David Amico can vouch for the importance of doing what you love.
Because he was passionate about the work, his four-decade career with the Lancaster Bureau of Fire “didn’t feel like a job,” he said.
Amico, who turns 60 on Saturday, is retiring this week. His last work day is Thursday, Jan. 10; his official retirement date is Friday, the 11th.
Starting in 1978 as a rank-and-file firefighter, Amico climbed the ranks to deputy fire chief, earning numerous awards and recognitions. He served as acting fire chief between the departure of Chief Tim Gregg at the start of 2018 and the appointment of Chief Scott Little that May.
“We’ll sorely miss you,” Mayor Danene Sorace told Amico after reading an official city commendation honoring him at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Little, the first chief hired from outside the department, said Amico possesses an unparalleled wealth of institutional memory and is generous in passing it on.
“My first day here, I told him, ‘I’ve got 40 years worth of your knowledge that I’ve got to get out of you,’ ” Little recalled.
“It has truly been an honor to have someone like him to lean on and to learn from,” Little said.
The fire department has had at least one Amico on its roster continuously since 1951, when Amico’s father, Thomas J., joined. He retired in 1979.
The family seems to be drawn to careers that help people, Amico said. His brother, Tom, is a paramedic with the Longwood Fire Company in Chester County. One of his daughters is a nurse, while the other is a social worker.
Amico responded to countless emergencies during his career. In November, LNP reported on one of the most memorable: The 1986 rescue by Amico and fellow firefighter Ken Barton of two preschoolers from an apartment fire on New Dorwart Street.
A couple of weeks before Barton’s retirement, the rescued siblings, Quan and Than Le, now in their 30s, took part in a City Hall ceremony, thanking Amico and Barton for saving their lives.
Amico said he’s seen a lot of change over the years. When he started, firefighters wore canvas coats and rode in open fire trucks. To enhance safety in those days before cell phones, Lancaster had fire alarm pull boxes scattered through the city.
Today, firefighting apparel is high-tech, vehicle cabs are enclosed and air-conditioned, and pull boxes are long gone.
Training has changed, too.
“Make sure you stay safe and trained,” Amico advises young firefighters. “Learn all the new techniques and stay current with everything.”
Post-retirement, Amico is looking south. He and his wife of 38 1/2 years, Roxanne, hope to relocate to the Sarasota, Florida, area.
“I’ve always been a beach person,” he said. “I want it to be warm.”