Peter Yuskaitis’ role as the new Fair Lawn Rescue Squad chief may not afford him the same notoriety that his younger brother, Tim, gets from dressing up in colonial garb and crying at public events. But he’s OK with that.
“I like to keep a low profile,” the elder Yuskaitis said, sitting at a table in the Fair Lawn police detective bureau, where he works full-time.
Yuskaitis is Fair Lawn’s emergency services version of a three-sport athlete.
In addition to heading the rescue squad and being on the police force, Yuskaitis has also been a volunteer firefighter in town for about 25 years.
“It definitely helps,” Yuskaitis said of serving in all three capacities. “It helps to know how each organization works and what’s expected of each. I only see it as an asset to have that working knowledge of all.”
Earlier this month, Yuskaitis replaced Eric Van Kruiningen as the rescue squad’s chief. It’s his second go round as the head of the volunteer rescue force, having previously served as chief from 1997 to 2001.
“I think the squad needed a change and people asked me to run, so I ran,” Yuskaitis said of his decision to return, adding later, “I just want to see the squad keep going in a positive direction. We’re there to do the best we can for the residents.”
As chief, Yuskaitis said he plans to ensure that rescue squad volunteers utilize all the training opportunities they’re afforded.
“I just think we need to concentrate on basics,” he said. “Training, making sure people get out to calls. I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel.”
Yuskaitis would like to see more of the squad’s volunteers sign up for free courses at the Bergen County Fire Academy in Mahwah.
“It’s a tremendous facility, “ he said. ”With the whole life safety complex, you can simulate numerous situations under a safe environment. We’re going to try and get the guys up there a little more on that end.”
Yuskaitis said he’d particularly like to make sure volunteers who serve jointly on the fire department and rescue squad take advantage of the courses, which include things like live burn, vehicle extrication and rappelling.
“We want to make sure the guys that went through fire school are utilizing that, which I don’t think they’ve been doing in the past,” he said.
A lifelong Fair Lawn resident and 32-year rescue squad volunteer, Yuskaitis became a police officer in 2000, after 20 years in the food business.
He was promoted to detective in 2008.
“It’s different than being in patrol," he said. "You’re able to follow up on things until the end instead of just taking the report and not knowing where it goes. It’s just a different aspect of the job, but I like it.”
Yuskaitis, who is one of eight brothers, has been married to his wife Lori for 22 years. The couple has two children – Jake, 18, and Rachel, 14.