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Montgomery Resident Makes Good on a Promise & Becomes a Firefighter, along with his Dad and Brother

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted February 8, 2023


Montgomery resident Frank Wendling, III vowed to join the local volunteer fire company after firefighters saved the life of his girlfriend Julia by rescuing her from the raging waters of Pike Run Brook during Hurricane Ida — near their Belle Mead home.


Wendling, 25, made good on his promise, and upped the ante — his father, Frank Wendling, Jr., 54, and his brother Max, 20, joined the Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Co. #1 along with him. The Wendlings graduated from the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy in Hillsborough on January 27, along with 35 other volunteer firefighters.

Frank Wendling III, Frank Wendling, Jr., and Max Wendling graduated together from the Somerset County Fire Academy in January. They decided to join Montgomery Fire Company #1 after Montgomery firefighters rescued Frank III’s girlfriend Julia from her car after it was swept away in the raging waters of Hurricane Ida.


His father, Frank Jr., the oldest graduate in the class, gave a graduation speech. While addressing his classmates, fire academy staff, and guests he recalled the dramatic rescue of Frank III’s girlfriend.


Julia climbed out of her car's sunroof just before surging water flipped her car on it side. The car then smashed into a tree. Julia luckily was able to climb a different tree, and was stuck there — trapped by tree limbs and branches for hours. Montgomery firefighters found her, and rescued her by boat.


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"After we heard that Julia had been saved, my two sons responded that they would be joining the fire department the next day," Frank Jr. said. "They followed through, and after some serious soul-searching, thinking I was too old, and talking to every fireman that I know, I also decided to give it a try."


The graduation ceremony was the first since COVID arrived in 2020, and was a celebration not just of the accomplishments of the graduates, but of the gift of safety and hope firefighters and other first responders give the public every day.


“It is no small thing to commit to enter a burning building, to carry dozens of pounds of gear on your back into unfamiliar spaces, to be ready to save someone else’s life at a moment’s notice,” said Commissioner Deputy Director Doug Singleterry at the celebration. “You give us all the faith that our homes and loved ones are protected at all times, and that when disaster strikes there are highly skilled, highly trained, highly motivated neighbors ready to come give us the help – and hope -- we need to recover.”


Founded in 1991, the Fire Academy is part of Somerset County’s Emergency Services Training Academy in Hillsborough, as part of the Office of Emergency Management. The academy is tasked with providing educational training and certification for fire, EMS, CERT, Law Enforcement, Emergency Management, search and rescue, amateur radio testing, hazardous materials handling, and other public safety personnel in Somerset County and throughout the state.


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


The graduates worked with a staff of 36 instructors under the supervision of Werner, who is a Somerville resident. There were a total of 38 firefighters from 24 fire departments in Somerset County and surrounding counties to complete the course at the facility, located at 402 Roycefield Road.


The Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy has dozens of classes for aspiring and experienced firefighters, EMTs, CERT members and other first responders schedule throughout the spring and summer of 2023. To learn more, visit www.co.somerset.nj.us/government/public-health-safety/emergency-services-training-academy/training-courses, call 908.725.5070 or email trainingacademy@co.somerset.nj.us.

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