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Respected Lodi veteran among Bergen, Rockland firefighters being honored

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

A TRIBUTE: The late Nicholas Ciarocco took firefighting so seriously that he sometimes woke his kids in the middle of the night for surprise drills. On May 19, he and two other former Lodi firefighters who also answered the final call the past year will be among 124 from the area honored for their service.

“It is such an overwhelming feeling when these men and women reach out to our family out of respect for my father, whose legacy and memory is still obvious today,” daughter Sherri Ciarocco told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

The New Jersey & New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association’s annual Memorial Day service will be held at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Complex in Mahwah. The ceremony starts promptly at 2 p.m.

Firefighters from throughout the area will attend in full dress, accompanied by survivors of the 95 Bergen County and 29 Rockland County firefighters being honored.

Besides Ciarocco, two other firefighters from Lodi will be recognized — Gary Guarino and Richard Cappello.

Ciarocco (above and right), a lifelong Lodi resident, died on April 3, 2012, leaving behind his wife of 47 years, JoAnn, as well as Sherri Ciarocco and her two sisters – Kiki and Nicole – along with three grandchildren.

A 20-year member of Lodi’s volunteer Truck Company #1, the retired captain helped fight some major area blazes, including the Kruger Brothers fire in the 1980s.

He also was part of an extensively-documented rescue of a man impaled by a mixing vat blade at a Lodi chemical plant.

Former Lodi Fire Chief Lou Tosto, a firefighter/EMT since his early twenties, said he was welcomed by Ciarocco when he joined Truck #1 in the late 80’s, while also serving in a paid department.

“In those days, Lodi and Garfield had heavy fire loads,” Tosto told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.  “It was men like Nick Ciarocco who helped mold us younger guys on the line on how to fight fires when they occurred, about loyalty to your brother firemen, and how to act and be there for the general public in a time of crisis.”

Ciarocco also passed on some valuable lessons to his children.

Sometimes, Sherri Ciarocco said, “he would wake up me and my sisters in the middle of the night to have fire drills, blindfolding us and making us crawl to find our way to the door. Needless to say, we and my mother learned some valuable lessons from our ‘training’ exercises.

Ciarocco wore many hats over the years, all in the service of the public.

Before becoming a member of Teamsters Local 560, he served in the U.S. Army’s First Cavalry in the Central Highlands of Vietnam – and was awarded the Purple Heart and an Air Medal for meritorious helicopter missions.

He later became a correction officer with the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office before advancing to the K-9 unit, where he had three partners over the years. Ciarocco was also a member of the Lodi VFW and the New Jersey Honor Legion.

“My father made an impression on his peers and it’s an honor to know that they respected him the way they did and still do,” Sherri Ciarocco told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “Having a father as an emergency responder, you learn to respect the job, the responder, and the brotherhood of loyalty that goes with it.”

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