WALLINGTON - A veteran volunteer firefighter died after falling off a roof while working to put out a fire at a Wallington restaurant.
Fire officials identified the firefighter as 57-year-old Gregory Barnas.
"He was a great trainer, a great teacher, just a great overall person that we'll miss very, very much," says Deputy Chief Brian Truslow.
Officials say Barnas was cutting a hole in the roof of the Akasaka Japanese restaurant when he suddenly fell off.
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli says Barnas' sons, John and Kevin, also volunteer firefighters, were on the scene.
Barnas was taken to Hackensack Medical Center, and he lost his life hours later.
The veteran firefighter started out with the Wallington Fire Department when he was a teenager as a junior firefighter back in 1972, and rose to chief there in 1997.
Barnas was also a 29-year veteran at the Jersey City Fire Department.
Today, at the scene of his last fire, his colleagues fought back tears. Lodi firefighter Anthony Molnar says he and many others learned a lot from from Barnas. "It's just heartbreaking. He would go out on the line for anybody," he says.
Mayor Walter Wargacki also fought tears and emotions talking about the man who molded the borough's department through training programs. "His main purpose with our other firefighters was the safety of the men and unfortunately we lost him this morning," Wargacki says.
People from around the state and across the country have poured out support for the fallen firefighter and his family.
Molinelli says investigators believe the fire was accidental and appears to have been caused by an electrical fixture in the kitchen of the restaurant.
Molinelli also tweeted, "Our prayers are with the brave firefighter."
It has been 44 years since Wallington lost a firefighter in the line of duty. Alfred Ventura died in March 1970 after falling from a roof while battling a fire in East Rutherford.