O U R  H I S T O R Y

The Paramus Rescue Squad was established in 1952 under the Civil Defense – Disaster Control Act as directed by Congress.  The mission of the Rescue Squad was to prepare for rescues and survival following an atomic attack or war.  It was also decided the Squad could respond as a first line unit. Under the direction of Warren G. Hildenbrand (Director), Edward Sharkey (Deputy Director), and Archie A. Petronzio (Operations Officer), the Squad was formed. In 1956 eight men were trained as specialists in heavy duty rescue work.


The training was presented by local, county and state CD-DC officers, covering every phase of rescue. Some members became specialists in certain fields such as ropes, cutting equipment, breathing apparatus, ladders and first aid.In 1958 the Paramus CD-DC organization purchased a new fully equipped heavy-duty rescue vehicle.  The truck was made available through the use of federal matching funds, where the Borough provided half the funds and the Federal Government the other.  Costing $13,000 the truck and equipment included; ladders welding and cutting equipment, oxygen masks, air purifying units, water pumps generators, lights safety belts, water containers and a heavy duty winch.  Also included were raincoats, boots, gloves and general tools.


Having no garage, the truck was kept in one of the Officer’s driveways at home.  It wasn’t until March of 1959 that the old vacant D.P.W. garage on Midland Ave. next to Midland School was worked on by the members of the Squad.  With a new larger garage door and a paint job, the truck and Squad finally had a home.  For meetings and training the truck was pulled out of the tiny garage.


September 18, 1960 saw Hurricane Donna strike Bergen County, and the Squad was mobilized to assist the Borough and Power Company in removing downed trees from homes and roadways. Water was pumped from flooded basements and rowboats were used on the flooded Saddle River to check on homeowners who needed to be evacuated.


The years that followed saw the continued training and response to calls, such as the dramatic accident on June 25, 1961, in which a tractor trailer carrying liquid propane rolled over onto a car trapping its occupants. A four square mile area was evacuated during Rescue and Fire operations.


In 1968 Paramus become on the first communities to acquire the new “Jaws-of-Life”, the now familiar Hurst Model 32 hydraulic spreader.


March 30, 1969 saw eight men graduate from the New Jersey State Troopers Rescue
Training Center in Hammonton, NJ. Training included rescue techniques, casualty and simulated emergency operations along with leadership exercises.


In May 1971 Mayor Charles E. Reid appointed Archie Petronzio as Director of the CD-DC organization.  Noted calls for the year included the search for a lost child in the sand pits and the crash of a light plane on the Garden State Parkway, calling on a skill that was becoming the Squad’s forte, extrication of the pilot.  This was followed two days later with a bus collision taking the lives of two persons.


On May 13, 1975 an extended power failure struck the Borough calling on the Squad’s generators for such needs as powering voting booths and providing light for the confirmation exercises at Our Lady of Visitation Church. On July 16 Paramus witnessed natures fury, as a tornado cut through Bergen County, ripping the roofs from homes, and felling trees. The Squad worked for 2 days clearing roads.

In November of that year the Squad’s new custom-built rescue truck was given its “Wet Down”, inaugurating a truck that was the first of its kind in Bergen County. 


Paramus New Vehicle (11/23/75)
- The recently acquired Paramus CD-DC heavy rescue truck is shown above in a photo shortly after its dedication or “wet down.” Present at the dedication were Paramus CD-DC Director Archie Petronzio and Col. Carl J. Koenig, Bergen County CD-DC Coordinator. After more than a year of work on the part of Petronzio, Paramus was able to obtain approximately $11,000 in matching funds toward the total cost of approximately $33,000. The truck is now in daily service to assist in accidents on the heavily traveled State Routes 4 and 17 which bisect Paramus. It is also ready for major disasters, such as the tornado of July 1975.


Federal Funding was again used to help offset the $33,000 cost of the truck. With two trucks the Squad had outgrown its tiny building and made its move to share garage space with the Shade Tree Department in the Municipal Complex off Carlough Drive.


In November of that year the Squad’s new custom-built rescue truck was given its “Wet Down”, inaugurating a truck that was the first of its kind in Bergen County.  Federal Funding was again used to help offset the $33,000 cost of the truck. With two trucks the Squad had outgrown its tiny building and made its move to share garage space with the Shade Tree Department in the Municipal Complex off Carlough Drive.


September 1977, 6 members of the Squad participated in the World Wide International
Rescue and First Aid Conference and Competition held in St Lois, MO. The Squad placed 15th out of 33 teams, and were congratulated by the Mayor and Council for their achievement.


