Membership is down, but Goshen fire crew is ready

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Training continues through the winter

GOSHEN – A group of men and women sat and stood around a room at the fire hall Tuesday night, watching images of burning buildings on a large television.

Pointing out one of the pictures, Goshen Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Frank Svitak said the fire could have originated in the attic.

He asked the 10 others what they would do if they arrived on scene.

One of the men answered, walk around the building.

Svitak said firefighters should take a 360-degree view of the area.

During the winter, the Goshen fire company members stay indoors and continue to learn about fire fighting, like on Feb. 19. When it’s warmer, they head outside to do activities, such as practicing vehicle extrications, using hydraulic equipment known as the Jaws of Life.

Goshen doesn’t have as many members as it once had. People don’t have the time to become involved, Svitak said.

The fire company has 20 members; three people are completing firefighting school.

"It really hasn't impacted us," Svitak said. The fire company is holding its own, he said.

In 2012, the fire company handled 61 calls, according to Svitak. Some members also went to Ship Bottom in Long Beach Island as part of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and in 80 hours responded to 73 calls.

But the fire company isn't alone. The Cape May Court House Volunteer Fire Co. comes out if there is a report of a structure fire in Goshen’s coverage area and if it's confirmed, Rio Grande and Green Creek volunteer fire companies provide assistance, too.

"Everybody just works together like it's one team," Svitak said.

The Goshen fire company focuses on 17-square miles of the township, in Middle Township Fire District No. 4, and responds to requests for fire, rescue and emergency medical service assistance.

The fire company has also responded to hazardous material incidents for two or three years but has not seen many of those calls, Svitak said.

Joe Stackhouse, who has been a member of the Goshen fire company for seven years, said he enjoys giving back. He is the president of the fire company.

Being involved takes up the free time that would otherwise be boring, said the 22-year-old of Goshen. He said he responds to nearly 100 percent of the calls. So do others members, he said, which makes it possible to succeed despite being down in membership.

In January, Joe Heitzmann of South Dennis rejoined the fire company. He was a member several years ago.

The 27-year-old is also a paid firefighter with North Wildwood.

"It’s kind of like a way of life," he said.

Having fewer members in a fire company means taking longer to get the fire truck in service to calls and not having enough manpower is a challenge.

Goshen is fine, though, Heitzmann said.

He complimented many parts of the fire company, including his fellow members.

"It's like having a second family," Heitzmann said.

The members watched other images on the big screen and a video on Tuesday night.

One of the images included a home on fire, which probably started in the basement; another photo showed the back of a home engulfed in flames, likely the kitchen/dining room area.

Another photograph showed firefighters too close to the flames.

"That is called definitely putting your people in harm’s way," Svitak said.

The fire company meets 7 p.m. Tuesdays at the fire hall at 331 Route 47 North in Goshen.

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