Passaic FD Celebrates 100 Years Of Service

12 10 2009

EDITORS NOTE: It was a surprise to the Jewish community of Passaic, that this event was held on one of the 4 Sundays this year, which restricts Orthodox Jews from taking part in such events. This past Sunday was the Simchat Torah Holiday, which began Friday night at sun down untill Sunday night at sun down. The Jewish community of Passaic has a vibrant history with the city of Passaic. Three members of the Jewish community serve as councilman in Passaic (Councilmen; Chaim Munk, Daniel Schwartz, and Gary Schaer)

Holding an event on the Jewish holiday, was paramount to holding an event on Christmas Eve.

In the future, such city sponsored events must include all the communities which make up the city of Passaic. One city, One community, One event.

passaic firePASSAIC — Todd Mehlman looked at the line of fire trucks trundling past him Sunday, and recalled his own small place in the history of the Passaic Fire Department.

He hastily dialed 911 two years ago when an open fire in his Aycrigg Avenue home started getting out of hand as his daughter, Elianna, then 15, cooked marshallows.

“We thought it was no big deal,” said Mehlman, 53, a dentist. “Just a little bit of smoke.”

But the fire department insisted the family evacuate the house immediately. And when they did, he recalled, they saw that the fire had spread and the chimney was on fire.

The memory was one of many that drove Passaic residents out Sunday to see the department celebrate its 100th anniversary as a professional, paid workforce with a noisy, vibrant and exuberant parade.

From firefighter-mad youngsters to neighbors awakened by the cacophony of fire sirens, to people – such as Mehlman – who had

received department help or seen others get it, throngs gathered along the two-mile long parade route see the line of red and chrome vehicles snake by.

“We have a lot to be grateful for,” said Mehlman. “And it’s an opportunity to show appreciation for what they do all the year round.”

More than 40 vehicles took part in the parade, including trucks from Saddle Brook, West Paterson, Little Falls and East Rutherford, as well as 1,200 people, including several marching bands.

The department, started in 1868, converted from a volunteer department to a paid one in 1909 as the city grew and needed a more comprehensive firefighting unit, said Ernesto Rodriguez II, department historian.

The department spent 18 months planning for the 100th anniversary, and held a string of fundraising events to support it, raising more than $10,000, said Ernesto Rodriguez II, department historian.

“This is a huge historical event for the department,” said Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost. “But its also a big event for the city.”

At about 11:10 a.m., Robert Hare, the department’s 96-year-old fire director, kicked off the parade at Eighth Street, lurching forward in a Silver open-topped Ford Mustang.

Above Hare, as the parade made its way down Passaic Street, residents leaned out of windows or climbed onto fire escapes to get a better look under the unseasonably warm sun.

A mile down the road, worshippers spilled out of the Tifereth Israel synagogue to catch the cavalcade. And at the parade destination in third Ward Park, where a four-hour fair of music and food unfolded, four-year-old Jeremy Jimenez thrilled to the spectacle of so many fire trucks.

Nearby, the Passaic Fire Department’s youngest member, Mahmad Suleiman, 21, was handing out hot dogs to parade-goers from the back of an old van, a task awarded him as one of the department’s newest recruits. He was among eight who joined the department on in April.

To take part in such a historical moment gave him a great feeling, he said.

“All of my life I have loved helping people,” said Suleiman. “And now I get to help people and get paid for it!”

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