Princeton career firefighters, fire inspectors sworn into office

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The Princeton Fire Department’s first set of career firefighters were ceremonially sworn into office Feb. 4, marking a new chapter for the formerly all-volunteer Princeton Fire Department.

The Princeton Fire Department had relied on volunteer firefighters from its inception in 1788 until 2020, when the career firefighters were hired. The six career firefighters are supplemented by three fulltime fire inspectors plus the volunteer firefighters.

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The six career firefighters – Sal Baldino, Greg Griffis, George Luck III, Mark Sitek, Andrew Summers and Keith Wadsworth – are former Princeton Fire Department volunteer firefighters. All are cross-trained as certified fire inspectors, but assigned to the firefighter platoon.

Fulltime fire inspectors Justin Kabis, Joseph Lenarski and Robert Walker, who supplement the career firefighters, also were sworn into office.

The six career firefighters are divided into teams. Each team is assigned to a 24-hour shift. The town’s three fire inspectors work a 10- to 12-hour daytime shift, seven days per week. They respond to fire calls to help staff the firefighting crews.

Mayor Mark Freda said the ceremony is “really special.”

“The Princeton Fire Department goes back to 1788. There is a lot of tradition, but three years ago, we started with some career firefighters. It was a little overdue, because getting volunteer firefighters is not as easy as it used to be,” Freda said.

Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, who is the Princeton Council’s fire commissioner, also welcomed the firefighters and their families and friends who filled the main meeting room at the Witherspoon Hall municipal building.

“The swearing-in ceremony was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is important to celebrate this milestone with the firefighters and their families,” Pirone Lambros said.

“Back in February 2020, Princeton hired its first six career firefighters. They add a very vital component to our firefighter team, as we see an uptick in call volumes and additional challenges which have impacted everyone’s daily lives.”

The firefighters’ schedule is demanding and it takes a toll on family life as well, Pirone Lambro added.

“Having an opportunity to thank the families is very important, as we acknowledge all of your families gathered here today. We know it takes their support for each of you to succeed,” she said during the swearing-in ceremony.

Freda called the six career firefighters and three fulltime fire inspectors to the podium and swore them into office.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL RATCLIFFE
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL RATCLIFFE
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL RATCLIFFE

Baldino joined the Princeton Fire Department as a junior member in 2003. He became a fulltime member upon turning 18 years old in 2005. As a volunteer, he held the positions of lieutenant, captain, assistant fire chief, deputy fire chief and fire chief.

Griffis joined the Princeton Fire Department in 2009. He is a member of the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company, where he rose to the position of assistant fire chief and served as a fire inspector.

Luck joined the Kingston Volunteer Fire Company in 1991 as a junior member. He joined the Princeton Fire Department in 1996. He worked as a career firefighter in Hilton Head, S.C. and in Upper Freehold Township, Monmouth County.

Sitek joined the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company in 2014. He joined the Princeton Fire Department in 2016, and rose through the ranks to hold the position of lieutenant and captain.

Summers volunteered in Hamilton Township and joined the Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Company in Lawrence Township in 2012. He rose through the ranks to become deputy fire chief. He joined the Princeton Fire Department in 2014.

Wadsworth is a third-generation member of the Princeton Fire Department who joined in 2005. He held many positions, including lieutenant. He served as an assistant fire chief of the Keene Fire Department in New York State. He is a part-time fire instructor at the Mercer County Fire Academy.

The fulltime fire inspectors – Kabis, Lenarski and Walker – who supplement the six career firefighters, also were given the oath of office.

Kabis joined the Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 2 in 2003, and rose to the position of fire chief. He is the president and chief engineer. He was hired by the Princeton Department of Emergency Services as a fire inspector in 2020. He is the secretary for the Mercer County Fire Prevention and Protection Association.

Lenarski is a third-generation Ewing Township firefighter. He joined the Prospect Heights Fire Company in Ewing Township. He joined the Princeton Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter in 2020.

Walker joined the Burlington Township Fire Department as a volunteer in 2002. He currently belongs to the Burlington County Technical Rescue team. He also worked as a fulltime firefighter/emergency medical technician at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Fire Department. He was hired by the Princeton Department of Emergency Services as a fire inspector in 2022.

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