RONALD E. GUERNON was a career fire fighter with the Camden Fire Department. After serving in the United States marine Coprps he was appointed to the Fire Department in March of 1964. After being promoted to Captain, he served as the Chief Training Officer on 1977. By December of 1983 he had been promoted to Battalion Chief, in which capacity he was working out of the firehouse at 619 Kaighn Avenue on Christmas Day. He retired from the department on April 1, 1990.

Ron Guernon moved to Florida after his days with the Camden Fire Department. An avid bowler, he carried an average well into the 200s and is on record of bowling at least one 688 series.

Diagnosed with service connected colon and kidney cancer, he passed away on May 20, 2012. Ron had a very difficult time dealing with the Veterans Administration, and did not take their indifference laying down.

Ron Guernon was buried at the Florida National Cemetery.




Education is becoming a major factor in all aspects of fire inspection and fire suppresion. The importance of education is so vital that even colleges and universities now offer Fire Science Curriculums. The growth of our nation's population and economy demands an increasing emphasis on protective services. The Fire Science Technology and Protection Curriculum provides professional training and education for firefighting personnel.

Some of the courses being offered this semester at Camden County College are, Hydraulic Technology, Introduction to Fire Technology, and Building Codes and Standards.

The Fire Academy has just taken delivery of a new set of 35 mm. slides on "The Firefighter and Plastics In a Changing Environment." This presentation will be conducted at each station in the very near future.

In the past three months the Fire Training Academy has graduated three new probationary firefighters. At this time we would like to congratulate them and wish them a fine and fulfilling career in the Camden Fire Department. A PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTER IS A WELL TRAINED FIREFIGHTER.


The last major incident of the year 1983 occurred on Christmas morning, December 25th. Christmas 1983 dawned on a clear, sunny day with frigid temperatures near the five degree mark. As families everywhere prepared to celebrate the solemn holiday, the men in the firehouses around the City had settled into what everyone expected to be an uneventful tour of duty. Holiday routine as It is traditionally known in the Camden Fire Department, are quiet times in the firehouse. Particularly on special days like Christmas when the environment of the fire station with its concrete floors and the ever present smell of diesel fuel, seem to assume a peaceful, even homey atmosphere. The fire fighters are often engaged in personal activities - some quietly reading or watching a holiday program on television, while still others are busy preparing the noon meal for their brothers.

A few minutes after 10 A.M., the quiet tranquility of the firehouse was shattered by the shrill sound of the alarm tones over the department radio, followed by the blaring voice of the fire dispatcher announcing a structural fire at Fourth Street and Lansdowne A venue, South Camden. Engine Company 8 and Ladder Company 2 assigned first due, left the warm confines of their ancient firehouse and entered the biting cold of Kaighns Avenue heading west toward Broadway. From several blocks away, they could see the gray and yellow streams of smoke blowing over the rooftops. As Engine Company 8 entered the block, heavy menacing smoke billowed from the second floor of a two-story dwelling attached in the middle of a row of eight buildings. In the bone chilling cold of the street whipped by ferocious winds, stood a family of occupants huddled together, some wrapped in blankets, as they watched their Christmas turned into ashes.

The absence of integral party walls allowed the fire to rapidly extend to adjoining buildings. Battalion Chief Ronald Guernon pulled a second alarm on arrival as hose lines were aggressively advanced to the second floors of three buildings. Ladder companies armed with roof saws performed rapid ventilation to stem the spread of fire. As heavy fire conditions took possession of the top floors and cockloft of at least three buildings, third and fourth alarms were transmitted. Fire fighters were punished by the extreme cold and constant battering of gale force winds as heavy icing made footing treacherous. Following a two hour battle, the flames were finally subdued but not before at least four families were made homeless.

Shivering on the sidewalk, the occupants stared in disbelief at the ruins of all their worldly possessions and of what their holiday might have been. Near the front windows of one building a Christmas tree could be seen, still standing in the corner of a room adorned by once colorful decorations, now tarnished an ugly brown and coated in real icicles where tinsel had hung. Ashes and debris now lay where gift wrapped presents had been. As the homeless children wept openly in the street, fire fighters went silently about their work knowing that the real gift that Christmas, had been no loss of life or injuries to the occupants. That the families would live on to enjoy other Christmas Days together.


Three Children Dead After Fire in Camden

CAMDEN, N.J., March 18 (AP) - A 4-year-old girl died today of burns suffered in a fire Saturday night that killed two of her brothers and injured her mother and an infant brother, officials said today.

Firefighters responding to the alarm at 10:50 P.M. found the children's mother, Blair Cherry, with her 9-month-old son, Lorimar, outside her two-story brick home at 1275 Mechanic Street as flames shot from every window, the officials said.

Inside, Battalion Chief Ronald Guernon said, the firefighters found the bodies of Zirer Cherry, 5, and his brother, Lawrence, 2,

The fourth child, Lyasia, 4, was found by a firefighter but died today at St. Agnes Medical Center in Philadelphia.

Lorimar was listed in serious condition at Cooper Hospital, and the mother was in stable condition, suffering from smoke inhalation, at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

The cause of the fire was under investigation..

