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Firefighters Graduate in Historic 26th Commencement


Posted December 14, 2018 


Over 60 firefighters received their certificates this Fall in the moving and inspirational 26th Commencement Ceremony of the PCCC Public Safety Fire Academy held November 19 at the Passaic County Technical Institute.

The historic ceremony also included a special tribute to Chief Albert Evangelista, the first and recently retired Director of the Passaic County Fire Academy, and an official welcome for the new director, Captain Jason Macones.

The uniformed graduating class entered the auditorium to a processional played by the Passaic County Pipes and Drums, as fire chiefs, instructors, and guests witnessed the moment.

Congratulating the graduates, the master of ceremonies, Chief Michael Wanklin said, “Our students come to us as blank slates…and leave trained to save lives and fight fires.”  He thanked them for their dedication and urged them to “never stop training and never stop learning.”

Chief Wanklin highlighted the tradition of strong training at the Fire Academy, which was established 26 years ago to provide Passaic County with its own county-sponsored fire training facility. “Since 1992, we’ve trained over 2,000 firefighters,” said Chief Wanklin. “The quality of our instructors is the best around.”

Freeholder Sandy Lazzara, the director of the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders credited much of the success to Chief Al Evangelista, whose more than 40-year firefighting career included over two decades heading up the Fire Academy.

“You were the driving force behind establishing the Public Safety Academy,” she said, presenting Chief Evangelista with a plaque in recognition of his service.

Accepting the award, Chief Evangelista embraced his longtime role as a teacher, saying “Education is paramount, today,” and he spoke of “the great passion” that he and his fellow firefighters shared years ago to get a training facility in Passaic County.

Thanking the chiefs and officers he served with, Chief Evangelista congratulated the graduates and told them. “Hang in there. See you on the fire ground.”

Following that, Chief Wanklin officially presented the new Fire Academy Director, noting that Captain Macones “comes from a firefighting family.”

Formally introducing himself, Captain Macones acknowledged “the deep honor you have conferred on me,” adding, “I have very big shoes to fill.”

Representing 15 municipalities in Passaic, Essex, and Morris counties, the men and women of the graduating class rose to walk onstage and receive their certificates from officials of their hometown fire departments.  Not surprisingly, several of the graduates carry on a family tradition of fire service and received their certificates from a father, uncle, or other relative.

The graduates included those who completed the basic Firefighter 1 level and those who completed the advanced Firefighter 2 level.  All of them were volunteer firefighters in their local community. Some are recent high school graduates and some have careers already.

Three class presidents, representing the Spring Firefighter 1, and Fall Firefighter 1 and 2 classes,  offered remarks that demonstrated the camaraderie of the group.

“It is my honor to stand with this team,” said Firefighter Andrew Lojik-Harvey of Wayne. “Whether in the classroom or on the fireground, our instructors were always there and ready to help.”

Firefighter Brian Murphy of Wayne remarked on the diversity of his classmates. “We have 18-year-olds to 40-year-olds, from West Paterson to West Milford, from those who work with their hands to those who need help recognizing a flat screwdriver.”

Bloomingdale Firefighter Tammy DeHann thanked her fellow graduates for putting “your faith and trust in me to be your president.”  She added, “We made friends, became family, conquered our fears, and met our challenges.”

Reiterating a favorite theme, Dr. Steven Rose, president of Passaic County Community College, reminded the graduates that “This is not the end.  A commencement is a beginning, and this is just the beginning for all of you.”

Written by Linda Telesco