The NHRFR was being put to the extreme test when a string of arsons broke out throughout the area.
"We had just got back to the firehouse (on 19th Street) around 2 a.m. after fighting a five-alarm fire in North Bergen," Reed recalled. "Then we had a false alarm about 15 minutes after getting back. Around 2:45 a.m., we got another call. I said, 'Not again.' I couldn't believe it."
When Reed and his unit arrived at the arson fire on Summit Avenue, a three-story residential building was fully engulfed in flames. A stairwell leading from the street to the roof was blocked with fire. Although most residents had managed to escape, someone alertly told Reed that two people were trapped in the back of the building, in a first floor hallway.
"I just grabbed the hose and ran toward the backyard," Reed said. "There were two ladies trapped there, so I got one out, then the other."
However, Reed's acts of bravery were not done. After getting the two women to safety, Reed was informed that a man lived in the basement of the building and he was still unaccounted for.
"I ran back down and kicked in the door," Reed said. "I found him trapped there, with a lot of fire and a lot of water."
The frightened man, unable to move, needed assistance to get out, so Reed was lowered down to him with a hose line, commandeered by fellow NHRFR members Tom Steinel and Nicholas Vasta.
Reed got to the man and brought him to safety.
Three lives saved in the matter of minutes. All three would have easily perished if not for the quick thinking of Reed, who said that he never thought once.
"There was no thought," Reed said. "It's what I was trained to do and it's what I'm paid to do. It was just instinctive. It was nothing special. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
It was the first time in Reed's five years as a firefighter that he was called upon to rescue fire victims. Needless to say, that training finally paid off.
Last Wednesday, Reed received recognition for his life-saving efforts, when he was a recipient of the 200 Club of Hudson County's annual Valor Award at the club's 18th annual awards luncheon at the Chart House Restaurant in Weehawken.
Reed was the lone member of the NHRFR to receive a valor award this year. Others receiving the award included Jersey City firefighters Waliyy Anderson, Joseph Vallo, Scott Dressler and Walter Milne, Bayonne police officers Wayne Grapstul and Robert Zdanowicz, Hudson County Sheriff's Officers Oliver King and George Kochell, Jersey City Police Captain John Sheyka, and Jersey City police officers Anthony Goodman, Raymond Weber and Douglas Paretti.
A team of Kearny police officers received the Valiant Teamwork Award.
Reed was the first Weehawken honoree since Weehawken Fire Captain Richard Barreres, Firefighter David Flood and Volunteer First Aid Squad Lieutenant Jason Hamilton were awarded four years ago.
Son of a fire captain
The 31-year-old Reed, who is the son of long-time fire captain Robert Reed, was born and raised in Weehawken. He only recently moved to East Rutherford with his wife Tracy. He always wanted to be a firefighter, like his father, and fulfilled that dream when he was appointed to Weehawken fire department five years ago.
"My father was a huge influence on me," Reed said. "When I got this award, he was very emotional. I know he was proud. It was a good day."
While Reed accepted the award, he doesn't understand why he was singled out.
"It's really not that big of a deal to me," Reed said. "Everyone else who was there should get recognized. It was a tough night for all of us. We were all fatigued and worked hard. I want to give credit to everyone else. I wouldn't have been able to do it without their help."
Reed has been appointed to serve on the NHRFR's new high angle rescue team that will respond to any incident involving heights, confined spaces and trenches.
"I've been training for a year in preparation," Reed said. "We learned all the new tools and instructions. I'm excited about that. It should be a nice challenge."
NHRFR Co-Director Jeff Welz was very happy that Reed was indeed singled out for his bravery.
"It's a personal honor for me to see Bill Reed get this award," Welz said. "It initially got lost in all the chaos of that night, with all the arson fires. But it's been recognized now and will be recognized by the Regional later on. I feel the same pride and gratitude that his father has and I worked with his father for many years. They're a long-time Weehawken family."
Reed said that he never gave receiving an award like the 200 Club's Valor Award a thought.
"I've been told it's one of the hardest awards to receive," Reed said. "But to think I could get it would be like trying to hit a home run every time you step to the plate. It doesn't happen. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."