Gene Dannenfelser dedicated his life to public service as a firefighter, arson investigator, and peer counselor. The fire service was his calling and his passion. Starting as a junior firefighter in Bergenfield, New Jersey, he eventually became a firefighter at the Haddon Heights Fire Department at the age of eighteen, where he rose through the ranks, serving as chief of the department for five years. One of Gene’s many accomplishments was the development of the Haddon Heights Fire Department Explorer Program, a program to introduce teenagers to the fire service.
In 1983, he joined the Camden County Fire Marshal’s office, holding the position of CFM2-Deputy Fire Marshal, where he was recognized for both valor and meritorious service before retiring in 2007. Gene rarely just belonged to a professional association; he always found himself in a position to move the organization forward. His many titles included the Southern Region Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators, NJFMBA Local 111 State Delegate, NJFMBA Local 500 Southern District Vice President, and President of the Camden County Hero Scholarship Fund, an organization he was proudly affiliated with since 1992. He was a man who spent his life investigating fires, continuing to learn and educate. Gene was a sounding board for fire investigators still working in the field long after his retirement.
On 9/11, he was at an arson training course when he heard of the devastating events occurring in New York City. He knew he had to immediately leave and go to New York City to help the brotherhood. He would spend 13 tours at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills Landfill assisting in the recovery efforts and providing counseling services. In 2014, he was diagnosed with lung cancer acquired from his work at Ground Zero. Gene is remembered as a fierce advocate for cancer awareness in the fire service. After diagnosis, he continued to advocate to lawmakers on legislation that affected the fire service and specifically the first responders affected by 9/11.
Gene was selfless, an inspiration, a class act, a role model, and a hero. He made everyone feel like they were the most important person in his life, lending a smile and a listening ear. He had a passion for antique cars, fire department parades, holidays, and he loved his Philadelphia Flyers, Phillies, and Eagles.
He was a dedicated brother, uncle, husband, father, and his favorite title, a grandfather, “Pop.” He was an ultimate jokester who loved sharing jokes with his grandchildren. Gene’s legacy will live on through the individuals he taught in the fire service, but more importantly through his children and grandchildren.