Witness Testimony of Mr. Walter J. Tafe,
Director, Burlington County Military and Veterans Services

Hearing on 04/23/2012: Discovering a More Efficient Process:
Improving Timeliness and Adequacy of VA Compensation and Pension Examinations

Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to speak on this important subject. My name is Walter Tafe and I am the Director of Burlington County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Our office serves a community of over 35,000 veterans. With our close proximity to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst approximately 20 percent of our clients are recent returnees from the Global War on Terrorism.

I am here today to share my observations regarding the Veteran Affairs (VA) requirements for Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations. I don’t come here today to throw stones at the VA. I understand the backlog issues and hope to make meaningful testimony that can help all involved gain a better prospective of the veteran’s point of view. Although I’m sure this program was intended to speed the process by providing verification of a veteran’s condition, in many cases it has the opposite effect. The reality is that veterans face a wait of several months before seeing a doctor, a visit that’s often no  more than a five to 10 minute conversation with a doctor who takes just a cursory look at the medical records—and that’s assuming the regional office has sent the records at all. Veterans leave this examination extremely frustrated; many tell me they feel they’ve wasted several months waiting for an appointment that wasn’t even a real medical exam. 

I would like to discuss several recommendations that, I believe, could have a dramatic impact on the process, reducing both the wait time for C&P examinations and the backlog that is presently crippling the claims process. My recommendations are based on my conclusion that many—at least 50 percent—of the C&P examinations conducted by the VA are unnecessary.

Many of my clients are receiving their health care exclusively from the Veterans Administration health care system. This means that the VA already has their complete medical history in its possession. When these veterans file a new claim or a claim for increase, they must first receive a C&P exam to verify the condition. The veteran waits several months to receive a C&P examination so a VA doctor can verify a condition that was already diagnosed by another VA doctor. This makes absolutely no sense.  It seems like the VA does not trust its own doctors to make a competent assessment and recommendation. Often, the veterans interpret this as a means of delaying the process; as a result, it builds great animosity between veterans the very department that is supposed to protect them. 

As I initially stated, approximately 20 percent of my current clients are only just returning to civilian life after serving on active duty. They are National Guard and Reserve personnel being released after activation, or active duty military members separating or retiring. In these cases the entire military service medical records are available to the VA. These members normally file a claim within the first three months of separation. Many are combat wounded, or have conditions diagnosed during active duty and verified during separation physical examinations. Even with a definitive medical exam at the close of their service, they must wait months to receive a C&P exam appointment—and the only point is to verify a medical condition that’s already a matter of record. These examinations could be completely eliminated if the VA and DoD would simply communicate with each other and share information. I recommend that a military member’s separation examination should consist of the same verification procedure used by the VA, thereby reducing the redundancy and expediting the claim.

Another concern I share with others in my field is the requirement of a full verification process forevery condition when a veteran is cared for by a private physician. I understand that in some cases verification by the VA of a condition is needed and fully justified. However, in documented cases of stage four cancers, severe diabetes with insulin dependence, coronary artery disease or similar terminal conditions a C&P exam seems unnecessary. Add the additional step of filing a claim and submitting a VA Form allowing his or her doctor to release all records to the VA, and the resulting delay can begin to seem cruel.

A case in example:  Former Marine Ronald Guernon. He is presently temporarily rated at 100 percent for service-connected colon and kidney cancer. Over a year ago his condition worsened and his prognosis was determined to be terminal. At that time I filed a request to upgrade his condition to permanent and total. I also requested Aid and Attendance. He now resides in Spring Hill Florida where his wife, a registered nurse provides care. He also receives hospice care. His life expectancy is listed as month-to-month. Despite the ongoing documentation of Mr. Guernon’s deteriorating condition and the fact that all medical records have been given to the VA, the Tampa Regional Office requested he come for a C&P examination to determine whether his condition has worsened. This veteran is, literally, unable to travel to Tampa due to his condition. This proud Marine is absolutely convinced the VA is “just waiting for me to die so they don’t have to bother.” While I’m sure this is not the case, Mr. Guernon is the perfect example of the crippling bureaucracy that is so significantly complicating the VA claims process.

The VA is making some strides and I applaud the new “Disability Benefits Questionnaires” forms that have been provided for veterans to bring to their health care providers. These questionnaires were developed so a veteran can give it to his or her doctor to completeproviding all the medical information required to make a rating decision on certain conditions. These questionnaires have been developed for almost all conditions a veteran can receive compensation for. If used correctly, they should negate the C&P process in most cases.  

In closing I would like to say it is my strong belief that the present C&P exam process is severely hindering, rather than helping, the VA claim process. In most cases the examinations are not thorough and leave veterans questioning why they waited several months for a five-minute exam. The perception that C&P exams are a method of delaying and denying claims is rampant in the veteran’s community; and it’s all the more potent when veterans like Mr. Guernon share their stories. It is my hope that these hearings will result in a thorough self-examination by VA personnel to evaluate the relevance of this requirement and eliminate unnecessary examinations. Thank you for your time and consideration of my testimony.