Israel was an amazing man, an awesome father, a wonderful husband, and a great son and brother. His family was his pride and joy. Israel knew at a very young age that he wanted to be of service to others. As a young boy, trying to help put out a small fire in his home in Puerto Rico, that was all the confirmation he needed that this is what he was born to do.
Israel loved helping people, regardless of what the need was. He served his community with pride and dignity, and his community loved him. Everyone cherishes all the laughs and lessons that he shared with them. His personality just pulled you towards him, and his laugh was infectious. I remember thinking that he could save a life with his smile. Israel had a heart of gold, and he didn’t like seeing injustice. He made sure to stand up for those who weren’t able to. He was their voice and their advocate. Many found their voice because of him.
On his time off he enjoyed being out on the open road riding his motorcycle. He was known as the fun uncle who enjoyed wrestling with all his nieces and nephews or just being at home enjoying quiet time. Israel was a man of many talents. He enjoyed playing his guitar. Music was one of his first loves, and he was an amazing self-taught musician. He was a wonderful leader and patient when working with others. When he wasn’t playing his guitar or out on the open road, you could find Israel fishing or camping. He enjoyed being in nature.
Israel began his journey with Passaic Fire Department in 2019. This was his ideal dream, and he was so excited. He continued to volunteer for CERT but couldn’t wait to continue being of service in this new place he was in life. He always put his uniform on with pride on the morning of his shifts and always left the house with a smile, ready for what the day would bring.
He and his brothers knew the sacrifice, but together they continued fighting in the midst of this pandemic. When answering a call, Israel was exposed to this deadly virus. He was a strong young man who fought. He was adventurous, and he loved life. He accomplished everything he said he wanted to do and, at the young age of 33, he left nothing undone. At times he didn’t realize the great power he possessed and how he touched so many lives. He was the light we all needed in our dark times.
His light will never be dimmed. His memory and his legacy will always be kept alive. He lives every day in his children, Ailani and Israel III. He lives in his brotherhood, the impact in his community, and in who I am as his wife. He is truly missed and will always be in our hearts.
Joseph M. Griffin, was a 48 year old Battalion Chief and had gone into a tenement at 179-181 Third Street, Passaic along with several other firefighters to fight the fire toward the rear of building when the entire building collapsed pinning the firefighters into the basement of the building, and he died along with 24 year old rookie firefighter, Sam Latona.
Joseph M. Griffin was born on April 18, 1921 in Weymouth, MA, the youngest of 6 Children.
He graduated Weymouth High School and moved to Passaic, NJ where he lived and worked at his brother-in-laws company.
He met Alice Struyk the daughter of Passaic Police Detective Cornelius Struyk.
He joined the Navy on September 16, 1942 during World War II and served on a “Sub Chaser” in the Atlantic and Pacific waters. He was discharged September 20, 1945 as a gunner’s mate 1/C.
On June 3, 1945 he married Alice Struyk and they resided in Passaic.
He joined the Passaic Fire Department on November 1, 1950. He was promoted to Lieutenant on March 1, 1959. He was promoted to Captain on June 20, 1962. He was promoted to Battalion Chief on January 15,1970.He was promoted posthumously to Deputy Chief on March 12, 2020 the 50th Anniversary of the fire that took his life.
He was survived by his wife Alice of 24 years and his 20 year old daughter Sharon.
Sam Latona, was a 24 year old rookie firefighter, had gone into a tenement along with several other firefighters to fight the fire toward the rear of building when the entire building collapsed pinning the firefighters into the basement of the building, and he died along with Battalion Chief Joseph Griffin.
Samuel C. Latona was born on September 15, 1945 in Passaic, NJ. He was the son of the late Mr. & Mrs. Joseph and Angela Latona. The Latona family resided at 152 Howe Avenue. He attended Memorial #11 School. He was a parishioner of St. Anthony’s R.C. Church of Passiac, NJ where he played basketball for their CYO team. He then attended Lincoln Junior High School and Passaic High School, where he graduated June 1965. During his time at Passaic High School, Sam was a punter and defensive back for the football team. Til this day, Sam holds the record for the longest punt in Passaic High School history of 96 yards. He was beloved by all of his teammates and friends.
Sam entered the service on March 4, 1966 and served until February 13, 1969. A good portion of his time was spent with an ordnance unit in Vincenza, Italy. A specialist 4th class, Sam was given the National Defense Medal and Honor Guard Medal.
Sam was appointed to the Passaic Fire Department on June 12, 1969 and served March 12, 1970. He was proud to serve his city and community, making sure the lives of all were protected.
Sam was engaged to the late Kathleen Cullen and their wedding was set for Oct 17, 1970.
Sam’s outgoing personality and smile were among his many wonderful characteristics. His love for family, especially his brother Joseph, sister Angela, his father Joseph and mother Angela, was enduring. Although his life was cut too short at the age of 24, the legacy and memory of Sammy lives on with his friends and family forever. He is forever their hero, a hero of the city of Passaic and the Passaic Fire Department. He was promoted posthumously to Lieutenant on March 12, 2020.
Firefighter Alberto Tirado was hired by the Passaic Fire Department on September 10‚ 1992. He completed Basic Fire Training and was assigned to Engine Co. #l at the Westside Fire Station for 2 years. He was then transferred to Engine Co. #3 at the Eastside Fire Station. He worked out of the Eastside Fire Station until May 9‚ 2001. On that day Firefighter Tirado was temporarily assigned to work on Truck Co. #2. That evening the company responded to a report of a structure fire at 202 Market St. Upon the company’s arrival they confirmed a working fire in a 3-story multi-family building and received a report of a woman and two children trapped.
Firefighter Tirado immediately entered the building and began searching for the victims‚ not knowing they had already safely escaped the fire. Refusing to give up the search‚ he continued on and found himself trapped and running out of air on the third floor.
Firefighter Tirado did not make it out of the building. He was killed in the line of duty performing the greatest act of bravery a firefighter can render. He gave his life trying to save others‚ the ultimate sacrifice.
During his 8 years and 8 months on the job‚ Firefighter Tirado accomplished many things. He was a certified Firefighter‚ EMT‚ Fire Inspector‚ and attained Incident Management System Level 1 certification. He had also recently passed the State of New Jersey’s Department of Personnel Fire Officers examination and was eligible to be promoted to Lieutenant. He was a member of the Passaic Firefighters Association and FMBA #13.
Firefighter Tirado leaves behind a wife and four children.