BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Fire Department named Capt. Richard Rannou its 2019 Firefighter of the Year in a Dec. 30 ceremony.
Rannou, a 20-year veteran and 1988 Bloomfield High School graduate, was chosen by Fire Chief Lou Venezia based on a number of criteria, including valor, customer service, loyalty, dedication to duty, productivity, professionalism and commitment to excellence.
“This award goes to a department member who has displayed great value and service,” Venezia said earlier this week in his office with Rannou. “In Capt. Rannou’s case, he always takes on more to improve the situation, large and small. One of the biggest or recognizable things is a firefighting safety course he designed and planned.”
The masked-confidence safety course for which Rannou is responsible was temporarily located at Firehouse No. 3 on East Passaic Avenue during October. The U-shaped obstacle course sat within a metal cargo container, with the obstacles replicating the various types of impediments a crawling firefighter might confront in a fire-ravaged building. The final obstacle tested the firefighter’s dexterity, by requiring him to put his gloved hands through two openings and tie a knot in a cord. Rannou said the course was exhausting to complete and tying the knot was very difficult. He built the course in six days.
“Deputy Chief Brian McDade showed me a design from another department,” Rannou said. “Our course is modular. It can be changed. You can’t get muscle memory.”
As a firefighter, Rannou said he comes to work with a plan, but sometimes the best laid plans go astray.
“You have something to do everyday,” he said. “Everything works around that. You may come in with a great idea and leave with nothing accomplished; you’re just that busy.”
Rannou is on the BFD Apparatus Committee and is scheduled to go to Florida with several other firefighters to inspect a new fire engine made especially for the department. A new fire truck will be coming next year.
Venezia said that Rannou is always involved and was instrumental in “speccing out these two vehicles.” Vehicles, said Rannou, are part of his love for the job.
“It’s an interesting aspect of the job,” he said. “I try to be proactive and involved with the evolution of the job. We’ve changed a lot in three years.”
Rannou, who was dispatched to New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said a firefighter’s opportunities for dramatic valor are low — especially in Bloomfield, which has good fire prevention and a low fire rate.
Venezia added that firefighters downplay what they do and a lot goes on behind the scenes.
In addition to giving Rannou the Firefighter of the Year award, Venezia gave awards to personnel involved with Emergency Medical Service rescues and a group effort award for fighting the recent fire on Washington Street.
“That fire was in a very old building,” he said. “On arrival, fire was blowing out the windows.”
Dealing with that kind of fire, Venezia observed, requires intense manpower.
“The men working that day showed a lot of grit and determination,” he said.
The Emergency Medical Service awards went to Deputy Chief Robert Barra; Capts. David Duda, Michael Bevins, Joseph Coletta, Joseph Critchley, James McCarthy and Robert Griffin; and firefighters Jeffrey DeJessie, Michael Searls, Walter Coffey, Christopher Caldarella, Ronald Fusaro, Kevin Hilaire, Jeffrey Roberts, Ronald Briceno, Adam Miick, Sean Lind, Thomas Laiacona and Oscar Morales.
The Group 4 Fire Effort Recognition awards went to Deputy Chiefs Steven Motzer and Brian McDade; Capts. Frank Durantino and James McCarty; Fire Official Gennaro Ilaria; acting officers Thomas Laiacona and Kevin Villegas; and firefighters Stephen Cowen, Kevin Hilaire, Sean Lind, Daren McCoy, Adam Miick, Oscar Morales, Michael Nicosia, Jeffrey Roberts and William Todaro.