Outgoing fire chief attends OFD’s 11th annual Thanksgiving Dinner

Photo by Chris Sykes Orange Fire Department Chief James Rothenberger, center, stands with one of the families that came out to the annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Chief Marty DeMarzo Fire Headquarters on the corner of Central and Lincoln avenues on Thursday, Nov. 24.
Photo by Chris Sykes
Orange Fire Department Chief James Rothenberger, center, stands with one of the families that came out to the annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Chief Marty DeMarzo Fire Headquarters on the corner of Central and Lincoln avenues on Thursday, Nov. 24.

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange Fire Department hosted its 11th annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Chief Marty DeMarzo headquarters on the corner of Lincoln and Central avenues on Thursday, Nov. 24.

“We are feeding the homeless and this is at least our 10th year of doing it,” Orange Fire Department Chief James Rothenberger said Thursday, Nov. 24. “We come together with the community, with all the firefighters, with all the volunteers, we get donations and we feed the homeless and the needy. Firefighter Brown had something happen in his family and he thought this was the thing to do and he got the whole fire department behind him and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

The life of a firefighter is training, training and more training in order to keep up with new fire science safety regulations and guidelines and stay up to date on the latest advancements in firefighting technology. According to Rothenberger, the Orange Fire Department has been hosting the annual Thanksgiving dinner for so many years that it “actually comes second nature now.”

“I mean, we could throw this thing and put it together if we had to in a week, if we had to, because we just know everything to do,”Rothenberger said, adding, “We have our go-to people. The Board of Education gives us the heaters that we use and, through the years, we used to pick them up with a truck, but now we just roll them over from the nearest school. We just got better at it.”

Capt. Jamie Anderson, another Orange Fire Department stalwart, said the chief was right about practice making perfect, when it comes to organizing the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

“Once again, the annual Thanksgiving dinner feed is on; I can’t tell you how many people came through thus far, but it was a lot and, as you see, everybody’s still upbeat; it’s still going on,” Anderson said Thursday, Nov. 24. “This thing went off with precision. I’m telling you, it was very nice and I thank God for it.”

Anderson also said he was thankful for all the volunteers that came out to help the Orange Fire Department serve dinner Thanksgiving day.

“We’ve got a lot of young people here and I’m certainly glad they come to volunteer, because a lot of young people, they want. They don’t give, they want,” Anderson said. “I’m so happy to see that, in this community, we have a lot of young people that want to help people. And that’s a blessing.”

Rothenberger agreed that volunteerism is a vital part of the Orange Fire Department’s annual dinner.

“We got a ton of volunteers,” said Rothenberger. “This year, we had people from the high school soccer team. We had some college students here. My family, probably about 20 of them, showed up.”

The outpouring of Rothenberger family support was especially poignant this year, Rothenberger said, because the 2016 Orange Fire Department annual Thanksgiving dinner was his last as an active duty member of the department.

“I’m retiring at the end of the year,” Rothenberger said. “After 28 and a half years, I’m retiring and my family, they come down every year, but this year, they came out to show support for the department and everything. We’ll be here again next year, but in a different capacity.”

And the presence of Rothenberger’s daughter and other immediate family members, as well as Brown’s mother and the relatives of other firefighters ensured that the annual Thanksgiving dinner was a family affair. And Brown said that was a good thing, since he originally organized the event that has become an Orange tradition as a way to honor his brother, Donald Brown, who died in 2006.

“Once again, it’s the annual Orange Fire Department Thanksgiving festival; another successful year for us; Orange Fire members and their family and friends giving back to the community; that’s what we do here,” Brown said Thursday, Nov. 24, as he stood next to another firefighter, Sharif Jennings. “We love it. We enjoy it. It’s all about the public and giving back to those that are less fortunate. The members of the Orange Fire Department, we embrace it. That’s what we’re here for — to serve and protect. In doing that, we have a great platform; people love us for that, but we like to give back and help out as much as we can.”

Brown agreed that the dinner was bittersweet because it marked the last of Rothenberger’s career.

“Thanksgiving is a beautiful day here and it’s also a day that we reflect on our Chief Rothenberger,” Brown said. “Great job. Job well done. You get a ‘Hoo-Ya’ from all the men and women of the Orange Fire Department. May you have great success in your retirement. We all love you.”

Orange Fire Department Director Kenneth Douglas said Rothenberger will definitely be missed and, on behalf of Mayor Dwayne Warren, thanked him for his years of service.

“I will miss this man, after his 29 years of service,” Douglas said Thursday, Nov. 24. “He’s been a blessing to this department and definitely a help to me since I’ve been here. He’s older than some of our equipment. The first ladder truck we had in 1991, when he came on the job. We just retired that and we just got the new one in, and now he’s retiring. But like he said, the annual Thanksgiving dinner will go on.”

COMMENTS