The New Jersey Devils honored former Bayonne Fire Department Chief Greg Rogers as the team’s Hero of the Game on March 1, his first day of retirement. The newly former chief was celebrated as part of Bayonne’s “My Town Night” at Prudential Center as the Devils took on the Carolina Hurricanes.
A lifelong resident of Bayonne, Rogers spent more than 35 years with the fire department after joining on November 25, 1980. “I wanted to serve the public, and it was a great opportunity to do good things for my friends, my family, my neighbors, my town,” Rogers said. He called becoming a firefighter one of the best decisions of his life.
Rogers is the first in his family to become a firefighter, but comes from a family of public servants. He has two uncles and a cousin who have retired from the NYPD, and two additional cousins currently serving the department.
Serving as a firefighter in Bayonne, Rogers said his department is ready to deal with almost every kind of emergency a fire department can be expected to cover, due to Bayonne’s industrialization and location on a peninsula. “We have a lot of petro-chemical on the outskirts of the city, so we’re equipped to deal with those types of fires…. We have a fully dedicated rescue rig, which is specially trained to deal with building collapses and more.” Being on the water, Rogers said his department maintained a fleet of vessels for water-based scenarios. “We’re specialty trained in just about every avenue of rescue that you can imagine.”
In his time as chief, Rogers oversaw the response to Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. “Nothing stands out in my mind larger than Storm Sandy. That was a tremendous storm, and one of the most difficult times of my career,” Rogers said. “We had as many as 400 calls for service for emergencies in a very short period of time when the bay waters started to rise and pretty much overtake enormous portions of Bayonne.” Rogers described how in boats, he and his team would navigate over cars that had been fully submerged in the waters, rescuing people through the fire escapes on the sides of buildings.
More recently, Rogers said 2015 was among the busiest years his department had faced since 1972, in terms of multiple-alarm fires, adding that the department faced more than 25 multi-alarm fires. Anything beyond two alarms in Bayonne involves assistance from nearby municipalities. ‘The fire service is a brotherhood, and we care about one another because we know in the end, when times get tough, we have to depend on each other,” Rogers said.
Last summer, Rogers’ team responded to an early morning fire on East 21st Street. “It was pitch dark, the street was covered in smoke, the front of the building was fully involved in fire, there were multiple calls for rescue from people on the second floor,” Rogers said as he set the scene. When Firefighters entered the building, the front of the building began to collapse. “It was basically raining tar-balls.” The façade cut the team’s water line, but they were able to rescue three civilians. It was the same fire that displaced High School goaltender Akiel Fogoe, and his family. In partnership with CCM, the Devils were able to help replace Fogoe’s equipment, which was lost in the blaze.
Rogers explained that he knew after 35 years, accomplishing everything he set out to do, it would be time to move on to the next phase of his life. “I’m going to work on my house and get myself back into shape. I’m going to go Texas, visit my family and I’m sure there are going to be a million other things to find and enjoy,” he said.
Rogers called it outstanding to be honored at a Devils game, saying, “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” Beyond the regular crowd at The Rock, Rogers had a special cheering section when he was recognized, as citizens of Bayonne saluted their longtime firefighter.