Verona Fire Chief Serves With Notoriety, Passion
Patrick McEvoy recognized for his dedication to the township for more than 40 years.
Patrick McEvoy’s resumé is filled with notoriety – not only is he one of the only Verona firefighters to serve as fire chief for more than one term, but he is also the only person in township history to serve as both captain of the Verona Rescue Squad and chief of the fire department.
This past January, McEvoy finished his second term as chief and passed the torch on to Harvey Goodman, who will serve as fire department chief for the next two years.
“Harvey was my assistant the last time through, so it's a natural flow for him to be chief,” said McEvoy. “He will do fine.”
McEvoy, who has put in more than 40 years of service during his 50 years living in Verona, was honored on Feb. 23 by firefighters, the Verona Township Council, family and friends during a special dinner ceremony.
“He understands how to handle emergencies like no one else,” said Verona Office of Emergency Management Director Jeff Hayes.
McEvoy was presented with a ceremonial bell, a ceremonial axe, a proclamation from the township council and a service award from the rescue squad.
McEvoy moved to Verona from Indiana at a young age and initially joined the rescue squad. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the Verona Fire Department at age 18 as an auxiliary firefighter before becoming an official firefighter at age 21.
He decided to join because he said both departments are a close brotherhood.
“They are a second family to you – you know their children and their families and celebrate the good times and the bad,” he said. “It's an uncommon bond you get by spending the hours training with these guys and going through the worst case scenarios.”
“You experience things with these guys you won't experience with anyone else,” he added. “If you do a job really well, there’s nothing like have a successful conclusion to an event.”
McEvoy served as lieutenant for three years and captain for two years. He also served as assistant chief twice for two-year terms and was named chief for the first time in 2003, serving until 2004. He was named chief again in 2011.
“If you do it from the heart, it’s not a chore,” he said. “It's the right thing to do and it's my way of giving back to the community. It's a small town and when you go out on calls you know the people.”
Although Goodman is now in charge of the 55 firefighters, eight auxiliary members and 10 life members, McEvoy is still an active firefighter and since he is the most recent ex-chief, will step back into the role of chief, if he is needed.
Despite battling raging fires, the biggest challenge, he says, is keeping up with recruitment.
“The economics of the town makes it very difficult for someone who is young to be able to buy a house and stay in town,” he said. “There's a lot of behind the scenes grunt-work that has to get done, there has to be concentrating, meetings, training, organizing and drills.”
“There's a lot more to it than the horn goes off you get in the truck,” he said.
The toughest part of his job is dealing with fatalities or having to handle 70 calls in two days during recent storms.
“There's big fires you remember, but it’s the ones where someone doesn't make it that you really remember and that really stick in the back of your mind,” said McEvoy. “Those are few and far between in Verona.”
The township has been very fortunate in that they have never lost a firefighter in the line of duty in the history of the Verona Fire Department, he said.
One thing that sticks out in his mind is the change in recognition following 9/11.
“No one really appreciated firemen until after 9/11,” he said. “After 9/11 people realized that they had the largest rescue people in the world with one of the biggest loss of lives. We saw them going up and they knew they weren't coming back down, and 243 didn't.”
“I think everyone had a different respect for firefighters after that,” McEvoy said.
McEvoy will also never forget being part of the Fire Department Honor Guard and being one of the first volunteer fire departments to present the flags for the National Anthem for the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
“It was neat to hear to hear 82,000 people cheering and the ground was vibrating beneath our feet from the roaring of the crowd,” he said. “We were on the field at the same the Giants hit the field and the Redskins hit the field.”
“That's an honor and a half, that's something that you will never ever forget or experience again,” he said. “That's probably my highlight from the fire department.”