Meet Hopewell Fire Volunteers Jim and Annie Ferry

Together, they have fought fires, cut back metal to extricate accident victims from cars, taken turns compressing the chest of someone whose heart isn’t beating and, since last fall, warmed baby bottles and changed diapers.

A shared love of helping their neighbors led Hopewell Volunteer Firefighters Jim and Annie Ferry to fall in love with each other.

Jim was first to be smitten with emergency service. In 2003 his grandmother suffered a massive heart attack. Her town’s volunteer EMTs responded and revived her. “I was blown away,” said Jim. “I thought, how is this possible, and what is this world of emergency medicine that I know nothing about?” The next year, he volunteered in Plainsboro, where he lived at the time. “I got hooked on having the ability to help people in some of the worst times in their lives,” he said. He used his the skills he learned to swith careers, becoming a paid Princeton EMT, and later persued more training and became a volunteer firefighter as well.

Annie was a Seton Hall nursing student when a health issue of her own forced her to leave her classes and move back home.

“I was a newly diagnosed Type I diabetic, and I had to learn how to take care of myself,” she said.  She decided to use the break from college to gain valuable, hands-on training and experience as a volunteer EMT. In 2009, she walked into the Princeton squad and handed her volunteer application to Jim. 

“I had every intention of returning to become a nurse, but once I got a taste of what emergency medicine was, I fell in love with it,” Annie said. She served as a volunteer EMT and also changed her professional path and became a career EMT, too.

Within a year, she and Jim fell in love with each other.

“As I got to know her, I saw her relentless drive to improve herself, to take all the training she could, to be the best provider she could be,” Jim said. “I was and am so proud of her.”

“I really was attracted by his compassion,” Annie said. “He can connect with people in a rare way. He will have the sickest patient smiling.”

The couple married in 2012 and joined Hopewell Fire Department & Emergency Medical Unit in 2016 – the same year they moved to the township. Jim, who is now Princeton’s Animal Control Officer, is a Hopewell Fire Lieutenant. Annie, who is now a full time EMT/ Rescue Technician at Princeton, wanted a new volunteer role. In 2017, she became a Hopewell volunteer firefighter.

“The thing I really want to convey is there is this myth that you need to be a big, buff, male to be a firefighter – but that could not be further from the truth,” she said. There’s a job for every crew member that allows their unique skills and attributes to shine,” she said.

“We responded to a fire, and we had to go check an attic to see if there was any smoke up there,” she remembers. “I was with this guy who is 6’3”, and he looked up at that little hatch and said, ‘I’m not going to fit through that hole. You need to be the one to check.’” She’s also been on ambulance calls where a person in the back seat of a small car needs to be assessed and a large male can’t get to them, but she can. “My size turns out to be an asset.”

Jim puts the benefits of having many different people working together like this: “I might not be able to accomplish something by myself, but as a team, we can accomplish a lot.”

Both Ferrys push themselves to learn new skills for the satisfaction of self improvement, but also, because doing so makes the team stronger. That reliance on each other, and the trust it builds, leads to friendships that feel like family.  Even when there’s not a call or a practice drill, Hopewell Valley’s volunteer firefighters, EMTs, and their families often gather because they want to be together.

“It’s a building that’s full of good people,” said Jim.

Soon after their daughter Kayla was born, firefighters with older children delivered so many of their no-longer-needed clothes and toys that “she needs nothing,” Annie noted.

She and Jim look forward to the day that Kayla can run around the firehouse with the other kids. “It’s a great place for kids to learn positive things,” Jim said.

Some of those kids can already correctly describe the parts of a firetruck and what everything does, said Annie. Historically, many children of firefighters and EMTs will follow their parents into the service.

“If that’s what Kayla wants to do, it would make me super proud of her,” said Annie.

Hopewell Fire Department, Pennington Fire Company, Pennington First Aid Squad, and Union Fire Company all need volunteers. No experience is necessary to become a firefighter or EMT; members receive free training. Teens can join as junior members who learn the same skills, attend practice drills, and assist firefighters and EMTs. There is also a need for non-emergency volunteers to take on fundraising, administrative, and other support roles. Your skills are needed today! Visit www.ProtectHopewellValley.com or call Matt Martin at 609-537-0287 to learn more.

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