Article and photos by Ron Jeffers
When Gregory Barnas and Bill Stagg were 10-years-old, they collided with each other on their bicycles. They got into an argument, until they revealed to each other that they were going to a fire! They became friends, and later volunteer firefighters in their hometown of Wallington, New Jersey.
On the morning of February 28th, Greg Barnas, 57, in the capacity of volunteer captain of Wallington Truck Co. 1, gave his life for his community. He was venting the roof at a restaurant fire and fell to the ground. He went into cardiac arrest. EMT’s desperately performed CPR as he was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, but he left this life. His two sons, Kevin and John, are also volunteer firefighters and were operating at the fire. Kevin became a career firefighter in Jersey City last year, following in his father’s footsteps.
Captain Barnas, or “Barney” as he was known, loved being a firefighter and became a junior member of the W.F.D. when he was a teenager. He rose through the ranks of that department and served as Chief in 1997. He has also been the safety officer, a member of the Wallington Emergency Squad, and served as fire official for the municipality. Barnas gave his community 42-years of dedicated service. He was also an instructor and evaluator for the Bergen County Fire Academy.
In 1985 he was appointed to the Jersey City Fire Department. He worked at busy Ladder Co. 12 for many years. This is a firehouse known for producing many fire officers, including the current Chief of Department, Darren Rivers. He was promoted to captain and had been assigned to Ladder Co. 6 in the rapidly growing Downtown section. Barnas was currently on the battalion chief’s list.
He never took a vacation from fire duty. His family has a summer house in Waymart, Pennsylvania, where he joined that volunteer fire department.
On the morning of March 7, several thousand firefighters from his member departments and fire department s from several states attended his funeral in this small, close-knit community. One of his first battalion chiefs, Dr. Dennis Onieal, Superintendent of the U.S. National Fire Academy and former F.D.J.C. Chief of Department, was also in attendance. Captain Barnas took his final ride on the state’s antique Mack caisson unit with his sons riding the back-step. The captain’s last alarms for Wallington and Jersey City were transmitted over the radio as the procession stopped at Truck 1’s firehouse.
“Barney was a giant,” Jersey City Deputy Chief Michael Terpak said in his eulogy. “He was a role model. He was somebody we all wanted to be.”
For more of Ron’s photos from the funeral, CLICK HERE.