NJ Assistant Fire Chief, 53, Dies in the Line of Duty

Firefighter fatality

Jeff Goldman



A longtime volunteer firefighter in Hillsborough died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency responding to a car fire, authorities said.

Assistant Chief William Shaffer of Fire Company No. 2 (Station 37) was among a group of firefighters called to Copart Salvage Auto Auctions on Camplain Road at about 1:15 p.m. when he required medical attention, officials said.

Shaffer was first treated at the scene and then brought to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, where he was pronounced dead.

A 35-year veteran of the department, Shaffer also worked full-time as a department manager at a local ShopRite, according to Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Weniger.

Shaffer, 53, is survived by his wife Marian and three adult children — one son and two daughters, Weniger said

Shaffer filled almost every leadership role during his decades as a volunteer in his hometown — at various points serving as a chief and captain before settling into his role as assistant chief about two years ago, Weniger said in a brief phone interview.

“He just loved (being a firefighter),” Weniger said. “The fire department was his life. It was very important to him and he had a family that was very understanding.”

Weniger said Shaffer’s colleagues in the fire department marveled at how he was able to volunteer countless hours while juggling a full-time job and family responsibilities. “We often wondered that as well,” the fire marshal said.

Officials in Hillsborough are also grieving Shaffer’s death.

“Hillsborough experiences great sadness today with the untimely passing of one of our volunteer firefighters William Shaffer,” Mayor Shawn Lipani said in a statement. “Whether you knew him from (Station) 37 or seeing him at work at ShopRite, Billy always had a smile and a good word. Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife Marian, and his entire family. He will be sorely missed. Rest easy, Billy.”

Shaffer was also well-regarded by firefighters in neighboring departments who got to know him on mutual aid calls.

“Billy was one of the most dedicated members a fire department could ask for,” the Raritan Borough Fire Department said in a statement. “Missed calls were rare and his passion was second to none. He will be greatly missed by Hillsborough Fire District and the surrounding departments.”

The flag at the Hillsborough municipal building will be flown at half-staff in Shaffer’s memory, the mayor added.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com.

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