Time can

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

Time can’t extinguish desire to fight fires
Volunteer honored for
50 years of service in

CHRIS KELLY Frank Dancey was recently honored by the members of the Shrewsbury Fire Department Hose Co. No. 1 for 50 years of continuous service.CHRIS KELLY Frank Dancey was recently honored by the members of the Shrewsbury Fire Department Hose Co. No. 1 for 50 years of continuous service.

Shrewsbury Hose Co. #1

By Sherry conohan

Staff Writer

For 50 years, Frank Dancey has answered the call at Shrewsbury Hose Company No. 1 on Route 35.

Dancey, 83, has fought more blazes than he can count during those five decades, both in this borough and in neighboring towns such as Red Bank and Eatontown when they have asked for assistance.

He has also seen the Fire Department grow as the borough has grown.

Whereas there were just two fire engines in 1952 when Dancey joined the force — a pumper and a ladder truck — there are now four vehicles: two pumpers, a ladder truck and a rescue vehicle. He remembers that the two trucks he first served on were an American LeFrance and a Seagrave ladder truck.

According to Dancey, Route 35 in front of the firehouse "was only two lanes" when he joined the department.

"The Grove wasn’t here. The stores across the street weren’t here. The school was smaller. It’s been added on to twice since I’ve been here," he said.

"We had a lot of brush fires," Dancey said of those early days, "because there were a lot of fields before all the development took place."

Even the firehouse has changed. The initial firehouse that Dancey rode out of was torn down, and the present firehouse was built and dedicated in 1965. And the whistle that summoned the firefighters has been replaced by a Plectron alert system.

On Dec. 7, Dancey, who served as chief twice — in 1959 and in 1965 — was honored by the Fire Department at its annual banquet, held at Branches in West Long Branch. The event recognized him for his 50 years of active service as a firefighter.

"Frank is a true example of what it means to be an active-duty volunteer firefighter," said John Merris, president of Shrewsbury Hose Company 1. "He is a true brother fireman and a good friend to all."

Merris said the special celebration at the banquet was as much for the other firefighters as for Dancey.

"It was for the rest of the guys who don’t know what you’ve done," he told Dancey at a gathering of the officers with the honoree at the firehouse on Sunday for a special picture-taking session to mark the occasion.

Dancey, who still responds to calls, admits to having had a fascination for fire engines ever since childhood. As an adult, he wanted to serve in the Fire Department to help his community, he said.

Dancey recalled some of the lighter moments of half a century of being a firefighter — like the mix-up of clothing when it was kept on the truck.

"Sometimes you would have an outfit that was way too large," he said, "or a big guy would wind up with a small jacket. I once had a size 10 boot when I wear a 7. It’s all hung up today."

Merris nodded in agreement.

"What was on the truck may or may not fit you," he said. "It was an unsafe situation."

In days gone by, Dancey said, firefighting education consisted of officers from the Jersey City and Newark fire companies coming to the borough firehouse one night a week for six weeks and telling the members how to fight fires. Now, he noted, there’s the Monmouth County Fire Academy.

Dancey recalled that the biggest fires he fought were in Red Bank — at a drugstore on the corner of Monmouth and Broad streets and at a furniture store on Monmouth Street. The one death he remembered was in an Eatontown fire.

At the banquet, Shrewsbury Hose Company 1 gave Dancey a mounted fire ax with a gold-plated head and a 50-year fireman’s badge.

Merris noted that Dancey served on the board of trustees for three years and as chief engineer before starting his quest to become the fire chief. He said Dancey had also participated in the annual field day competitions until 1979 and played on the softball team until the early 1980s. He was then inducted into the Firemen’s Sunday Morning Softball League Hall of Fame.

Dancey is a life member of the New Jersey Firemen’s Association and still attends all the meetings. He has been the company’s representative to the Monmouth County Firemen’s Association for over 25 years.

"Although he is not the type of person to call attention to himself, he is quick with a joke and enjoys having fun," Merris added.

"He’s a real jokester," chimed in Peter Kanenbley, one of the assistant chiefs.

"It’s always fun to have Frank along," Bob Wentway, chief of the fire department, added.

Wentway said Dancey still "makes his fair share" of the fire calls. The company gets about 200 calls a year, he added. Dancey nodded.

"Either my legs are getting shorter or the steps are getting higher," Dancey cracked.

"He’s an inspiration — to see him come out, jump on the fire truck, lend a hand," Merris said. "He’s been a blessing to us."

Dancey, who worked out of Local 2250 of the Carpenters Union in Red Bank, and his wife of 54 years, Stella, live on Patterson Avenue. They have three children and 16 grandchildren, and they just became great-grandparents a month ago.

Asked how long he expected to be an active firefighter, Dancey replied, "As long as I can."

Then he added with a smile, "Until they kick me out."