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Firefighters Honor Students for Their Honesty

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February 19, 2024 | NEW JERSEY RON JEFFERS, New Jersey Editor
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

NORTH BERGEN, NJ - On January 24th, North Hudson Captain Steve Hillis, of Ladder Co. 5, was standing in front of his Kennedy Boulevard firehouse around 3 p.m. It was that magic time of the day when students from Horace Mann Grammar School, around the corner from the firehouse, were on their way home.

Four students approached the captain. They asked if he could help them find the owner of a woman's Coach clutch bag that they had found in the street. He complied with their request. The bag was examined and there were identification documents that included credit cards, checks and $100 in cash, but nothing with an address or phone number to contact the owner.

Captain Hillis asked the students to write their names on a piece of paper. When he located the owner, he would let that person know that the grammar school students were responsible for getting her Coach bag back.  

The captain returned to the firehouse to begin an investigation with his crew, in the single truck company house. The crew consisted of Firefighters Brent Ventura (PFANJ Local 3950 treasurer), John Ellison and Jose Maldonado. 

Firefighters located an employee check from a business in the border town of Fairview. They called the business and explained the situation. The business contacted their employee who called the firehouse. It turned out that she resides around the corner from the firehouse, and she walked over to Ladder 5, where the property was returned to her.  

The woman was very grateful and relieved. She explained that she needed her ID to get her driver's license the next day. 

Firefighters explained that four students from the local school were the ones who turned the bag over to them. She asked the members of Ladder 5 if they could thank the students on her behalf. 

The crew wanted to recognize the students and contacted PFANJ Local 3950 Union President Tim Collaci and PFANJ Fire Officer's Local 3951 President Scott Marione for a plan to honor the young students for their honesty. 

It was decided to reward them with a gift of $50 each. One hundred dollars from the firefighter's local and $100 from the fire officer's local. 

Later in the evening, while still on duty, it was realized that one of the students had the same last name as North Hudson Firefighter John Prezioso. They contacted John who said his daughter had explained what had happened earlier in the day. She never told the captain that her father was on the job.   

Captain Hillis contacted Horace Mann Principle, Mrs. Maria Alonso, and he explained what had happened. He added that the firefighters would like to recognize her students for their good deed and asked if the school would like to be part of their recognition. 

On February 8th, the students and firefighters gathered at the school, with educators, as the students were complimented for their action and received their gifts from the two locals.

The students are: Alexandra Prezioso, 13 (daughter of Firefighter John Prezioso), Jocelyn Vasquez, 13, Erick Lazaro, 10, and Malany Lazaro, 7. 

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RON JEFFERSNew Jersey Editor

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