Like his grandfather and uncle before him, John Ryan wanted to be a fireman in New York City.
“My father talked me out of it,” Ryan said.
Today Ryan is an expert on fire. He is one of a handful of specialists in the country in the field of fire suppression and special hazard fire protection. He designs, builds and inspects quick suppression systems that prevent, contain and extinguish fires. His specialty is in protecting information systems.
Ryan is also a volunteer fireman.
Ryan’s father encouraged him to pursue a degree in electronics and computers from Bergen Community College. Ryan supplemented his degree with a computer certification from a technical school.
For his first job following graduation, Ryan worked for a manufacturer making electronic fire detection systems.
“I started out drawing and designing [fire] alarm equipment,” Ryan explained. “We designed the General Motors spray booth fire protection for all the spray booths across the country.”
“When I bought the house,” said Ryan about moving to Butler, “I was hoping that, if something ever happened to my house and family, I was hoping someone would come to protect them. So, I thought I would do the same.”
The 48-year-old father of three has been a volunteer fireman since moving to Butler in 1994.
As a fire suppression specialist, Ryan’s job has taken him to off-shore oil rigs, the computer rooms of large financial institutions and hundreds of Manhattan sky scrapers each year.
As a volunteer fireman, he has experienced the satisfaction of knowing that he helped save someone, or their property, from fire.
“I can see both ends of it,” Ryan said of his job and his volunteer work. He noted that his job helps him when fighting a fire and his time as a volunteer firefighter helps him at the office.
On September 11, 2001 Ryan was supposed to be at Goldman Sachs at 1 Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan. An unexpected delivery of kitchen cabinets caused him to postpone his downtown meeting.
In the three months that followed, Ryan spent much of his time in lower Manhattan. He helped get his clients back up and running and helped other firefighters remove debris from the site.
Since becoming Chief of Butler’s Bartholdi Company, Ryan has helped create the Joint Chiefs Association. The initiative brings chiefs from seven neighboring towns in two counties together on a regular basis. The association represents the first time the seven towns have committed to working cooperatively on an ongoing basis.
Currently, the seven towns are applying for a joint Federal Firefighters Safety Grant. If awarded, the $200,000 grant will help purchase identical Rapid Intervention Team [RIT] equipment for all seven towns. The equipment will allow each of the seven towns to meet newly established RIT requirements mandated by New Jersey. The state’s list of required RIT equipment includes thermal imaging cameras, saws, radios, hand tools and stretchers.
Married for 26 years, Ryan’s wife, Jessica, is a police dispatcher. In Butler, Ryan has coached softball and been active in the football league for his two daughters and his son.
For fun, he fixes computers for others. But since he became chief of Bartholdi Company two years ago, most of his time is spent managing the Bartholdi Company and in making certain all volunteer firefighters are current with state-required training.
“It’s my second full-time job,” he said of the squad. “I love it. I really do.”
According to a town ordinance, the four hose companies that make up the Butler volunteer fire department can each have 25 members for a total of 100. Currently, Butler has only 89 fire fighters ranging in age from 18 to 72. The squad protects the 8,000 residents of Butler and provides mutual aid for neighboring towns.
“We’ve got a great bunch of guys,"Ryan said. "But, we could really use some volunteers, especially some younger guys.”