In December 1982 the Fire Department recognized the changing roles of the Rescue
Squad and the Rules and Regulations of the Paramus Fire Department officially
adopted the Paramus Rescue Squad as the Rescue Company of the Fire Department.


As the Squad was still sharing a garage, it was proposed in April 1982 to finally build a new home specifically for the Rescue Squad.  The site chosen was to be at the intersection of Midland Ave, and Farview Ave, this being the closest to the center of the Borough. What followed was months of unexpected political debate between the residents of the area, the Squad, and the Borough Council. Finally in October of 1982 the Borough Council approved a resolution that would locate the Rescue Squad on the North side of Carlough Drive across from the Police Department.


September of 1982 saw the delivery and dedication of Rescue “9” a  Saulsbury custom Rescue on a Ford F-700 Chassis, This upgraded the Squads equipment to included a new generator, lights and a cascade system to fill air tanks at a scene.


In October of 1983, after over a year of debate, bids were received and approved for the construction of the Squads building. The building was designed to include a large bay area for the trucks, a meeting room, office space, as well as a trainingroom and locker room with showers.  A far cry from the shared space of the Shade tree garage with its odor of cut grass and pesticides.


In November of 1990, six members of the Rescue Squad competed in the International Auto Extrication Competition sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, in Seminole County, Florida. Competing against teams from around the world, the team captured the FIRST place trophy, becoming thefirst team ever from the Northeast US to hold the title.  Members of the Squad were honored by the Borough Council as well as recognized by the Governors office.


In May 1991 Rescue “7” the 1975 rescue truck that had served the Borough so well was officially retired and replaced with the current Saulsbury custom Rescue truck with a ten man cab by Simon Duplex.


In January of 1992 the Borough ordinance mandating the Rescue Squad was changed to recognize the ever-expanding rolls of the Squad.  After 40 years the Paramus Rescue Squad was officially established as an independent agency, separate from the Office of Emergency Management (which had evolved from the CD-DC).


In May 1996 members of Squad competed in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Extrication Competition. Against teams from the East Coast the Paramus Rescue Squad captured not only the First place trophies for each individual event but also First Place Overall.  The following year the team returned to compete again and held on to the title, winning the First Place Overall Trophy, marking the first time the same team has captured the trophy two years in a row. This allowed the team to compete in the International Competition held in September 1997 in Vancouver, Canada. After soliciting corporate sponsors for the trip the team traveled across the country to once again compete against the worlds best.  While not returning with a trophy, the team managed to place in the top 5 and returned with a new sense of pride and determination.


May 1996 saw the replacement of Rescue “9” with the current Saulsbury / Simon Duplex Rescue. The older Ford F-700 was worn from the many trips up the hill of Carlough drive and was traded to the County where it now serves as a training truck for the Bergen County EMS Training Center.


As 1999 drew to a close, Tropical storm Floyd paid a visit to Paramus. Almost 39 years to the date of Hurricane Donna the storm produced flooding that damaged hundreds of homes. The Squad was again called to rescue residents from therapidly rising waters of the Saddle River,  only now 39 years later, homes stoodin what had once been celery farms.  The Squad used such heavy equipment as bucket loaders and dump trucks to pluck residents from their flooded homes. Always mindfully of our neighbors the Rescue Squad also spent several days assisting the surrounding towns such as Rochelle Park, which was particularly hit hard, with over 40% of the town suffering flood damage.


The year 2000 marks a new age for the Paramus Rescue Squad, and unfortunately the passing of another. We mark the loss of one of our founding fathers and leaders, Archie Petronzio. Archie remained just as dedicated to the Squad and the Community in his final days as his first days. He will truly be missed.

December 14, 1968


Sadness continued in September of 2004, with the loss of Rescuer William "Jim" Lightbody in a Line of Duty Death. Jim had responded to several weather related fire alarms early in the morning, and assisted in an Extrication call on the Garden State Parkway for a car off the roadway, down an embankment. The driver of one of the Rescue trucks, upon arriving at the garage, noticed Jim slumped over in the passenger seat. CPR was started immediately, and unfortunately Jim did not survive the heart attack. Jim's memory lives on, and will be preserved in our antique project, a project in which a 1954 Chevrolet Suburban is being restored to look like the first Rescue truck used by Paramus Rescue.




The Squad continues to expand its training, skills and equipment. The original mission of the Rescue Squad was to prepare for rescues and survival following an attack of war…We have come a long way.


©2007 Paramus Rescue. Web site designed by Susan Lazzaro