Tag Archives: Firefighter Justin Watrel

My Life as a Fireman: Bringing Back the Department June Barbecue June 16th, 2022

I know that I can be quite the traditionalist and like to keep up events that have been successful. I also like to build on them and see them grow over time.

The old Engine One Barbecue that we used to have after every Meeting/Drill night in June started as just a small dinner one night when we wanted to barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs after our drill. Members of our company were joined by other members from other companies enjoyed themselves and it was mentioned at our next department meeting. Some members complained that we didn’t invite them (they were more than happy to come to the drill night). So the next year we sent out invitations for the barbecue that would be after the drill/meeting night.

Firefighter Justin Watrel, Barbecue Chairman, June 2022 Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Meeting night

For the next eleven summers, we continued the tradition and it grew over time and the menu began to vary. We went from simple hamburgers and hot dogs we morphed into creative salads, baked ziti and doctored up Baked Beans with things like black strap molasses, maple syrup hot sauce and cured bacon.

Homemade Baked Ziti and Potato Salad

I got even more creative with the desserts. I used to order an ice cream cake with a fire engine on it but no one would eat it. So I changed it around and did more traditional desserts like cake cookies, brownies and rice crispy treats. I even experimented with desserts that are traditional to a barbecue like watermelon and apple pie but they were not as popular.

Me preparing for dinner in 2017

As time went on, members would bring their family to the event and many of our old timers and their wives were invited so that they could meet up together again. We were averaging 50 to 60 people at every barbecue so it was hard to judge who to cook for that evening.

Our senior members with their wives at the 2015 barbecue

COVID affected the event just after we merged the department in 2019 and we stopped the event for two years. It was nice for me when the department voted to bring the barbecue dinner back at the May Department meeting. It gave me a chance to put my Hyatt banquet skills back and dig back into my culinary skills.

Setting up snacks and drinks at the barbecue

The menu was kept simple since it was just the department members after the June Department Meeting. We grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and Italian Sausage. For the sides, I made a homemade Baked Ziti, a Red Bliss Potato Salad with Bacon and Baked Beans with all sorts of chips and popcorn and for dessert I made traditional dessert of various flavored Cake Cookies, Brownies and Rice Cripsy Treats. Those Rice Cripsy Treats really disappeared.

What I liked about the barbecue was the compliments from the other guys on the department and what a good time they had. It was nice to bring this comradre back after this long spell of COVID. As usual, I want to thank Firefighter Bernie Valente for helping with all the barbecuing and for being our grill master.

Firefighter and Grill Master Bernie Valente

It’s good to make a group of firemen happy!

Firefighter Justin Watrel setting up the homemade desserts of brownies, cookies and rice crispy treats

My Life as a Fireman: Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Annual Inspection May 21st, 2022

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Annual Inspection May 21st, 2022

For the first time in two years (due to the COVID pandemic), the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department stood for Inspection for the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights.

All department members worked during the week washing, scrubbing and cleaning every piece of apparatus, cleaning all the tools and organizing all the cabinets to be sure that everything was in place. Then we cleaned the fire house from top to bottom. Every room was cleaned and vacuumed and shown the pride the department has in our firehouse.

The Department Inspection was led by Chief Tim Moots, First Assistant Chief Kevin Todd and Second Assistant Chief Mike Greco. The members stood attention for the flag salute, a special greeting by Chief Moots and speeches by invited dignitaries.

The Department invited the community to join in inspecting all of the department’s equipment and out of town chiefs judged each piece of apparatus, two engines, the ladder truck, the rescue truck and the two ambulances for appearance and equipment check. The rescue truck won that evening.

After the Inspection of the equipment was over, the members of the fire department and their invited guests joined together for an Italian dinner in our large meeting room. It was nice way for everyone to come together after a two-year gap.

Good luck and Godspeed to all members of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department in 2022!

My Life as a Fireman: HHFD Annual ‘Santa Around Town” December 19th, 2021

I still can’t believe that Christmas came so quickly this year. It was almost like the blink of an eye. With the start of the Christmas holidays, there are many cherished Christmas events in Hasbrouck Heights that have become tradition.

Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so beautifully decorated for the holidays (Heights Flower Shoppe)

Starting with the Christmas Parade the day after Thanksgiving, this annual event showcases our wonderful downtown in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and dazzles us at the end of the parade with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Caroling. It had been so cold that night that the crowds were more subdued than usual (remember COVID is still going on) but no less spirited.

The Neil Parrot Playhouse decorated for Christmas at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle

The Fire Department escorted Santa down the parade route to the Christmas tree and was greeted by the Hasbrouck Heights Community , who were ready for some Christmas cheer. When the switch turned on, we were dazzled by the lights of the trees and decorations that grace the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights.

