Joey Petrucci got an 89 on his final exam at Passaic County’s Public Safety Academy. His father, also named Joe Petrucci, couldn’t help but tease him.
“In all your school years, I’ve never seen you get such a good grade,” the elder Petrucci said to his son. “He said, ‘I enjoy it.’ Maybe that’s the trick.
A Vernon High School graduate and three-sport athlete, Joey followed the family tradition all the way to the fire department — and eventually developed a long-term life plan.
He is among a select group of New Jersey high school students who invest their time in both athletics and volunteering as first responders. The student athletes combine several demanding passions that require time and precision – with little room for error.
“Usually the fire engine leaves the station within five minutes. So if you’re not at the station, you’re done,” he joked Tyler Zepp, Randolph High School graduate, a firefighter who is also a central defender for his soccer team. “The more calls I made, the more I loved it. I loved replying. I loved the public events. I thought I could really go for it and enjoy 50 years or more no matter how long my career might be.”
Petrucci’s stepfather, Mike Taylor, is a volunteer firefighter in Vernon. Father Joe Petrucci is a volunteer paramedic at Glenwood Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps in Sussex, who was also part of Vernon High School’s first boys’ volleyball team – another activity he shares with his son. His stepmother, Ericka Petrucci, works as a 911 dispatcher in West Milford and is a former captain Upper Greenwood Lake Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Petrucci’s family is no runaway. According to this, only 8.3% of the fire departments in New Jersey are staffed with career officers Statistics from the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety. The rest are volunteers or a combination of both.
“I was born for it,” said Petrucci, a kicker and punter for the Vikings football team. He is also a bowler and outside hitter on the Vernon volleyball team that reached the NJAC Finals on May 20th.
“I’ve been close to the fire department since I was five. Everyone was volunteering somewhere. We do exactly the same thing (paid firefighters and paramedics), only we don’t get paid for it. We do it for the community.” .”
Study to save lives
To become a licensed firefighter requires: a college-level class, with more than 200 hours of instruction over about five months. Petrucci attends four high school classes each day so he can go after lunch, have time for homework, and usually attend team training — before going to Passaic County Community College’s Public Safety Academy in Wayne.
Vernon High School gave Petrucci special permission to follow the team bus to the street games in his own car so that he could also be on time for the firefighter’s introductory class. He talks to his father when he gets up at 5:30 am and texts him when he gets home after class around 11:30 pm
In Passaic County, Firefighter 1 meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings for a minimum of three hours and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, there is an additional hour of what program coordinator Michael Wanklin called “hands-on training,” an opportunity to work on the previous week’s hands-on skills before evening classes.
Wanklin detailed the 36-chapter, 1,400-page textbook, as well as an online homework program. In addition to a written exam with 100 questions, students must also complete a nine-station internship that requires proof of firefighting skills. In addition, hazardous materials training with two additional written exams is required.
“That’s what kills a lot of people, that practical part, a lot of work and a lot of time,” said Zepp, who will complete his courses at the University of Southern California Morris County Public Safety Training Academy on June 10, five days before he graduates from Randolph.
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“Football training has allowed me to stay fit, stay athletic, have that stamina and use my young age to my advantage. (Football) has helped me with teamwork, leadership and respect for hierarchy.”
Petrucci and the other 23 students, ages 17 to 50 who passed the latest PCCC course, received copies of their Firefighter 1 and Dangerous Goods certificates on May 23. All of this must be verified by the state in order to receive official certification for the students to be able to work as firefighters or continue to volunteer.
Petrucci will already be on his way to college when the class officially graduates in November. He plans to study fire science at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts – where he also wants to play football Head coach Steve Crocea 30-year-old firefighter in Waterbury, Connecticut.
“He is very motivated and very dedicated. I think his involvement in the sport has a lot to do with that,” Wanklin said. a volunteer firefighter in Bloomingdale whose daughter Kathleen is a captain.
“He’s a good student. He listened. He studied well. He is the example of a good result.”
Few professional firefighters in New Jersey
Jefferson Senior Parker Turton also followed in his parents’ footsteps, volunteering for the first aid squad and then the fire department. He completed the EMT course at 15, although he had to wait almost a year to ride in an ambulance. To become a firefighter, Turton attended Morris County Academy with some friends.
Turton balances his stint as the Falcons’ shooting guard and second baseman with a 12-hour Saturday shift on Jefferson’s first aid squad and Tuesday night meetings Jefferson Township Fire Company No. 1 at Oak Ridge. His twin brother Dayton Turton is also a volunteer paramedic.
Turton starts school at 7am and sports practice can last until 4:30pm. He’s even later on matchdays. But when there’s a fire call, even in the middle of the night, Turton reports to the police station at Milton Road in Oak Ridge, gets his gear, and sets off with a crew.
Because Turton is 18 years old, he can do the same things as other volunteers. He was one of many firefighters called to tackle the Kanouse wildfire in West Milford, which spread to more than 1,000 acres in mid-April.
More:How firefighters in New Jersey train for hazardous situations that can be deadly “in the blink of an eye.”
Zepp describes himself as “an engineering guy who likes the vehicles,” and estimates he’s responded to at least 100 of them Randolph Township Fire Company No. 5Last year there were 250 calls. He will study Public Policy and Services at the University of Scranton.
Turton originally wanted to be a nurse but now plans to study criminal justice at County College of Morris in the fall. He hopes to become a police officer.
“Now it’s too late to turn back. I won’t stop,” Turton said. “Every day, every other day, there is a call. There are car accidents. There are bush fires. There are activated fire alarms. There is always something. I’m just very busy. You have to take your time. I could answer a call at any time of the day. If I get a call after my game or in the middle of the night, I’ll leave.”
Jane Havsy is a storyteller for Daily Record and DailyRecord.com, part of the USA TODAY Network. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, Subscribe today.
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