MAGNOLIA — You can excuse Luke Sadusky if he gets a bit antsy during class at St. Thomas More Academy. The adrenaline rush he gets when his Dover Fire Department pager goes off makes it tempting to jump out of his desk to answer the call.
Sadusky is never reluctant to respond to a call, and in January, he was recognized for his dedication. The Dover Fire Department presented him with its Firefighter of the Year Award for his service and selflessness. He also received a certificate from the Robbins Hose Company No. 1 for outstanding service and dedication. Sadusky had participated in 446 alarms in 2018, second in the department.
Not bad for someone who’s in just his third year with the department. Sadusky, 17, said he always wanted to be a firefighter.
“You have to be 13 to join, and when I turned 15 I realized I could have joined two years earlier,” he said.
Sadusky talked to a classmate, Jessica Simmons, whose father is a member of the Dover department.
“I really wanted to do it, so he helped me get in. I would bike there every day. I loved it,” he said.
For a few months, he couldn’t ride the trucks. His first tasks included cleaning the trucks and going to parades and meetings. At the same time, he would attend the Delaware state fire school for basic training, structural training, hazardous materials and all of the other aspects of becoming a firefighter.
“You get a set of gear, you just couldn’t ride the firetruck. You would do orientation and have to learn everything on all the firetrucks. So that’s pretty lengthy,” he said. “You have to learn how to throw the ladder, hit the hydrant.”
After completing an estimated 150 hours of training, Sadusky was qualified to put on the firefighting gear and go inside the burning buildings. He said it’s exciting, but can be nerve-wracking.
“Right before I got pack-certified, I was at a garage fire, and it collapsed on two of our firefighters. They got out and they were OK, but it was definitely scary,” he said.
The first fire he fought was at a one-story home in Cheswold. He didn’t go inside, but from his vantage point outside he could see flames reaching into the trees around the building. He acknowledges the danger in doing this work.
“If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” he said.
A Holy Cross School graduate, Sadusky expects to attend Delaware State University next year. He wants to study aviation, but his longer-term goal is to apply for the Dover Police Department. He said he has a passion for law enforcement and for helping people.
“It sounds corny,” he said. “I want to make a difference in my community because relations with police are bad right now. There are ways to help it. I want to do that.”
He doesn’t plan to give up his volunteer work with the fire department. That pager goes with him everywhere, and as tempting as it is to stay in bed when it goes off in the middle of the night, Sadusky knows someone needs his assistance.
The department, he said, has several calls a day, and it is completely staffed by volunteers. It is, according to the department, the last remaining state capital fire department that is all-volunteer.
Sadusky and his family are fixtures at St. Thomas More. The sixth of seven children, all have attended the school; the youngest sibling also attends. And while the Magnolia school is part of the family tradition, firefighting is not, “which is kind of unnatural in a fire department, especially volunteer. Normally, it’s brothers and dads and children. But no, nobody in my family has been in the department.”
Now that he has received the firefighter of the year award at such a young age, Sadusky said the pressure will only increase.
“(The award) kind of marks the least amount of effort I can put into it,” he said. “I got the award, so now I have to be better than that. I was really active last year.”