Health Management

2 Newark Firefighters Brought Years of Service to Their Final Fire


When flames raced by way of an enormous cargo ship in Port Newark in New Jersey on Wednesday, it was not some specialised nautical group that ventured into its blazing higher decks. It was metropolis firefighters, whose final job might need been speeding to a burning home or fallen wires, or treating somebody with chest pains or serving to a girl in labor.

Neighborhood jobs.

“Common guys” — that’s what folks typically name firefighters who perish on the job. Two males from Newark, Augusto Acabou, 45, generally known as Augie, and Wayne Brooks Jr., 49, ran onto that burning ship and didn’t come again. Each common guys, sure, however every particularly distinctive.

They had been merchandise of Engine 16 in Newark’s working-class, traditionally Portuguese neighborhood, the Ironbound, working in a red-brick firehouse on Ferry Avenue.

The firehouse and its inhabitants had been neighborhood fixtures, educating kids hearth prevention on the elementary faculty across the nook and chatting with acquainted passers-by.

In 2005, a hearth chief with a spot to fill in Engine 16 was drawn to a brand new graduate from the academy, Wayne Brooks Jr.

“I’d heard good issues about him,” Matthew R. Cordasco, now retired, mentioned Thursday. “I mentioned, ‘I’ve a gap,’ and he mentioned ‘Positively.’ He wished to study from the start.”

The younger firefighter had been a high-school fencer, Mr. Cordasco discovered, and attacked fires the best way he would confront an opponent in a match.

“He was at all times aggressive — he wished to get in there, get to the warmth of the hearth,” he mentioned. “He wished to be on the tip, the man on the entrance of the hose, placing out the hearth.”

Mr. Cordasco retired in 2010, and Mr. Brooks would switch to a close-by ladder firm. However he stayed in contact along with his previous chief, just lately beaming with delight as he instructed him that his daughter was going to turn out to be a nurse.

When Mr. Cordasco discovered how his protégé had died on Thursday — trapped after operating onto the ship — he was devastated. He was not stunned.

“I’m certain there was no hesitation,” Mr. Cordasco mentioned. “He went full-bore. You don’t know who’s there, you don’t have a manifest of the ship. You pull up and also you go to work. That’s the mind-set of a firefighter.”

Like Mr. Brooks, Mr. Acabou had been a younger athlete — soccer at East Aspect Excessive College in Newark. At 45, he was gone his helmet-and-pads years, however when he discovered final winter {that a} former coach had been identified with most cancers, he hurried to assist, taking him to the shop for groceries or getting them himself.

Typical, mentioned certainly one of his two youthful brothers, João Acabou: “He had the largest coronary heart.”

He was seen as a rising star at Engine 16 and had simply taken the examination to succeed in the rank of captain. “He’s a captain to us,” mentioned Capt. Helder Fonseca.

The firefighters work 24-hour shifts as soon as each 4 days. The relationships cast are totally different from these measured in eight-hour workplace shifts. You eat collectively, get up collectively and see a whole lot of each other.

“He was at all times comfortable,” Captain Fonseca mentioned. “I by no means noticed him unhappy. He was only a common man, an actual gentleman with a whole lot of sweetness.” He chuckled. “He was superior.”

Capt. Jose Alvarez mentioned being greeted on the firehouse by Mr. Acabou was a ritual.

“He would shake your hand and say, ‘Hey, cap, that is what we have to do, and that is what we now have. What would you like for lunch? We will cook dinner or exit someplace.’”

Each day, he’d run from his house previous the close by Newark Firefighters Union corridor — “Didn’t matter if it was sizzling or chilly,” mentioned Eddie Paulo, a lifelong good friend and union vice-president. “He was out right here along with his weight vest on.”

The previous soccer participant took a place within the outfield for the firefighters’ baseball group.

“If the bases had been loaded and he popped the ball, he was so arduous on himself,” mentioned Mr. Paulo, 44, of Mountainside. “He thought he allow us to all down. We had been there to inform him, ‘It’s OK. It’s only a sport, man.’”

The cities the firefighters known as house started saying goodbye in their very own methods on Thursday.

Mr. Brooks lived in Union, and on Thursday morning, metropolis firefighters arrived outdoors the white raised ranch home with bagels and orange juice and arrange a pink cover to fend off the blazing solar. Cops, firefighters and different emergency employees arrived in solemn procession.

Later, about 20 probationary firefighters from Newark filed out of a pink faculty bus to face in formation outdoors the house. They stood in silence for minutes earlier than saluting, then lining as much as categorical condolences.

“We come from a cop, army, service-oriented household,” mentioned Mr. Brooks’s cousin, Roger Terry Jr., a 54-year-old retired police officer from North Plainfield.

The cousins had been shut, every godfather to the opposite’s daughter, every manning a grill or a smoker at Mr. Brooks’s cookouts for his fellow firefighters — ribs, rooster and Mr. Brooks’s favourite, crab truffles.

When a passing automotive honked its horn Thursday, Mr. Terry raised his fist in salute.

Exterior the Ironbound constructing the place Mr. Acabou was rising within the ranks, Engine 16, somewhat row of flowers grew alongside the brick partitions.

A black-ribboned bouquet was left by the Portuguese American Police Affiliation. A bunch of blue daisies {that a} man in a Fireplace Division T-shirt had positioned tipped over. Captain Alvarez, who had labored intently with the person he known as Augie, bent and brushed them off and righted them.

It appeared these males had been at all times there. Captain Alvarez would see them on his days off, racing previous on the best way to a job. Quite a lot of firefighters within the truck stare forward. Not them.

“Augie and Brooks would acknowledge me,” Captain Alvarez mentioned. “Not everybody does that. And I’m not saying that as a result of they died.

“It’s simply the best way they had been. You possibly can ask anyone.”

Elise Younger, Erin Nolan and Tracey Tully contributed reporting.

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