September 11, 2001
September 11 remains forever embedded in the mines of all Americans. The Department was called into service by New Jersey to assist with rescue and triage. The Department responded by 11:30 am and reported to the entrance to the Holland Tunnel for assignment. The rescue unit and ambulances were instructed to set up a triage operation on Liberty State Park and await barges that were to bring injured survivors from the scene. We were sent home at 10:30pm, as there were no injured survivors to be triaged. The ambulance squad was sent into New York on subsequent days to assist in local first aid response. The Department thanks the community for all the support you gave us during that period. It is impossible to put into words the feeling of watching and waiting at Liberty State Park and not being able to help—and finally having no one alive to help. All of us wanted to help our brothers of the FDNY that day. Our thoughts and prayers will always be with them and their families. The courage shown by those men and women on that day is what motivates us to continue to do our job.
On the morning of November 11, an alarm sounded for 216 Talmadge Road. There was a reported smoke condition. Upon arrival the fire fighters found flames in the attic. This was a difficult fire to fight, as the attic entrance was small and very hard to access. However rapid roof ventilation led to quick control of the fire. As this was an older home with loose cellulose ceiling insulation, there were many smoldering hot spots that had to be found and controlled. The cause for the fire was electrical shorting that led to fuse box breakers tripping. Unfortunately, the homeowner kept resetting the breaker. If there is a breaker that trip in your home, only reset it once as it may have tripped due to a momentary peak load. If it trips more than once do not reset until you find the cause.
On the evening of January 12, 2003 the Mendham Borough Fire Department and First Aid Rescue Squad was called away from their annual 12th Night Christmas Tree Bonfire Celebration at the Borough Park to respond to a kitchen fire at 85 Mountain Avenue, in the Borough.
Upon arrival Chief Eible and Assistant Chief Orgera met Mrs. Metzler and her two children on their front lawn and discovered that one child, Julia, their 2 and-a-half year old girl, was missing.
Unable to make entry due to the heavy smoke and extreme heat, Chief Eible and Assistant Chief Orgera were forced to yell for the child from the front door and wait for the rest of the men to arrive. Responding apparatus were instructed by Chief Eible to send all available manpower to the front of the residence to perform a rescue operation.
Firefighters Michael Bruin, Richard DeNicola, and Bruce LaFera led the initial search teams through the house. At this time, firefighter William Taquinto, responding in his own vehicle from home, arrived shortly after the initial search had begun. After a number of searches failed to locate Julia, Firefighters Taquinto and DeNicola were partnered and sent back into the fire to search the 2nd floor of the home. Using a thermal imaging camera, the team was able to spot Julia’s unconscious body lying under her parent’s bed. Taquinto passed his camera back to DeNicola as he scooped Julia into his arms and started for the front door.
Taquinto was met immediately as he exited the building and passed the child off to the Mendham First Aid Rescue Squad. Squad members began CPR on Julia as they transferred her from the front lawn,EMS Staging Area, to the awaiting ambulance.
Although she made it through the night, sadly, Julia passed the following day with her family at bedside, at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City.
The heroic efforts of our personnel did not go unnoticed. The Morris County 200 Club presented firefighters Taquinto and DeNicola, as well as First Aid Rescue Squad members Steve Pontiakas and Paula Oswald with Meritorious Service Awards at the Club’s annual service awards dinner in April of 2004. In addition, the four were presented with citations from the United States House of Representatives as well the New Jersey State Senate for their exemplary acts. Although these four were commended by the these organizations, it was the team effort of the entire Fire Department, First Aid Rescue Squad, and leadership of Chief Eible that allowed for the successful operation. As always, our friends from Brookside, Chester, Ralston, and Randolph were on scene to back us up when we needed them most.
At the end of January, 2003 the Oren was delivered to Lee’s Emergency Services in Tuckerton, NJ for a new paint job and restoration. Six months later, the truck came home and looked better than it ever had. The project had proven to be incredibly successful and the members that had taken a part with the restoration were extremely pleased and proud of the work they had done. The truck has since won a several awards at parades for its representation as the Department’s antique vehicle.
First Aid Squad Secedes from the Fire Department
In the fall of 2003 the First Aid Rescue Squad, in need of control over its own governance and financing, requested from the Borough Council that they separate from the Fire Department. On January 1, 2004 the “Mendham First Aid Squad” became an independent organization providing emergency medical services for the Borough.
St. Bernard’s Episcopal Church
Due to increased demands on volunteers in recent years because of training requirements and state regulations, volunteer efforts have been strained. Because of this, mutual aid response has become a necessity instead of a luxury. One such incident that required the use of Mendham Firemen for a mutual aid response was the fire at the historic St. Bernard’s Episcopal Church in Bernardsville. On October 23, 2004, the department responded to the aid of the Bernardsville Fire Company and helped extinguish a blaze that started in the roof of the structure. Response was delayed due to the Far Hills Steeple Chase Races that were wrapping up at the time of the fire. The tenacity of our friends on the Bernardsville Fire Company and the support of their mutual aid friends prevented a total loss of the structure.
100th Anniversary Dinner Celebration
On June 4th, 2005, members of the Mendham Fire Department, representatives from mutual aid organizations, and representatives from the municipal government of the community gathered with their guests at the Roxiticus Golf Club on Bliss Road in Mendham to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Volunteer Service to the community of Mendham.
How fitting it was that the Club once again extended a welcome to the Department that had done everything it could to stop the blaze at their mansion 25 years earlier. The evening was organized by Vice President Darren Fitzpatrick, who was supported by a committee that contributed countless hours to the planning of the successful evening.
The night began with a welcome from President Richard DeNicola, who discussed the importance of Volunteer Service as well as the pride of the Department. Ex-Chief Earl Barnes, Jr. and our Chaplain, Father Michael Drury, led a memorable tribute to those “Comrades who have Gone Before.” Chief Berenbak introduced our invited mutual aid guests and expressed our sincere thanks for 100 years of support. Chief Berenbak then led a toast to the Ladies Auxiliary and accepted a donation to the Department on their behalf. Tom thanked them for all their years of kindness and generosity. Honorary member and former Mayor Michael Ackerman took the microphone and said some very kind words and expressed his personal thanks to the department in an impromptu speech.
After the dinner program, a night of dancing and celebration of the memories that have made our department successful for the last 100 years paved the way for our next 100 years of service to the community of Mendham Borough and our neighboring friends.