This Blowin’ Smoke article features Deputy Chief Anthony Avillo of the North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire and Rescue. His department covers five cities in North Jersey directly across from Manhattan NYC. Three of the five cities in NHRFR are in the top 5 most densely populated cities of the US with over 75,000 people a square mile. He states there is “never a fire without an exposure issue (or three!).” Chief Avillo is also the author of Fireground Strategies.
How many years have you served in the fire service, and has/is anyone else in your family on the job?
30 yrs on the job as of 10/1/14. First generation.
What was your drive to make you want to join the fire service?
In me, since I was a little kid watching the rigs go in and out of the firehouse down the block in Union City, NJ.
Is there any distinct way that you have tried to make a difference to either the fire service as a whole or the community you serve?
Making sure my shift is the best on the planet…a firefighting machine.
Do you currently have any specific personal goals you would like to accomplish during your career, and have you completed any of those already?
I have always driven to be the best firefighter I could be. I’ve studied hard for promotions and am currently where I want to be. I like working my 24/72 shift – and did not want to work the 5 day a week Chief of Dept. job. Honestly, I like the street too much. My goal now would be to get out in one piece and keep my people safe in the time I have left.
What is the biggest change that you have witnessed since joining the fire service?
The way the buildings and contents have changed and made our job much more dangerous
Leadership, staying focused on training, complacency and poor example setting of some vets
With so many of our firefighters dying each year in the Line of Duty, what are some of the things you do to help ensure “Everyone Goes Home”?
Everyone wears gear all the time, no freelancing ever, practice what I preach. There are too many preachers out there that I see don’t follow their own creeds. They don’t have their gear on and they don’t enforce safety rules amongst their people. It’s easy to do it in a classroom on a big stage. Much harder to do it every day on the job where it counts.
If you could provide some of the younger generation of firefighters with a few “words of wisdom,” what would they be?
Keep learning. Don’t trust the buildings. Care about the job.
What is the best firehouse prank that you might have “allegedly” been involved in throughout your career?
I sent out a fake retirement announcement last year on April Fools day in my pass-on. It created a firestorm from as far away as guys vacationing in Florida and I got in a little trouble with my Chief for not letting him in on it as the mayors (we have five) and the directors were calling him. Had to fess up after about a half hour because people were getting a little too freaked out.
Best compliment I ever got (second hand): Someone told my brother that when I was at work, the guys all felt safer than anyone they ever worked for.
The “Model City” Firefighter would like to thank Chief Avillo for taking the time to be featured in this Blowin’ Smoke article. If you would like to featured or know of someone, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.