Deputy Mayor Matthias Joins ‘Dedicated’ Woolwich Firefighters in Live Burn Training

WOODSTOWN — The Woolwich Fire Company, joined by Woolwich Township Deputy Mayor Natalie Matthias, got some hands-on training during a live burn drill at the Salem County Fire Academy in Woodstown on Sept. 19.

Matthias was invited to come along after she had previously expressed interest in observing a training session with the company; but, she didn’t remain on the sidelines. She geared up with the crew, going inside the flames and assisting firefighters with extinguishing controlled blazes.

“It’s something that I’ve always been interested in, to see what all our firefighters experience,” she said. “I know this is a training simulation, but it really gives me a greater appreciation of what they have to go through to keep all our residents safe.”

Woolwich firefighters ran through a series of scenarios over the course of the morning. Chief David Valichka said the drills were meant to simulate fires in both second and third story apartments as well as basements.

The company usually has four drills per year. Volunteer firefighters need to participate in at least two of those live burns for state certification, but this was the first in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They will have another burn this year in either October or November, according to Valichka.

The chief said that live burn drills allow company members to receive essential firefighting training in a controlled environment, preparing them for more unpredictable real-life emergencies. A live burn “fine tunes you for that condition when it happens,” he noted.

The deputy mayor came away from the drill having learned much more about what it takes to step into action as a firefighter, and that if invited, she would “definitely come back” to join another training session.

“To have such dedicated members is absolutely fantastic. The work that they’re doing as volunteers is invaluable,” Matthias said. “I’m in awe of what they go through and what they have to do to keep all of us safe.”

Woolwich Fire Company is seeking firefighters, junior firefighters, and contributing members to join the team. Volunteers will receive free comprehensive training and equipment. The recruitment campaign is funded by a FEMA grant and implemented at no cost to taxpayers.

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