Whenever volunteer firefighter Andrew Kolesar talks about what happened at 333 Westside Ave. in Haverstraw on Jan. 14, he says he was just doing what he was trained to do — react in an emergency.
That day, he pulled fellow West Haverstraw Volunteer Hose Co. No. 2 volunteer Capt. Ken Patterson out of the second floor of a house that had been cut up into tiny apartments. Patterson, who was searching for fire victims, himself became a victim when he became trapped and ran out of air in his portable tank.
For his efforts that day, Kolesar has already been honored by fellow firefighters in Rockland County. But on Friday, Kolesar is set to be honored as the New Jersey and New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association “Joseph Costello Firefighter of the Year.”
In the Jan. 14 fire, Kolesar, using a thermal imagining camera, found Patterson and dragged him to safety. This is the second time Kolesar has been NJ&NY firefighter of the year.
Kolesar lives in the Village of Haverstraw with his wife and two children. He is a New York City firefighter who works in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan. He is also an instructor at the Rockland County Fire Training Center.
While his actions at the fire at 333 Westside Ave. have earned honors for Kolesar, he and other Rockland volunteer firefighters have used that fire as an example of the need for tougher enforcement of building codes in the county. Firefighters say they face danger on a daily basis from homes that have been illegally chopped up to create numerous apartments.
Rockland County, state and local officials recently met to discuss a renewed push to confront landlords who are responsible for creating fire traps.
The New Jersey and New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association was officially organized in the Park Ridge, NJ, fire house, March 27, 1914, uniting the volunteer fire companies along the New Jersey & New York Railroad, now the Pascack Valley Line of NJ Transit. The association soon grew to include all volunteer fire companies in Bergen and Rockland Counties.
The 1st annual convention of the association was in Spring Valley, hosted by the Spring Valley Hook & Ladder Company on July 25, 1914.