UNION, NJ — Five Union firefighters, who are also all Union High School graduates, were sworn in as lieutenants in an outdoor ceremony in front of Fire Department headquarters on Monday, Sept. 14.
Edward J. Collins, Frank Manzo, Helmut Krauth, William Votapek and Daniel Roman were promoted to lieutenant, proof that life can come full circle.
Collins, a 1994 graduate of Union High School, was appointed to the Union Fire Department in February 2003. He has received numerous certifications in firefighting programs. For instance, he is a Level 1 instructor through the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety. He is also a third-generation firefighter.
“My father was a firefighter in Union and my grandfather was a battalion chief in Newark,” Collins said on Saturday, Sept. 19.
Collins said he is ready to take on his new role.
“I’m extremely happy and excited to be promoted to lieutenant on Sept. 14, 2020,” Collins said. “I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead of me.”
Votapek, a 1998 graduate of Union High School, also has firefighting in his blood.
“I was appointed to the Union Fire Department July 1, 2004, and have been a firefighter for 16 years,” Votapek said on Saturday, Sept. 19. “My father was a Union firefighter for over 30 years, and I knew at a young age I wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a Union firefighter.”
The firefighter is attached to his Union roots.
“I was born and raised in Union, as well as my entire immediate family,” Votapek said. “My parents still live in the same house my sister and I grew up in. My sister, Karen, is an elementary school teacher in town.”
Votapek, who has received numerous letters of appreciation and certifications, is looking forward to his new role.
“I am very grateful for the chance to grow in my career as a firefighter and am thankful for the opportunity,” Votapek said.
Manzo, a 1989 graduate of Union High School, was appointed to the Union Fire Department on Sept. 25, 2000. He purposely chose a profession in which he could help his hometown.
“My father was a police officer in Jersey City, which led me to a profession to help where I grew up,” Manzo said on Saturday, Sept. 19. “There isn’t a legacy with the fire service within my family, but I married into a family with a long history in the Union Fire Department. My wife’s father was the former chief of the department, his father served in the same department before him and her brother is currently a captain in the department with me.”
According to Manzo, his impressive list of accolades includes the Meritorious Award in 2005, the Group Award in 2014, a letter of commendation in 2019, Level 1 instructor and a certification in foam operations.
Shouting “Go Farmers,” Manzo is proud to be from Union.
“Besides being a graduate of Union High School, I am still a resident of Union,” Manzo said. “I feel privileged to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. It’s been a goal of mine, and I hope to make my family and the department proud.”
Krauth, a 1987 graduate from Union High School, was appointed to the Union Fire Department on Aug. 2, 1999.
“There’s no family legacy. I am a first-generation firefighter,” Krauth said on Monday, Sept. 21. “Both of my parents were born in Germany, and I still have aunts, uncles and cousins there.”
Like Manzo, Krauth wanted to help people.
“I was always interested in helping people in need and solving problems,” Krauth said. “I was always very athletic and playing sports and lifting weights, which helped in the physical demands of the job. I started out as a volunteer EMT, which was before the Fire Department, with the Union Callmen’s Ambulance Squad back in 1997. I then served for two years until being appointed.”
Krauth mentioned a unique award he has earned more than once.
“I was a part of a few Unit Awards with the Union Fire Department in the past two years,” Krauth said, “Two of which were for delivering babies. I don’t recall the years.”
A member of the Union Elks No. 4222, Krauth also attended Union County College for business and accounting, as well as Union VoTech for blueprint reading, electrical motor and electrical system design. He also has New Jersey Electrical License No. 14544.
“I am very proud and excited to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant,” Krauth said. “I always look forward to my next shift at work.”
Roman, a 1994 graduate from Union High School, was appointed to the Union Fire Department on Aug. 1, 2009.
“Having the honor of being a Union firefighter was a great way to give back to the township that has given me so much,” Roman said on Monday, Sept. 21.
Like Krauth’s, Roman’s awards involved heroism.
“My tour was given the Group Award for rescuing a New Jersey state trooper that was caught in a flooded river,” Roman said. “I was able to work with my fellow firefighters during the water rescue.”
Now a lieutenant, Roman said he feels the promotion is a blessing.