By JOHN T. WARD
Eight hours before he was sworn into office, Soden and other volunteer firefighters worked their way up six flights of stairs to save a 79-year-old man who’d set his mattress ablaze when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette.
The call went out at around 6:30 a.m. as a medical alarm from the Wesleyan Arms senior housing complex on Wall Street. By the time volunteer firefighters arrived, smoke had filled an apartment on the top floor and triggered a temporary shutdown of the building’ sole elevator, returning the car to the first floor as per fire safety regulations, said First Deputy Chief Pete DeFazio, who was in the car at the time.
That meant firefighters, some of whom had just responded to an earlier call on Shrewsbury Avenue, had to hoof it upstairs. On arrival, firefighters rescued the lone resident of the apartment, who was not immediately identified, and doused the blaze, which was contained to the mattress. The man was transported to Riverview Medical Center for evaluation, Soden said.
The call was one of three firefighters answered prior to the ceremony at the Union Hose Fire Company house on Shrewsbury Avenue where Soden gave the oath of office, with Mayor Pasquale Menna officiating. The swearing-in, customarily held in conjunction with the borough reorganization meeting at town hall, was separated at the request of firefighters, Soden said.
Soden, 35, succeeds Joe Lauterwasser in the one-year post, which rotates among the town’s six fire companies. Soden joined the department as an 18-year-old, having come up through an Explorer’s program over the prior two years.
Soden’s father, Alan Sr., served as chief in 1986, and his brother, Alan Jr., was chief twice, in 2004 and 2010. An uncle, Harry Soden Jr., also served as chief, in 1980.
When it came to following in their footsteps, “Chris had no choice in the matter,” Menna joked to attendees at the swearing-in. “He was born into it. It was preordained.”
Soden’s first and second deputies are DeFazio and Stu Jensen, respectively.