John Croce, 56, has brought his son, Johnny Croce, 17, to Sharon Hill Fire Company since Johnny was four years old.
“At the age of four, Johnny could name all the tools inside the compartments of the fire truck with the door closed,” said John, who volunteers as the Assistant Chief at Sharon Hill Fire Company.
John has also been going to Sharon Hill Fire Company since he was a boy. Both of his uncles would take him to visit the station and when John was 16, he officially joined as a junior firefighter.
His son, Johnny, joined as a cadet more than three years ago when he was 14 years old. “I decided to join Sharon Hill Fire Company to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” he said. “It’s cool getting to learn from my dad and volunteering is another way to create a bond between the two of us.”
John said it’s been awesome watching his son learn and grow. “He turns 18 in September and he can’t wait to go to fire school and get more involved in the fire company,” he said. “His brain is like a sponge; he just keeps learning.”
Johnny is looking forward to becoming an active firefighter when he turns 18 and will then have the ability to enter burning buildings. So far, Johnny said the most valuable skill he’s learned as a volunteer is “problem solving on the spot.”
No matter how much training a firefighter receives, every call is different. “There are always situations you could never think of that end up happening on a call,” said John.
Once the fire company responded to a house call for an unidentified odor. “We couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from,” said John. “It turned out a squirrel got into the chimney and then into the flue of the water heater. I remember the squirrel just staring up at us; things you’d never expect.”
A memorable call for both father and son was Johnny’s first working fire call. “My most exciting call was my first working fire in Darby where I actually had to drop line off the back of the truck to get water to the fire,” he said.
Johnny said his dad is at every drill he’s been at and about 90 percent of the calls he’s on.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to teach my son and for him to learn from the same people I learned from,” said John.
The members of the fire company come from all walks of life, but John said they all come together every Tuesday for drill nights. “The volunteer fire department is like no other profession because you make so many friends that are willing to help you with anything you need.”
Sharon Hill Fire Company taught John how to work well with people, business management skills and gave him a strong work ethic.
Johnny is also learning to manage his time and priorities, but says it’s easy for him to volunteer at not only Sharon Hill Fire Company, but also Springfield Fire Company and attend Springfield High School.
Sharon Hill Fire Company has two volunteer positions for teens: cadets, ages 14 and 15, who can start learning fire skills and participate in drill nights; and junior firefighters, ages 16 and 17, who assist firefighters at the scenes of emergencies.
For those ages 18 and older, Sharon Hill Fire Company is seeking active firefighters who will encounter a broad range of calls from businesses, industrial parks and homes.
“Join the fire company,” said John. “You get a great feeling volunteering, especially if you can help someone on the call and make a difference in their life.”
Sharon Hill Fire Company does not require experience to join. Training and equipment are also provided for free.
For anyone interested in volunteering, fill out an inquiry form at https://fightsharonhillfires.org/contact/ and a volunteer will be in touch soon.