Friday, July 12, 2024

Frelinghuysen Fire Chief Abruptly Resigns

The Frelinghuysen DPW garage is being adapted for use as a fire house. Photo by Joe Phalon,

Frelinghuysen Township has a new fire chief after the sudden departure of the department’s founding chief, John Shoemaker. Taking the lead of the department will be Angel Ortiz, who previously served as deputy chief.

Ortiz was sworn into the position at a special meeting of the Township Committee Aug. 7.

Frelinghuysen Mayor Keith Ramos said Shoemaker’s resignation was unexpected and came while he was away on vacation. Ramos said Shoemaker gave no specific reason for his departure, and that as of the Aug. 8 meeting, he had not spoken to the former chief.

“I did not know this was coming,” Ramos said. “He gave no reason.”

Ramos stated the unexpected resignation will not interrupt the progress of the year-old department. He said the structure already in place will make for a smooth transition for Ortiz, the incoming chief.

The Frelinghuysen Fire Department was founded last year, and Shoemaker, who has an extensive background in firefighting, was named its first chief. The township had to meet certain benchmarks during the organization of the new department before it could move on to the next step and having a qualified chief in place was one of them.

Ortiz, who was actually the township’s first sworn firefighter, having been installed this past June along with the first dozen other firefighters in the department, also has the necessary experience to lead, Ramos said.

A building previously used for the Department of Public Works is currently being modified to house the two fire trucks the new department is in the process of acquiring and making available for service.

Ramos said the work in the building is largely being done by volunteers.

Before the fire truck or a new firehouse can become operational, all fire department facilities and equipment must be inspected and approved by county and state officials, Ramos said. He added that currently there is no specific timetable for when the department will begin operations but that it has been meeting all the benchmarks required by the state.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.