Firefighters play Santa’s helpers

ORANGE, NJ — The city of Orange Township officially kicked off the holiday season with its annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 8, in front of City Hall on North Day Street.

Once again, the Orange Fire Department did its part to welcome Santa Claus to town as, according to its firefighters, they have a special relationship with Santa.

“The sleigh that Santa uses, whenever he comes to the city for the holidays, was built by Fire Department personnel,” said acting Fire Chief James Rothenberger on Thursday, Nov. 26, at the Orange Fire Department’s annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at Chief Martin DeMarzo Fire Headquarters, on the corner of Central and Lincoln avenues.

“Santa gave us the specs and our guys put it together.
“We do what we’ve got to do. We can’t give all our secrets away.
“We can’t tell people that this is one of his work stations. We let him park here, too.”

Rothenberger said it really is an honor to “get to park Santa’s sleigh at the firehouse.”
He said it’s great to have the sleigh parked in the building and “if the weather is bad and it gets too wet, we’ve got his back.”
“We’ve got the direct connection; a direct line to him,” said Rothenberger. “We’ve got the naughty-and-nice list. And we do what we’ve got to do.”

Fire Director Kenneth M. Douglas said the Orange Fire Department’s special relationship with Santa goes deeper than that.
“We share the same colors, red and white,” said Douglas on Thursday, Nov. 26. “He’s got the North Pole and we’ve got the brass poles.”

Firefighter Leonard Stewart said there really are a lot of similarities between Santa and the Orange Fire Department, but he said, in his opinion, that’s how it should be.

“It depends if you’re naughty or nice,” said Stewart on Thursday, Nov. 26. “We’ve got a direct connection.”
Orange Fire Department Capt. Jamie Anderson said the Orange Fire Department does it all, when it comes to helping Santa, whenever and however they can with whatever he needs during the holidays. He said that’s just one of the many services the department does on behalf of the residents of Orange.

“We go on Main Street and Central Avenue and just throw toys at kids; we do it all,” said Anderson on Thursday, Nov. 26. “Christmas is next. Usually, come September, we’re really hopping, because from then on throughout, there’s something going on. Back to school, we get involved with that; Halloween; fire prevention; Breast Cancer Awareness Month; we get involved in all of that. From September to December, it’s just go, go, go, so when January comes, that’s actually when a lot of guys take vacation, because they need a rest.”

Anderson said, even though the things they do for Santa and the Orange community during the holiday season are a lot of work, nobody minds doing it, because it really is a labor of love. He also said they view it as an extension of their regular, ongoing duties, serving the city.

“We love it and, those that don’t love it, they hate hearing my mouth, so they get to loving it, so that’s fine with me,” said Anderson. “We’re your friend; we’re there to help you. We only want to help. We’re never there to hurt you. We only want to help.”