Members of local emergency service agencies throughout Union County have always had a reputation for looking out for one another when tragedy strikes. So when a fire destroyed the Cranford home of someone on the Union County Hazmat Team, plans to help the family began to evolve almost immediately.
In fact, a few responders and bystanders began discussing the need for some type of fundraiser even as crews worked to extinguish the blaze, which ripped through the North Avenue home of the Billson family on June 24, destroying the structure as well as all of their belongings. Bill Billson is a full-time member of the Union County Hazmat Team, FMBA Local 99, NJ State FMBA, and is a volunteer member of the Garwood and Westfield fire departments and the Garwood First Aid Squad.
All of these departments are working together to sponsor a Pub Night Event tonight from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Union Elks Lodge 1583, located at 281 Chestnut St. in Union. The tickets cost $25 per person and include beer, hot dogs and hamburgers. There will also be raffles for items such as a 42-inch LED/LCD television, a DJ and a performance by the Union County Pipes and Drums. The proceeds will be used to help the Billson family
Erin Macri, a member of the UC Hazmat Team, said the fire happened on a Sunday and by the following Tuesday, the fundraiser was almost completely organized. Macri said all of the emergency services throughout the county see themselves as a family and are always willing and help out one of their own.
"When we heard the fire call come in, we realized it was Bill's house, and we immediately mobilized and went down there to make sure he and his family were okay," Macri said, remembering when reports of the four-alarm blaze were first transmitted.
According to Macri, the county's emergency responders are all very close and when they heard about the tragedy, they wasted no time in volunteering to help organize the fundraiser. As one an integral member of the team, Billson, she said, would undoubtedly respond in a similar way if another emergency worker needed help.
"We all knew he would do the same thing for us," Macri said.