New Jersey firefighters honored for heroic efforts at annual Valor Awards

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Thursday, October 27, 2022
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Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center honored the heroic rescue work of 10 firefighters from around New Jersey at its annual Valor Awards. Sonia Rincon has the story.

CEDAR GROVE, New Jersey (WABC) -- Firefighters in New Jersey, the ones who rush into danger to help others get out of danger, were honored for their heroic acts.

There was nothing but gratitude Wednesday night from a Newark firefighter honored for his bravery battling a fire in August.

"What you guys did for me, thank you so much," Newark Fire Acting Capt. Dayon Cobbs said.

That's because he too was rescued that day. He was released the following month from the Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center to applause after being treated in its burn unit.

That same hospital honored the heroic rescue work of Cobbs and 9 other firefighters from around the state at its annual Valor Awards, first responders like Elizabeth Firefighters Jim Chen and Kyle Haszk who rescued residents from the flooded first floor of the Oakwood Plaza apartments by cutting a hole in the floor above.

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"We did have an axe with us, and Chen went to town, just chopped away and got through it," Haszko said.

Just getting through that shift as they were inundated with calls the night the remnants of Ida hit was something they'll never forget.

"The storm started around 7 at night and we got off at like noon the next day," Chen said.

"It's always a good feeling to know that you came to somebody's aid," Newark Firefighter Wilky Rodriguez said.

For Firefighter Wilky Rodriguez of Newark, that somebody was a homeless man trapped in a car in a burning abandoned auto shop.

"When I opened the door, I initially thought I found a body, but he was alive," he said.

Elizabeth firefighter Chris Whyte wasn't even on duty when he rescued residents of a burning apartment in his neighborhood after smelling the smoke and running over.

"We're never really off-duty," he said. "Just kind of go into work mode when we see people in need."

It's the 35th year the hospital is honoring the work of New Jersey's firefighters, and it does this in part to help its burn center which, among other thing,s teaches fire safety.

The honorees credit their training and said they hope what they did can help train future firefighters.

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