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Thread: Garfield, New Jersey Firefighter Dies on Way to Blaze

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Garfield, New Jersey Firefighter Dies on Way to Blaze

    Garfield, New Jersey Firefighter Dies on Way to Blaze

    As Published in The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

    Hundreds of Fair Lawn residents watched heartbroken Tuesday night as a 1920s landmark - the beloved commercial jewel of the Radburn neighborhood - disintegrated in flames.

    An unidentified volunteer firefighter from Garfield died while driving to the blaze. He appeared to be the victim of a heart attack, authorities said.

    There was no word on the cause of the fire. Fair Lawn police Sgt. Robert Boyle said there may have been injuries at the scene, but he had no details.

    Fire at the Radburn Plaza Building, at Fair Lawn Avenue and Plaza Road, was first reported about 5 p.m. Six hours later, flames continued to shoot from the windows, consuming restaurants and shops on the ground floor and offices on the second and third.

    The roof on the building's east side collapsed, and four aerial trucks assaulted a dull orange glow that shone through billowing waves of smoke.

    Still, the building's copper-roofed clock tower stood intact, its hands frozen at 8:40.

    All residents could do was watch, many with hands over their mouths in astonishment. Susan Sommer, who has lived in the borough for more than 30 years, recalled buying cherry Cokes from the plaza's soda shop and gazing through the jewelry shop window.

    "I grew up here and this building has always been here," Sommer said. "It's sad."

    Mayor David Ganz said residents will feel an emotional sting, and the borough will suffer economically.

    "There was a bank, a pharmacy, a deli, a barber, law offices, an architect," Ganz said. "This is sad for the people that work there."

    The Radburn Plaza Building, with its illuminated clock tower, was built in 1929. It was considered the commercial centerpiece of a pioneering planned community, dubbed "The Town for the Motor Age," which favored pedestrians over vehicular travel.

    The Radburn building itself was the hub, functioning as both the market and meeting place for residents.

    The recent buyers of the building spent more than $500,000 on renovations, including restoring the green awnings and canopies, authorities said.

    As soon as they arrived on the scene Tuesday night, firefighters called for assistance. Companies from at least six communities responded.

    Scores of firefighters stabbed the roof, hunting for hidden pockets of fire, while aerial trucks sent water through smashed windows.

    The firefighter who died on the way to the scene was a 22-year veteran of Garfield Engine 1, officials said.

    In a statement, Garfield Fire Chief John Keating Jr. said the firefighter was en route to Fair Lawn in his personal vehicle when he was stricken. No other details of his death were available late Tuesday.

    Officials declined to release the victim's name, saying they were trying to contact relatives who were out of the area.

    Members of Engine 1 were encouraged to return to their headquarters when they learned of their colleague's death, officials said.

    "Everybody's kind of basically in shock," said one Garfield firefighter.

    Staff Writer Lindy Washburn contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2002 - North Jersey Media Group

  2. #2
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Dead Firefighter Extolled

    Dead Firefighter Extolled

    As Published in The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

    GARFIELD - George "Bat" Batelli Sr. died doing what he loved most: serving his community.

    He was at home Tuesday afternoon when the call for help came from the Fair Lawn Fire Department. A volunteer firefighter for 22 years, he hopped in his SUV and drove to the firehouse.

    Since the truck had reached its capacity - 10 men - he and another firefighter, Craig Savino, decided to follow on their own.

    On the way, Batelli, 55, mentioned that he was feeling "a little funny."

    At River Drive and Prospect Street, Batelli, 55, suffered a heart attack and collapsed at the wheel, said Assistant Fire Chief Michael Latona, who also works as a Garfield detective.

    Doctors at Passaic Beth Israel Hospital pronounced him dead four hours later, just after 9 p.m.

    On Wednesday morning, firefighters at Company 1 were lowering the flag to half-staff, and gathering to remember a man who Latona said "always did for everyone else."

    Batelli, an assistant engineer for the firehouse, was responsible for maintaining the trucks and operating the pumps at the fire. He was also a friend to many of the younger firefighters.

    "He was a second father to everyone he came in contact with," said Latona, who first met Batelli 29 years ago, when he was a 6-year-old starting out with the Junior Boilermakers football club.

    Batelli was a vice president and trainer for the team, and was "a big fan of helping kids," Latona said.

    He earned his living as a supervising investigator for the Bergen County Probation Department. For the past eight years, he had run the background criminal checks for the probation officers - about 1,000 a month - and he became an expert in handling the various computer systems and deciphering codes from different states, said John Fuhrman, acting chief probation officer for Bergen County.

    "He was one of the pillars of the organization," Fuhrman said. "He was really a good man."

    He was also a labor leader for the support staff. For 17 years, he was the shop steward for Local 1 of the New Jersey Employees Labor Union, of which he was a charter member. He was the local's treasurer for 10 years.

    "He was terrific in fostering a good working relationship between labor and management," said Jon Goodman, the trial court administrator.

    "He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to settle things," Goodman said. "He will be deeply missed."

    Batelli grew up in Paterson, where he was a firefighter and EMT for eight years. He moved to Garfield at the age of 28 after marrying.

    He and his wife Linda had three children: George Jr., Dawn, and Sherry, and four grandchildren.

    The family also had a summer home on a lake in upstate New York, which Batelli loved, Latona said. He spent most of his summer there, driving his boat or floating on the water.

    The Aloia Funeral Home is handling arrangements and has scheduled visiting hours from 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at 180 Harrison Ave., Garfield.

    A firefighter's funeral will be held Saturday. A Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. at The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson. Interment will be at St. Mary Cemetery in Saddle Brook.

    In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made to either the Garfield Volunteer Fire Company 1, the Garfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps., or the Garfield Junior Boilermakers.

    Copyright 2002 - North Jersey Media Group

    Viewing Information
    Thursday, Oct 3, 2002: 7 - 9 pm

    Friday, Oct 4, 2002: 2 - 4pm & 7 - 9pm

    The viewing will be held at:
    Aloia Funeral Home
    180 Harrison Ave.
    Garfield, NJ

    Funeral Information
    Saturday, Oct 5, 2002:
    A mass will be celebrated at 10:30a at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Patterson, NJ, at the intersection of Main St. and Grand St. Internment will follow at St. Mary's Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ.

    Apparatus Staging Information
    All departments that will be sending apparatus are asked to assemble at 7:30am. Assembly point will be at 174 Passaic Street, Garfield, NJ, at the Vornado Complex. There will be a staging officer present and he will direct the apparatus accordingly.
    All departments that will be sending apparatus are advised to call Detective Kenneth Adamo at Garfield Police Department at (973) 478-8500 ext. 140. Please have the number of apparatus and manpower that will be in attendance.

  3. #3
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Batelli, George F.

    Age: 55
    Rank: Assistant Engineer
    Status: Volunteer
    Incident Date: 10/01/2002
    Incident Time: 20:29
    Death Date: 10/01/2002

    Cause of Death: Stress/Exertion
    Nature of Death: Heart Attack
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Responding/Returning from Alarm
    Activity Type: Driving/Riding Personal Vehicle
    Fixed Prop. Use: Store/Office

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Garfield Fire Company #1
    103 Midland Avenue
    Garfield, New Jersey 07026
    Chief: John Keating, Jr.

    Initial Summary:
    Assistant Engineer Batelli died while enroute to a structure fire from an apparent heart attack.

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