The New Jersey Devils rallied behind Union Township, NJ, as the fourth municipality to participate in the Devils’ “My Town” program during the team’s match against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night. Retired Fire Chief Frederic Fretz was at the center of the celebration and honored as the Hero of the Game, after more than 40 years as a firefighter.
Fretz, 65, a lifelong resident of Union, currently serves as the Fire Coordinator for Union County as well as the Emergency Management Coordinator for the town. Fretz retired from his role as fire department chief in August, 2014, decades after first joining as a firefighter in June 1970.
As the fire coordinator, Fretz manages fire response in all 21 municipalities within Union County. In his role as the emergency management coordinator, Fretz is responsible for planning for potential emergencies within his town.
From a family of firefighters, Fretz knew early on that it was the path for him. “I grew up in the fire house, it’s something I liked, something I wanted to do.” After Fretz finished his military service, spending 13 months in Vietnam from 1969-70, he decided to enroll to become a firefighter.
Remembering what he enjoyed most about being a firefighter, Fretz mentioned helping people as the central aspect, but added that there was a certain excitement to fighting fires. Fretz describes the excitement as “going close to the edge.”
Beyond firefighting and various administrative roles, Fretz has also served as an instructor at Texas A&M University’s Fire School. Fretz’s involvement with Texas A&M grew out of a desire to improve firefighters’ skills in responding to fires at oil refineries, spurred initially by the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Fretz has earned numerous awards in his time with the fire department, including the Union Fire Department Medal of Valor, three Fireman’s Benevolent Association State Valor Awards, the St. Barnabus Hospital Burn Unit Valor Award, and many others. However, Fretz is very clear that he served out of a desire to help people, and is humble about the awards, treating them as a bonus. “We work as a team, and I was just part of that team,” Fretz said.
Over the many years Fretz has spent in Union, he’s seen the town change quite a bit. “We used to be known as the farmers, and now there’s no longer any farms in town… the town is now probably 99 percent built.” To Fretz, what makes Union great is the schools, the diversity and the balance between residential, commercial and industrial space. “It’s a convenient place to live.”
Fretz specifically points out the diversity of the town, saying, “All the different nationalities now that have moved into Union, when they all come together, it’s still the same old Union.”
Each town that participates in the My Town events throughout the season receive a custom designed bench by Halmar, as well as a shade tree in the spring. The next night in the My Town series is set for February 25, when the Devils will celebrate Bayonne, N.J. For more information on the My Town program, please call 973-757-6250