Jersey City promoted four new deputy fire chiefs, including the first woman to hold the title, during a roughly half hour ceremony at City Hall this morning.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Deputy Fire Chief Constance Zappella is now the highest ranking firefighter in the entire state.
“Thank you for your sacrifices over the last several decades. It’s not lost on us that it is a family sacrifice, that there are countless times when you want them, weekends, anniversaries, family anniversaries, special occasions,” Mayor Steven Fulop said.
“Today is a special day on many fronts. We are here to … promote the highest-ranking woman firefighter in the State of New Jersey. It speaks to the special place that is the Jersey City Fire Department. It is the best department anywhere where people really understand sacrifice and commitment.”
Fire Chief Steven McGill said that the deputy chiefs plays a vital role for the department, also recognizing Joseph Altomonte, Loren Hart, and Shawn O’Connor in addition to Zappella.
“She is the best of the best. I saw her run through flames. I actually have a video of it we use for training seminars of her going right through flames and into a house to rescue people,” McGill stated.
“ … What a fitting way to end the year with another first by promoting our first female Deputy Chief in the State of New Jersey and probably the tri-state area. I expect good things from every day they come in.”
Speaking with the press afterwards, Zappella expressed her feelings on the momentous occasion.
“Becoming the first Jersey City female fighter deputy chief is an honor. It wasn’t even a thought when I made a decision to take the Jersey City firefighter test.”
She also note that she grew up in Jersey City in a family with strong female role models, making it seem natural to join the department in 2003.
“I never knew women to be any less capable. Becoming a Jersey City firefighter is not for every woman. It’s also not for every man.”
Zappella noted her promotion represented a historic change and altered “a century of outdated tradition,” also pointing out that she briefly tried her hand at the corporate world and it wasn’t for her.
To date, there are 17 women in the Jersey City Fire Department, including Constance’s sister, Francesca, who was sworn in two years ago.