struck a tree and overturned, trapping the driver inside.  Prior to the arrival of the Fire Department, Donnelly who was working nearby ran to the scene and was able to open the driver’s door and crawl into the vehicle.  Donnelly found the injured patient hanging upside down, suspended by the seatbelt in the vehicle.  Donnelly was able to cut the victim free from the seatbelt and airbag.  Donnelly’s actions are credited with making the situation safer for the patient allowing her to receive medical care sooner.  He is commended for his action in assisting the Department and caring for the patient.

Letter of Commendation:

  • Lieutenant Peter Peros
  • Firefighter Matthew Zieser
  • Firefighter Christopher Davitt

On October 3, 2019, members of Tour 2 responded on to Interstate 78 and the Garden State Parkway for a motor vehicle accident.  Engine 1 arrived and they found an unconscious breathing patient trapped in her car.  The patient began to rapidly deteriorate and went into cardiac arrest.  CPR was started in the vehicle and Squad 4 arrived shortly afterwards.  The members of Squad 4 rapidly set up for extrication and completed the evolution in approximately 30 seconds, allowing the patient to be removed from the vehicle.  Their commitment to training allowed them to deviate safely from normal operating procedures and adjust accordingly to a rapidly evolving situation.  The members of Tour 2 are commended for their actions that were carried out in an exemplary manner.

Group Award:

  • Battalion Chief Henrty Sisbarro
  • Lieutenant Peter Peros
  • Lieutenant Michael Davitt
  • Firefighter Scott Binder
  • Firefighter William Brower
  • Firefighter Michael D’Allessio
  • Firefighter Gunther Guerra
  • Firefighter James Hannon
  • Firefighter Gary Steitz, Jr.
  • Firefighter Ryan Tevnan
  • Firefighter Robert Zinkowicz

On November 28, 2019, Thanksgiving morning, Tour 2 responded with BC2, Squad 41 (Acting Squad 4), Ladder 1 and Engine 3 to Kelly Street for an unresponsive patient.  Squad 41 was diverted from another call and arrived within two minutes of the dispatch.  Units found a 45-year old male in cardiac arrest in the basement.  CPR was initiated and the patient was defibrillated multiple times and the LUCAS CPR device was applied to the patient to continue compressions.  The patient was then carried from the basement to the ambulance where paramedics assumed care.  The patient regained a pulse and respiratory activity and was transported to the hospital.

The members of Tour 2 have been awarded the Department Group Award for their commendable actions in working as a team to uphold the Department’s mission in the rescue of another.

Commendation Medal

Firefighter Thomas Osiadacz

Firefighter Matthew Hokanson

On October 17, 2019, Tour 4 responded with Battalion 4, Engine 1 and Squad 4 for an auto/pedestrian accident during a torrential rain storm.  On arrival, units found a child with critical injuries after being struck by a vehicle.  After initial treatment was provided, patient care was transferred to EMS and paramedics.  Firefighters Osiadacz and Hokanson continued to assist in care while enroute to the trauma center.  Due to the severe rain storm and flooding conditions, the ambulance became struck in stopped traffic on the Garden State Parkway.  Unable to proceed, Firefighters Osiadacz and Hokanson exited the vehicles and ascended the 8-foot steep embankment on the side of the highway.  With the assistance of a Union police officer, they were able to cut a hole in the fence leading to Eastern Parkway in Irvington.  A passing ambulance was flagged down and advised of their predicament.  The patient was then carried up the embankment to the waiting ambulance and the transport was continued.  Firefighters remained on scene and began to assist the Irvington Fire Department in completing several water rescues of occupants trapped in their vehicles.

As a result of their quick actions in overcoming extreme obstacles during a complex situation, Firefighter Osiadacz and Firefighter Hokanson have been awarded the Department Commendation Medal for completing the mission against unconventional odds.

Captain Dominic Ritorto Medal of Valor

  • Lieutenant Kenneth DeHart
  • Firefighter Thomas Havyar
  • Firefighter Stephen Moro

DeHart, Havyar and Moro received the highest award of the evening for their life saving actions of rescuing a woman on the second floor of a burning house.  See details of their rescue here at TAPinto Union’s earlier story.

Other Honors and Awards:

Veterans of Foreign Wars Loyalty Day Award  --  Firefighter of the Year

Captain Gary Steitz, Sr.

Captain Steitz was honored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Michael A. Kelly Post No. 2433 for service aove and beyond to the community.  The award was presented by the VFW on December 8, 2019.

Knights of Columbus Shield Award

Captain Gary Steitz, Sr.

Captain Steitz was honored by the Knights of Columbus for his service to the community.  The award was presented by the Knights of Columbus on June 24, 2019.

NJFMBA Valor Award – Honorable Mention

Battalion Chief Henry Sisbarro, Captain Donald Vitale, Lieutenant Robert Falzarano, Firefighters Garty Steitz, Jr., Michael D’Alessio, Michael Scanlon, George Aleu and Joseph Frain were honored with a FMBA Valor Awardsfor their actions at incident #18-17145 on March 2, 2018, for successfully resuscitating a patient in cardiac arrest.  The award was presented on April 27, 2019.

Battalion Chief Thomas Gourlay, Captain David Diana (ret.), Firefighters Christopher Jimenez, Shawn McGee, Aldo Procak, and Dan Roman were honored with FMBA Valor Award for their actions at incident #18-55390 on July 22, 2018, for the water rescue of a New Jersey State Trooper.  The award was presented on April 27, 2019.