A veteran fire captain who was planning his retirement died early Friday when he fell off the roof of a burning restaurant in New Jersey where his two firefighter sons were battling the same blaze, officials said.
Gregory Barnas, 57, was cutting a hole in the roof of the Akasaka restaurant on Paterson Avenue in Wallington when he fell, according to Wallington Fire Commissioner Mark Tomko. It's not clear what caused him to fall.
Barnas was a 29-year veteran with the Jersey City Fire Department, where he rose to the rank of captain. On Friday he was responding with the Wallington Fire Department, where he volunteered.
Barnas' two sons, John and Kevin, were also fighting the fire, authorities said.
"I can’t even think of the words to express our sorrow,” Tomko said. “Our department is deeply hurt.”
Barnas had been a volunteer firefighter with the Wallington Fire Department since 1972, and was the department’s chief in 1997, Tomko said.
"If there was a no-nonsense person that did the job the way a firefighter's supposed to do the job, that was Barney," said Tomko, referring to Barnas by his nickname.
His cousin said he was a devoted father and husband, and an experienced firefighter.
"He was always dedicated ... he says he was going to retire in a couple years," the relative said.
The fire broke out about 1:30 a.m. on Friday and at a point went to two alarms.
Tomko said the blaze is under investigation.