Dad, Sons Become Firefighters After Hurricane Ida Rescue In Montgomery

SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ — Father and sons Frank Wendling III, Frank Wendling, Jr. and Max Wendling were among 38 new firefighters Friday graduating from Somerset County’s Fire Academy’s first degree since the arrival of COVID in 2020.

The 38 new firefighters will be added to 24 departments in Central Jersey that protect the public during home fires, floods and other life-threatening situations.

“It’s no small thing to commit to entering a burning building, carrying dozens of pounds of equipment on your back into unfamiliar spaces, being ready to save someone else’s life in the blink of an eye,” said the commission’s deputy director, Doug Singleterry celebration. “They give us all confidence that our homes and loved ones are protected at all times, and that in the event of a disaster, highly trained, highly skilled and highly motivated neighbors are standing by to give us the help – and hope – we need to recover.”

Frank Wendling, Jr. and his two sons, Frank Wendling III and Max Wendling, decided to join the Montgomery Fire Company #1 after Montgomery firefighters rescued Frank III’s friend Julia from her car after it crashed in the raging waters of Hurricane Ida had been swept away.

“After we heard that Julia was rescued, both of my sons responded that they would be going to the fire department the next day,” Frank Jr said. After speaking to every firefighter I know, I’ve also decided to give it a try .”

Also among the graduates was Bridgewater resident Zachary Menendez, who will join the Green Knoll Fire Department as a volunteer.

Menendez is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Bob Skillman, who served 55 years as a firefighter, including as Chief of the Laurelton Fire Department.

“For all the guys who don’t know what they want to do or want to try something new, really get into the volunteer fire department. You may find that this is something you want to spend your life doing,” Menendez said.

Established in 1991, the Fire Academy is part of Somerset County’s Emergency Services Training Academy in Hillsborough, NJ as part of the Office of Emergency Management. The academy’s mission is to provide training and certification for fire, EMS, CERT, law enforcement, emergency management, search and rescue, ham radio testing, hazardous materials handling, and other public safety personnel in Somerset County and across the state to provide.

“This is an exciting day. This is our first live graduation from the Somerset County Fire Service Academy since COVID, so a nice round of applause for a little return to normalcy,” said Lisa Werner, Somerset County’s director of emergency management, who oversees the Emergency Services Training Academy. “I am so proud to be here to be a part of the training of these firefighters and to ensure this academy is here to serve the people of Somerset County for many generations to come.”

The Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy is offering dozens of courses for novice and veteran firefighters, EMTs, CERT members and other first responders throughout the spring and summer of 2023. To learn more click here, call 908-725-5070 or email trainingacademy

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