Gear on and adrenaline high, Frank Scalice rushed into a burning apartment building. It was his first call as a Hopewell Fire Department volunteer firefighter. Confident in his training and the crew he was proud to be part of, he was not afraid as they worked together to get the people out, to put the flames out.
“I love helping people,” he said. “I’m not one to run away from the emergency.”
Frank, 42, had always wanted to be a firefighter, but two decades before his first call, that dream had gone dormant. The Brooklyn native was on his way to take the Fire Department of New York’s written exam when another driver ran a stop sign. No one was hurt in the accident, but Frank, then in his early 20’s, missed the test. And then “Life happened,” Frank said. He met and fell in love with Lisa. They married. His business career took off. Sons Maxwell, now 11, and Henry, now 6, were born.
Frank channeled his desire to help others and his calm-in-a-crises demeanor in other directions. He became a fire prevention representative at the city law firm where he worked. The volunteer position required him to learn CPR, a skill Frank used when his father-in-law went into cardiac arrest in front of him. Frank didn’t stop to think. “I just went into action,” he said. “It was something that came naturally.”
After 9/11, Frank served on the law firm’s disaster recovery team. Then in 2006, Lisa took a job with Princeton University, where she manages the physics department, and the family moved to Hopewell. Frank is now Rutgers University’s Assistant Vice President for Business Services, but he joined his wife on Princeton’s employee softball team. That’s where he met Joe Novak, a Hopewell firefighter who was then fire chief.
“You should come down to the fire company,” Joe suggested during one game. “You would fit in really well, and we could absolutely use more people.”
Frank, like many who move to Hopewell Valley from a city, did not know that Hopewell Fire Department & Emergency Medical Unit, Union Fire Company & Rescue Squad, Pennington Fire Company and Pennington First Aid Squad are comprised of volunteer firefighters and EMTs.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter,” Frank told Joe that day on the ball field.
“Then do it!” Joe replied.
And so Frank did.
“I love it!” Frank said. “I love the camaraderie. And I love training – you get to try out different techniques so that when you get on the firetruck, you know exactly what to do.”
Joe said his hunch about Frank was spot-on: he’s become an excellent firefighter. The secret to that excellence? “He is very eager and willing to learn, which is all we can really ask for,” Joe said. “We don’t expect people to come in the door knowing how to do this.”
“Individual volunteers are not required to respond to every call, but Frank has been among the top 10 responders since he joined,” said Cosmo Tomaro, another Hopewell Firefighter and a Hopewell Township Fire District Board Member. “Frank was Rookie of the Year in 2019,” Cosmo said.
Frank suspects there are other men and women in Hopewell Valley who have dreamed of becoming a firefighter or EMT. He has a message for all of them: “If you feel called to do this, it’s never too late.”
Submitted by by Protect Hopewell Valley, who want you to know that Hopewell Fire Department & Emergency Medical Unit, Pennington Fire Company, Pennington First Aid Squad, and Union Fire Company and Rescue Squad, all need volunteers. COVID-19 mitigation measures are in place, and firefighters, EMTs, and non-emergency personnel are all needed. No experience is necessary. Training and gear are provided at no cost to volunteers. To learn more, visit ProtectHopewellValley.com and fill out an inquiry form or call Matt Martin, Chief of Emergency Services, at 609-537-0287.
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