Red Bank council honors former fire chief DeFazio

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Peter DeFazio, who was the first person to serve as fire chief for three terms in Red Bank, was presented an honorary plaque by the Borough Council.

“Every man and woman who is a member of the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department devotes a herculean amount of time and energy and personal sacrifice for their neighbors. The way the chief system at the volunteer fire department works is that a company chooses one of its officers for the position of chief and they go through essentially three years of training,” Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

Menna and Councilman Michael Whelan presented DeFazio with an honorary plaque on Feb. 28 during its semi-monthly meeting that was held at the municipal building.

Whelan also serves as the Public Safety, Police and Fire commissioner for Red Bank.

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) and Senator Vin Gopal  (D-Monmouth) also presented DeFazio with an honorary certificate during the meeting.

DeFazio voluntarily served another term as chief in 2017 after he had served as the chief for two terms, according to Menna.

“His care for this town should be reflected in the fact that he is the only person in the almost 140-year history of the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department who has served three terms. He is the one and only person who has done that and I thought it would be an appropriate time for us to commemorate that landmark,” Menna said.

Menna said a lot of people are pretty tired after the first round of being a chief, because he or she is not just chief for one year, but actually for three years. Every chief is on call seven days a week, every single day, and they don’t get paid.

“There is not much to say that has already been said, but I would like to thank the mayor and council for their support they have given me through all the terms. I want to especially thank my wife because she had to put up with me,” DeFazio said.

DeFazio was chief initially in 1987 and served with other chiefs in the department, according to Menna.

“In 1993, through no design [or] plan for Peter DeFazio or his family, a sad event took place. A great friend of [DeFazio] was former chief David Allen, who was also a chief out of Relief Engine Company. Allen was a young man full of energy and enthusiasm and was well-loved by not only his company, but by other companies and the department. I was the commissioner at the time, so we were all looking forward to his term as chief and regrettably the creator had a different plan,” Menna said.

Menna said Allen became ill and unfortunately died rather quickly.

“The company was at a loss. They could have passed their term as chief or they could have chosen another member from that company to replace [Allen] knowing how much time and work it would take,” Menna said. “When the company went to [DeFazio] and they said, ‘Can you do it, would you do it?’ and I think he thought for 30 seconds and said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.'”

Menna said DeFazio would do it because he not only is devoted to this company and this town, but he wanted to do it in memory of his friend, Allen, who passed away.

Menna said DeFazio’s decision was an extraordinary mark of loyalty and family connection the Relief Engine Company and the fire department has always had.

“So DeFazio went through another term as chief and got all the calls, got all the complaints and very little reward. His reward was that he knew he did the right thing,” Menna said.

Menna said the borough will be installing additional plaques honoring DeFazio’s years of service at other borough facilities.

Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].