Amputee Earns Right to Enter Fire Academy in New Jersey

HERALD NEWS -- TRENTON -- Isaac Feliciano, the Paterson amputee who fought for a spot on the Paterson Fire Department, was given the green light Wednesday morning by the state Department of Personnel's Merit System & Labor Relations Board.

Feliciano, who wears a prosthetic leg below his left knee, was taken off the list of candidates in April after a doctor, working for the city, found that he did not meet standards issued by the National Fire Protection Agency. The merit board on Wednesday overruled that finding, opening the door for Feliciano to enter into the next fire academy class.

"The Merit System Board finds that the appointing authority has not met its burden of proof that Isaac Feliciano is medically unfit to perform effectively the duties of a Fire Fighter, and, therefore, the Board orders that his name be restored to the subject eligible list," the board wrote in its decision.

Feliciano, a Paterson native who lost part of his leg when he was 6 after developing gangrene from spinal meningitis, ranked 103 of more than 615 applicants. An avid athlete, Feliciano played football and baseball for Passaic County Technical Institute, and later tried out for the 2004 Paralympics competition for disabled athletes in Athens, Greece.

Feliciano did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday morning, but his attorney William Maniatis of Schlemmer & Maniatis in New York, said he was relatively confident that the state would side with his client.

"We're very happy," Maniatis said. "This is the way I had hoped it would go from the beginning."

Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres could not be reached Wednesday, but issued a statement in January that said the city would welcome Feliciano if the state clears him medically.

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