RAMSEY, N.J. — Bill Ackerson agreed to become Ramsey's junior fire brigade captain in 1988 because nobody else wanted to the job. He ended up keeping it for 27 years.
Now, after more than a quarter of a century training young men on how to fight fires, Ackerson is retiring from the post.
"This was really tough," said Ackerson, who will still continue to serve as a volunteer firefighter. "My goal was to do 20 years and retire, but I ended up staying on 7 more. I've been thinking about this for a while."
Ackerson has trained 80 or so youngsters who have come through the Ramsey Junior Fire Brigade program throughout the years. The program is for 16- to 18-year-old teens to assist the fire department in non-dangerous roles.
They receive training, get to go to fires and preform essential tasks — such as establishing a water supply, delivering tools and changing air bottles.
'"What they do is critical and it teaches them to be part of a team," Ackerson said. "To learn responsibility,and to give back to their community."
Ackerson, a fourth-generation Ramsey fireman, liked the fact that he was helping young adults get involved in something that will help them for the rest of their lives, he said.
Many of Ackerson's pupils have gone on to become firemen in Ramsey and beyond — one rose to the rank of deputy chief in Ramsey.
The firefighter's 13-year-old son and his 6- and 8-year old daughters all say they plan to take after their father and join the Junior Fire Brigade when they are of age.
Ackerson and his family might be most well-known for their Halloween decorations and new, annual food drive ( SEE: Mahwah Family Makes Halloween Count With 'Creepy Hollow' ).
He hopes that retirement will allow him to make more memories with his family, Ackerson said.
"My kids are getting older and busier," he said. "Before they get too old I would like to get more involved with their lives."
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