WALLINGTON, N.J. -- Two of North Jersey's bravest were honored during a visit to Wallington by a national group of bicyclists dedicated to memorializing fallen emergency service workers and making sure their sacrifices aren't forgotten.
The families of Wallington Fire Capt. Gregory Barnas and Jersey City Firefighter James Woods received plaques and $3,000 donations each from Jeff Morse, the founder and president of the Brotherhood Ride, Wednesday night.
Barnas was killed after falling from the roof of a burning Wallington restaurant before dawn in February 2014.
A teenager when he joined the volunteer department in 1972, "Barney" served as chief five years later. He was also a career Jersey City paid firefighter -- and served as captain of Ladder Co. 6, one of the city’s busiest. An instructor, Barnas taught high-ladder rescue operations nationwide.
Woods, 44 -- who, like Barnas, came from a family of public service -- died on Dec. 26, 2014 after completing a 24-hour shift on Christmas morning in Jersey City. The 15-year department veteran was feeling tired and had gone to lay down at the firehouse before his body was found, authorities said.
"Being that my husband Greg was also a paid Jersey City firefighter, we had them join us,' Paty Barnas told Daily Voice.
Among those in attendance at Wednesday night's ceremony in Wallington were the borough's three fire chiefs -- Anthony Rispoli, Ken Friedman, and Jacob Hrywniak -- along with Jersey City Deputy Fire Chief Mike Terpak and Battalion Chief Rich Gorman.
The Brotherhood Ride aims to provide emotional and financial support to families of the fallen, while making sure that the public never forgets their sacrifices. Its riders come from all branches of emergency service -- from police officers to firefighters to EMS responders.
Morse, a firefighter in North Naples, Florida, created the group after nine firefighters died in a blaze at a sofa manufacturing plant in Charleston, SC, in 2007.
The first ride, in 2008, took the group 600 miles up to Charleston. Other rides have included a three-week tour to Ground Zero on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Since then, the group has covered more than 7,100 miles through 16 states to honor more than 500 fallen firerfighters, law enforcement officers and EMS personnel. Morse said. Elk Lodges have given them shelter and sustenance, he said.
Last year, 56 riders traveled 1,166 miles through eight states over two weeks to honor 37 first responders who died the year before.
Each year brings a new route, with nearly all of the proceeds -- minus basic expenses -- going to the survivors of emergency responders who died in the line on duty.
The primary goal, Morse said, is to let those people know "that their loved onces would not be forgotten."
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