Port Jervis Fire Department Parade Grand Marshal James Rohner, Jr. believes in service to community!
PORT JERVIS, NY – Born and raised in Port Jervis, NY, James “Jim” Rohner, Jr. joined Port Jervis Fire Department in January of 1968, the same year he turned 18 and the same year he graduated from Port Jervis High School.
His membership followed his own father’s and grandfather’s active service as PJFD firefighters in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also inspired by a PJFD chief who was his neighbor as he grew up, and who piqued his interest in firefighting.
“Growing up, our neighbor (then) was Fire Chief Douglas Moore. I would often see him run out of his house to respond to fire calls,” Rohner recalled.
Rohner’s grandfather, George Berthiaume, and father, James Rohner, Sr., were members of Delaware Engine Co. #2. Jim, however, joined Neversink Engine Co. #1, where he knew some of the members at the time. His own third-generation service was later followed by that of his son James “Jamie” Rohner, III, who joined Neversink Engine Co. #1 and who is also a career Fire Chief with West Point Fire & Emergency Services. Many of the firefighters Jim served with in his first years as a firefighter are still active in Neversink Co. 1, as are Jim and Jamie.
During his half-century-plus of service, Jim has filled top positions in his fire company and in the department. This includes as 2nd and 1st Lieutenant and Captain of Neverink Engine Co., and 2nd Asst. Chief (1980-1983), 1st Asst. Chief (1984-1987) and Chief of the Department (1988-1993). He is currently PJFD’s Deputy Chief (DC-1) and 1st Deputy Fire Coordinator (36-2) for the County of Orange.
Following graduation from high school, Rohner attended SUNY Orange. He is a partner in Neversink Lumber Co., a longtime Port Jervis business. As one of PJFD’s most active volunteers, he, like his fellow firefighting volunteers, balances his busy career and work days, home life, and training, meetings, and procedures required of a today’s firefighter. He believes it is important to continue this service in the community in which a person lives, and plans to do this as for as long as he is able to do so in an active manner.
“I enjoy serving the community and the camaraderie of our many members,” Rohner said.
While being a firefighter requires commitment and many hours of training, Rohner encourages anyone with the desire to help in this way to join. He said there are new and improved methods of firefighting, related new equipment, and a better vision given of the ‘chain of command’ since he first joined. These he sees as improvements for those who do become firefighters.
Over his years of firefighting service, some of the most difficult responses that come to mind include a fire on Grand View Avenue while he was chief, wherein a grandfather and grandson tragically perished, the floods of 1981 and 1984, the roundhouse fire, and his own family-owned Neversink Lumber Company fire.
Rohner, like many, finds the most rewarding part of being a firefighter as being part of a team that can potentially save lives and property. He is glad to assist others in their time of need and during emergency calls. The most difficult parts aspects are recruiting new members, retaining those the department currently has, and investing many long hours to complete required training.
Rohner has learned over the years that being a firefighter definitely involves team work and is not a “one man job”. He learned early on that firefighters need to recognize and respect unknown dangers when entering any smoke-filled structure or similar atmosphere. As an assistant chief, he experienced those dangers many times while in burning structures and trying to “get ahead” of a fire. He said knowing when to exit a structure is a vitally important and a top priority in keeping firefighters safe as they help others.
“We are fortunate in having good leadership and good firefighting protective gear to do the job safely and correctly,” he said.
Rohner is grateful to have a family that has always been supportive of his efforts in PJFD.
“There are probably some regrets about having missed some family events as a result of responding to a fire call, but they continue to be supportive,” Rohner said.
As the department he has served over the past 54-years prepares for this Saturday’s Parade Day 2022 and all that surrounds it, Rohner, a grand marshal, will be thinking of the many older members and past chiefs that have had this honor before him – all of those he views as equally deserving.
“While it is a great honor to be a grand marshal, in theory every member serving their community deserves the same level of recognition and honor.”