Authorities in Newark have identified the firefighter critically injured in a blaze in the city’s North Ward on Saturday as a 10-year veteran of the department.
In a statement, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose said Paul Leber, 38, became trapped inside 8 Park Ave. after responding around 9:12 p.m. to a two-alarm fire at the building.
The building is listed online as the address of Velez Tire and Auto.
Police said Leber was in the tire shop with other members of Engine 7 — including a probationary firefighter — when they were ordered out of the building as conditions worsened.
Leber became disoriented as he was exiting, and other members of Engine 7, Rescue 1, went back into the building to rescue him, authorities said. He was subsequently taken to University Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition before being moved to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for further treatment, authorities said.
Leber, a graduate of the Bergen County Fire Academy who was born in Passaic, joined the department after serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, The Star-Ledger reported in 2008.
In separate statements, Ambrose and Mayor Ras Baraka praised the firefighters who went back into the building to ensure Leber got out.
“They should be commended on the job they do every day,” Ambrose said. “They are willing to risk their lives by entering burning buildings to ensure that others survive.”
Baraka asked the public to keep Leber in their prayers, and to pray for his full recovery.
Police said the fire is under investigation by members of the department’s arson division.