By Colleen Murphy
When most people’s electronics go off during class, it’s usually the result of a text message or Siri acting up. But for three of the College’s students, that sound equates to something much more urgent. For these students, an alert that sounds during class means that somewhere in Ewing Township, their expertise and help are needed: These firefighters must report to a scene.
Matthew Iannarone, a senior mechanical engineering major, Anthony Dell’Aquila, a senior criminology major and Michael Koons, a senior business administration major, are not only full-time students at the College but also volunteer firefighters for the Pennington Road Fire Company. Recently, the company chief, Steve Luck, honored the three with the Firefighter of the Year Award for their ability to balance their dedication to both school and firefighting.
According to Iannarone, when Luck was presenting the award, he noted that there were a lot of great firefighters from which to choose. Deciding who to give the award to was a challenge, but the College’s three students stood out from the rest.
Every firefighter that works with the three recipients thinks that they do a good job, Luck said, and when figuring out who to present with Firefighter of the Year, the work ethic of Iannarone, Dell’Aquila and Koons put them “above everybody else.”
“Basically, to get the award, you have to be involved and not shy away from anything we ask of you,” Luck said.
The three students first became involved with firefighting at their local companies before coming to the College, with Iannarone starting in 2009, Dell’Aquila in 2006 and Koons in 2010.
Dell’Aquila, who now serves as a trustee of the Pennington Road Company, has been serving Ewing since 2011, and in 2012, he served as assistant chief of EMS. Koons began his work with the Pennington company in 2012. However, Iannarone didn’t think he was going to pursue firefighting while at college, but that quickly changed.
“I sort of missed it after two months of being here, so I walked down, picked up an application and joined,” Iannarone said.
Since they first joined, the three have responded to hundreds of calls in the area.
“It seems like we’ve responded to everything,” Iannarone said. “From the routine burnt food calls to full-house fires to car accident entrapments — Ewing pretty much gets it all.”
The Pennington Road Fire Company’s district includes the College, so the three men have responded to calls that come from the College numerous times, including late-night elevator rescues and last year’s fire at the Towers.
“I’m one of the few people who can say they took a chainsaw to Travers Hall,” Iannarone said.
According to Iannarone, he easily spends 10 hours a week volunteering for the firehouse. The amount of calls vary week to week, but just last year, the company went on 600 calls to Ewing and the surrounding area.
While they admit balancing their volunteerism with schoolwork can be difficult at times, the students say they would never give up firefighting.
“I sincerely enjoy what I do as a firefighter and EMT,” Dell’Aquila said. “Helping other people in need is something that I have always had a passion for. I also enjoy the excitement that being a firefighter and EMT brings. I never know what the next call might bring me. I am also gaining very useful experience by volunteering my time.”
Iannarone agreed with Dell’Aquila’s passion for altruism.
“I like giving back, helping people,” he said. “I think I’ll volunteer probably the rest of my life.”
The dedication that each has displayed to volunteering was what earned them the Firefighter of the Year award, and Luck noted that they’re incredibly great volunteer firefighters and EMS responders.
“It’s a pleasure to have them — it’s actually a blessing to have them because volunteers are hard to come by nowadays,” Luck said.
And Luck, Iannarone and Dell’Aquila all urged those interested in volunteering for the fire company or first aid unit to contact the fire company.
“If there is any student at TCNJ who is currently a firefighter or EMT, or anyone who wishes to become one, I encourage them to contact the fire company by logging on to penningtonroad.org, calling (609)-882-9885 or coming down to the firehouse (located at 1666 Pennington Road) for a visit and to pick up an application,” Dell’Aquila said.