The Christmas Tree at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle always dazzles at night

After the parade and carolling were over, it was back to the firehouse but not before the fire fighters got their own group shot at the Christmas tree.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Christmas Tree in 2021

By the end of the month, we were ready for our big community event, “Santa Around Town” where the fire department escorted Santa around the Hasbrouck Heights community to wish everyone Christmas cheer in a very difficult year.

We lucked out and the weather cooperated and it ended up being a sunny but cool day. Because of the COVID pandemic, we cut the number of stops and the crowds were a bit smaller but no less enthusiastic about seeing and talking to Santa.

Being socially distanced and wearing masks in some locations, residents of Hasbrouck Heights got to talk to Santa and give him their Christmas wishes. I have never seen so many families and especially children need a lot of Christmas cheer in these tough times and Santa really came through for families and even their pets, as many Christmas dogs greeted and licked Santa.

We toured all over town, greeting residents and every keeping as socially distanced and safe as we could as Santa greeted everyone who came and cheered up a community that really needed it.

Merry Christmas from the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department!

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town” 2021

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

My Life as a Fireman: Memorial Day Weekend May 31st, 2021

Memorial Day this year was rather quiet due to the ongoing COVID Pandemic so the traditional parade was cancelled.

Hasbrouck Heights had a small but tasteful ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Terrace Avenue. The Mayor and the council said some nice words about our veterans from town and the members of the VFW were present who felt up for the ceremony.

Hasbrouck Hts Fire (@Heightsfd) | Twitter

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Firemen’s Memorial Park on the Boulevard

After the ceremony, we had a small ceremony at the Firemen’s Memorial at the Circle on the Boulevard. Again the service was short and tasteful as we honored our fallen brothers from the department.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department saluting our fallen Brothers and Sisters

It was a nice afternoon to pay our respects for the people of our community that have done so much for us.

Happy Memorial Day!

Bunny Around Town

My Life as a Fireman: Riding the Rescue for the “Annual Easter Bunny Around Town” April 3rd, 2021 (Again on April 3rd, 2022)

The era of COVID has spawned innovation in running events at the firehouse. Hasbrouck Heights had to cancel their Annual Easter Egg Hunt this year like last year because they could not bring all those kids to the football field to run around. Even though we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with COVID, and this too will pass soon we have to stay safe.

For the second year, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held it’s “Annual Easter Bunny Around Town” drive by event for the families and especially for the kids in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. This type of community outreach is what makes a good town better. About twenty five firefighters loaded up the two engines, the two ambulances and the rescue truck and donned their masks as we split the town east and west with the equipment covering every street in Hasbrouck Heights. Each team visited their side of town with two bunnies greeting all the residents.

Bunny Around Town

Happy Easter at the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

We had a nice crowd of people waiting on their lawns, masks on, greeting us as our Easter Bunny waved at them. We rode behind the truck that was carrying our Easter representative, waving at residents as well. For a sunny afternoon in the beginning of April, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department spread a little Easter cheer to a community that know that better times are ahead.

Happy Easter in 2021!

In 2022:

In 2022, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department made another trip around Hasbrouck Heights on a gloomy day. Still the residents of the community enjoyed seeing the fire trucks and many families greeted us on their front lawns with pictures. It was a nice way to welcome in the Spring and the Easter holidays.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department escorting the Easter Bunny Around Hasbrouck Heights 2022

Happy Easter 2022

My life as a Fireman: The 10th Annual Engine One Barbecue at the Hasbrouck Heights Firehouse June 7, 2017

My time on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

We ran the barbecue for 11 years. Me baking up a storm for dessert for the barbecue in 2017.

Our engine company used to run the barbecue the first week of June every year. We had a lot of fun.

My life as a Fireman: Brother Justin Watral promotes novel, “Firehouse 101” at the NJBooks2017 on June 11, 2017

My time on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

I am still promoting my novel, “Firehouse 101” the story of Hotel Executive Alex Livingston, who moves from Honolulu to Brooklyn a year and a half after the 9/11 attacks and the people he meets along the way and how they change his life for the better.

It’s available on IUniverse.com and all online book sites:

https://www.iuniverse.com/BookStore/BookDetails/101408-FIREHOUSE-101

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/firehouse-101-justin-watral/1007586031

Author Justin Watral promoting his novel “Firehouse 101” at the Brooklyn Book Festival in 2011 ten years after the attacks of 9/11.

My life as a Fireman: The Engine One October Drill to Home 2 Home Suites by Hilton tour October 4th, 2017

My time on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

Our Engine Company toured the Home to Home Suites in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ for a drill

My life as a Fireman: The Brother’s of Engine One participate in the HHFD Fire Prevention Open House October 22nd, 2017

My time on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

Engine 615 (One) at Fire Prevention Week in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.

My life as a Fireman: The Brothers of Engine One assist in ‘Santa Around Town’ in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ December 17th, 2017

My time on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

‘Santa Around Town’ is one of our biggest community events. The Department in 2017.