For the second time in one year, a female firefighter, along with 43 other recruits, will be joining the ranks of the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue squad.
During the ceremony, NHRF&R Chief Frank Montagne noted that once all the recruits complete their nine-week fire academy training, they’ll be evenly distributed among the five North Hudson town’s fire houses.
He implored them to work hard.
“I expect you there eight o’clock sharp and perfect attendance. There you’ll learn the skills, knowledge and abilities to become successful firefighters, safe firefighters and firefighters knowledgable to handle any situation,” Montagne stated.
“I want to share some qualities and traits of successful firefighters that you should all aspire to be: have integrity, be dedicated to your profession, show tolerance of others, your co-workers and your community. Self sacrifice, you’ll be asked to put your life on the line for other individuals, be prepared for that … These are all great virtues you should all follow.”
Litza M. De Jesus now joins female firefighter Lisa Napier as the second female in the department, formed over 20 years ago when the individual fire departments of North Bergen, Guttenberg, West New York, Union City and Weehawken were combined into one.
After receiving her certificate from the NHRF&R Frank Montagne, she embraced her best friend and EMT colleague, Kimberly Banalthuis, in tears.
“Litza has been my best friend for six years. I started working with her as a medical technician in Jersey City. She taught me so much. She’s been my rock and is closer to me than a sister. I’m so proud of her,” Banalthuis said.
“This is something she has worked hard for, and she’s been dreaming about this day, and any sort of support that she needs I will always be there. And, anything she puts her mind to, I’m just so thankful to be here with her.”
De Jesus is a military veteran with the United States Air Force and believes that experience, along with 15 years as an EMT, make her best suited to become the department’s second female firefighter.
“I have the biggest heart, and I have to use my brain instead of my brawn. And that’s going to help, sometimes we force the door [open], instead of turning the door. I know I definitely have a lot to bring to the table.”
All 44 recruits will face new challenges as they embark upon a nine-week course at the fire academy and we asked De Jesus if her challenge is different than the other 43 recruits.
“A fair question. I’ve been in the industry, although in a different department, for the last 15 years. I also served in the Air Force, so I’m familiar with working with the opposite sex,” she noted.
“They’re like my big brothers. It’s a transition, I’m transitioning from one department to another department, and my family just got bigger.”
Many family and friends were in attendance at The Boulevard, as well as numerous elected officials such as Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt, North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, the latter who is also the chair of the NHRF&R board.
We asked him if De Jesus will face a more unique challenge than the other recruits.
“No, I think everybody gets the same training, the same ability, she passed all the requirements, including physical requirements and everything. So she’ll be treated just like everybody else and she’ll do a great job, I’m sure,” said Turner.
After the ceremony ended, we asked De Jesus how does it feel to now be a firefighter recruit with North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue.
“I’m really excited that the department is growing, that it’s a progressive department, and that it’s reaching beyond tradition. It’s really great that this department is achieving new gains where they are allowing and accepting women in an industry that has been strictly men.”
The other 43 recruits sworn in today are Alexis Rodriguez, Joel Pedroso, Manuel E. Amarante, Hamdan Jaludi, Corey E. Jones, John N. Prezioso, Miguel E. Pena, Matthew E. Green, Robert E. Rovito, Matthew Dembroe, Anthony F. Talarico, Byron K. Fisher, Kevin G. Donnelly Jr., Emmanuel Suarez, Daniel R. Urban, Rodrigo D. Marquez, Daniel M. Torres, Thomas Gonyou. Troy Hilcken, Bryan A. Fiorella, Jose A. Martinez, Nicholas M. Cordato, William J. Garcia Cruz, Lucas G. Delpiano, Suriguel German, Daniel F. McEldowney, Robert J. Jedziniak, Jose L. Maldonado, Jose A. Alicea, David Isola, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Fernandez, Matthew M. Drennan, Thomas A. Benavides, Abayemi Arowolo, Kevin D. Conde, Darren Lindsey, Brian J. Murphy, Elie N. Feinberg, Plaze Jordan, Michael Conporti, Marco Collazo, and Mark Petrucelli.
We live streamed a part of the ceremony to our Facebook Page, which can viewed below: