Forty-three firefighters and a civilian dispatcher were honored at the council meeting on Wednesday for their participation in the rescue of police Officer Bob Franco and John Neukem during Superstorm Sandy.
Neukem and Franco were on Lake Drive West Oct. 29 when a tree fell on the vehicles they were occupying. Franco suffered a severe spinal cord injury and went through weeks of rehabilitation. Neukem, assistant chief of Co. 5, suffered minor injuries.
"The word brotherhood means more to me now than it ever did," said Barry Turner, fire commissioner. "There was no way that we were going to leave the scene that night without getting both of them out."
Neukem's vehicle was positioned so that he was able to see that the tree was about to fall. He warned Franco about it at the last second.
Neukem was able to radio in the distress call immediately. Emergency service personnel were on the scene within two minutes of the call. More than 100 personnel responded to the accident.
It took an hour to extract Franco from the vehicle.
"If it wasn't for [Neukem's] quick thinking we would have never known to get there as quickly as we did to save both of them," Turner said.
Franco attended the ceremony. He walked up to the front of the room unassisted, his neck kept immobile by a brace.
Emergency dispatcher Patrick McGovern received an Honorable Service Award.
Neukem received a Meritorious Service Award.
The following fire fighters received Unit Citation Awards:
Community Fire Company 1
Fire Commissioner Barry Turner
Assistant Chief Gregory Laskowski
Lt. Rohit Guglani
Junior Firefighter Daniel Dominguez
Packanack Lake Fire Company 5
Chief Jason Jantzen
Capt. Jerry Ploehn
Lt. Timothy Maher
Chief Engineer William Reenstra
Junior Firefighter Robert Velardi
P.O.L. Fire Company 2
Chief John Gabriel
Assistant Chief Steven Toth
Capt. Christopher Denovchick
Lt. Thomas Boughton