Volunteer firefighter Nick Jandoli was not sure what was happening when a cameraman came over to his seat at the New Jersey Devils game on March 6. He had seen veterans, police officers and other firefighters honored, but did not yet know he was the team’s Hero of the Game.
“I was surprised, but I’m very honored to be recognized like that,” Jandoli said. “It’s a tough job, and it’s not always as glorious as the pictures might make it seem.” Jandoli was nominated by his dad, Mark, who said he felt very proud to see his son celebrated by the fans at The Rock.
Last month, Jandoli, in his fourth year as a firefighter, participated in the response to a warehouse fire in Hillsborough, alongside firefighters from more than 30 companies. Jandoli was at Seton Hall University, where he is a senior and studies business, when he got the call and drove home to help with the response. “All of the trucks were gone by the time I got there, so I took my personal car to the scene, and I was there for about 12 hours on the first night.” Jandoli said he and his team participated in defensive operations, trying to save what they could in the cold and windy conditions.
Balancing time between school and service is not easy. Jandoli said he’s not as active as when he was in high school or community college, but helps when he’s home on the weekends and tries to make time for regularly scheduled training. Community college allowed Jandoli to continue learning with the fire department as he worked on determining what he wanted to do for a career.
Jandoli said he first wanted to be a firefighter when he was a kid, growing out of a desire to help his community. “It was a childhood thing, and eventually it turned into reality.” Jandoli first joined the Hillsborough Fire Department’s Flagtown Company when he was 17 years old, through a junior program. The 22-year old explained that until he was 18, he couldn’t go into a fire, but could still ride in the truck and gain experience, helping out on scene while keeping distance from the danger.
Beyond fighting fires, Jandoli is a member of his department’s Special Operations team, which participates in swift water rescues, ice rescues and vehicle extrication. The team also responds to calls for assistance from other fire departments, standing by to help as needed.
During Hurricane Sandy, Jandoli said he and his team were deployed to the Bay Head Fire Department and even stayed in their station for the night. “They had no water, no hydrants, no water pressure at all, so we took one of our trucks down there, just in case anything happened, to help them out,” Jandoli explained.
A longtime Devils fan, Jandoli said Jordin Tootoo was his favorite player on the team. “He’s a rough player, and I like his aggressiveness,” Jandoli explained. “He’s quick…fast on his feet and the crowd seems to like him a lot.” Jandoli also holds a special place for Martin Brodeur, who he said was his all-time favorite player. While he didn’t attend Brodeur’s jersey retirement ceremony last month, he did make it to Scott Neidermayer’s jersey retirement, calling it one of his greatest experiences watching the Devils.