UNION COUNTY – Plainfield firefighters helped rescue an unconscious man from the second floor of a burning building.
Rahway firefighters jumped into the water without wet suits in January to rescue a naked man.
Nine Elizabeth police officers worked to evacuate residents and rescue shoppers from a burning Elizabeth Avenue building.
For their acts of valor, the police and firefighters, along with three members of the Union Township Fire Department and two other members of the Rahway Fire Department, recently were honored by The Two Hundred Club of Union County during their Valor Award Ceremony.
The event, held earlier this month at the John H. Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains, will be aired Sunday on the club’s YouTube channel.
The Two Hundred Club award recognizes actions above and beyond the call of duty. The nonprofit organization provides financial support for the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty, as well as provide continuing education grants for police and firefighters, and a scholarship program for the children of the county’s uniformed protectors.
This year honored were Lt. Kenneth DeHart, and firefighters Stephen Moro and Thomas Havyar from the Union Township Fire Department who on Dec. 1, 2019, were dispatched to a fire at a Hillside Avenue home where a woman was screaming and trapped at a second-floor window, with heavy smoke pouring out behind her.
DeHart and Moro used a ladder to enter the house through a window under heavy heat and smoke where they found the then unconscious and badly burned victim. Havyar also entered the room and assisted with moving the victim out of the window and down the ladder to safety while working above the fire without protection of a hose line and in heavy smoke conditions. The victim was then transported to the burn unit at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.
Elizabeth Sgt. Joseph R. Aliseo, Sgt. Eric S. Gora and officers Joseph J. Leonard III, Jessica A. Marques, Christopher G. Keller, Rodrigo J. Cervantes, Johnny L. Arrarte, George Tovar and Edward J. Benanati Jr. were recognized for their response on Oct. 5, 2020, to a fire at an Elizabeth Avenue building housing a dollar and party store.
As the officers approached the store’s front door they were met with intense flames and then an exploding helium tank shattered the front window. Unable to enter because of the fire, they ran to an adjacent attached building, forced their way in and conducted an evacuation of the residents on multiple floors out a rear fire escape to an adjacent rooftop and then to the street.
From the rear parking lot of the fire building police noticed a second-floor door with no stairs or other way to access, and heavy smoke coming from the door and cries for help. Aliseo ran to Jacques Street where he had seen a construction crew working with ladders and brought it back to the fire building. Alisea and Leonard, without regard for their safety from the intense heat and heavy smoke, climbed the ladders to force open the door in an attempt to rescue the trapped occupants.
When firefighters arrived they continued efforts to rescue the trapped victims and were able to remove the unconscious victims and pass them off to waiting officers who carried them to safety, performing CPR on three victims which led to two victims having vital signs when they arrived at the hospital but later died.
Plainfield Fire Lt. John Coppola, Lt. Glenn Robinson and Firefighters Gabriel Ocasio, Melvyn Armstead and Hassan Sanders were recognized for their actions on May 12, 2020, in which they responded to a fire at a large Victorian home converted into four apartments on Grove Street with a person on the second floor directly above the fire.
Coppola and Ocasio entered the burning home where a North Plainfield fire captain was trying move an unconscious man. Working together the three moved the victim to the top of the second floor landing and then down to the first floor then through a hallway before getting to the exterior front porch where CPR was administered before the man was transported to Saint Barnabas Medical Center.
Rahway Fire Capt. Ramon Lopez and Firefighter Terry Bell were recognized for their response to a Oct. 16, 2020, fire at a home with a disabled resident trapped in a rear bedroom on the first floor where there was heavy smoke and heat.
Lopez and Bell rushed to the bedroom window and entered the room using a ladder and began searching for the victim who was located on the floor next to her bed. Together they dragged the unconscious woman to the window where they were able to lift her and hand her to officers waiting outside. The woman was transported to Saint Barnabas Medical Center where she was later listed in stable condition.
Firefighters Brian Toth and Javier Gonzalez are credited with saving the life of a suicidal man with addiction issues who ingested diesel fuel before jumping in a branch of the Rahway River.
When emergency personnel arrived at the Hamilton Street Bridge they spotted a naked man floating in the cold water and who was becoming less responsive. Toth and Gonzalez entered the chest deep water to rescue the unconscious victim. When they reached the man they secured him with a rope and the man was pulled up the embankment from the freezing cold water.
The man was not breathing and had no pulse and CPR was administered as blankets were placed on the man to warm him. Shortly afterward the man began to cough up water, his pulse was regained along with shallow breathing and he was transported to the hospital.
Firefighters have since learned the man was released from the hospital, made a full recovery, has completed dependency rehabilitation, is substance free, is employed and has a bright outlook.
Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.