At the Jan. 24 meeting of the East Rockaway Fire Department Fire Council, Allen Ball, 28, raised his right hand and recited the department’s oath of office — in a distinct British accent.
This was a significant development in the history of the 112-year-old volunteer organization, which is tasked with providing fire protection and emergency services to residents of East Rockaway, Bay Park and Angle Sea. It marked the first time that a recruit who was not a U.S. citizen became a department member.
“It’s a great thing for the department,” said Chief Steve Torborg. “The idea is to get good people like Allen to join, so this [change] will allow that to happen.”
Ball, a newcomer to firefighting, was born in Aldershot, England, about 40 miles southwest of London. In 2008, while making online contacts with people in the U.S. for a backpacking trip he was planning here, he met East Rockaway native Nicole Renner. “Next thing I knew, I was married!” he joked.
Nicole, 29, provided a bit more detail. “He was hoping to have some sort of contacts once he was over here,” she said. “He decided to come over for Christmas that year, and we visited back and forth for the next two years.”
Ball came to the States to live in June 2010, and the couple were married that August. Allen received his permanent resident status in December 2011. “Sorry to say, he never went backpacking,” said Nicole. “I guess I kind of got in the way of that one.”
Ball’s new marital status allowed him to live and work in the U.S. He and Nicole, whose father, Robert Renner, served as a captain with the ERFD and is the village’s deputy emergency manager, eventually settled in East Rockaway. When Ball applied to join the Fire Department, however, he learned that membership was limited to U.S. citizens.