Mike Wolfschmidt, who aspired to become head of the Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. & EMS since joining as a junior member 17 years ago, has been sworn in as chief of the department for the new year. He is taking over for Brian Stasik, who led as chief for the past 10 years.
|Photo by Ryan Morrill|
Mike Wolfschmidt wanted to become chief of the
local fire department since he joined 17 years ago.
“I am extremely grateful and very honored to be given this opportunity,” Wolfschmidt said. “I was inspired to do it by the leaders who came before me. This new position will be a great learning experience. I am not perfect, but I will give it my all and do what is best for our organization and the community we protect.”
Wolfschmidt, who grew up in Surf City, attending Long Beach Island Grade School as well as the Southern Regional School District, is a fourth-generation firefighter. His dad, Scott, is a life member of the Surf City Fire Co.
“I was initially inspired by my father to join the fire company,” Wolfschmidt said. “I spent a lot of time around the firehouse with him on fundraisers and drills, and loved every minute of it.
“The Wolfschmidt family has been fighting fires in southern New Jersey for over a century, which is amazing,” he added, rattling off a list of other relatives, from his brother Andrew, who recently became a Surf City firefighter, to descendants of his great-great grandfather who were all life members of the Riverton Fire Co.
Having moved up the fire company ladder through “hard work, dedication, ability and perseverance,” Wolfschmidt said he loves volunteering in the community where he grew up.
“A few years ago, I responded to a car accident in which an elderly couple was entrapped in the vehicle. As the other firefighters started working to extricate them, I climbed in the car to check on them, introduced myself and e
xplained everything that was going on around them,” he recounted. “The gentleman then asked me, ‘Hey, aren’t you Scott the plumber’s son? Were you the Eagle Scout that painted all the fire hydrants in Surf City a few years back?’ I was amazed he remembered that, especially given the situation. Surf City really is a great community with awesome people.”
|Photo by Ryan Morrill|
The LBI native trades in his assistant chief hat.
Wolfschmidt also serves in Burlington County, where he was recently sworn in as a full-time career firefighter/emergency medical technician for Westampton Township.
“Prior to last week I worked for Westampton Township on a part-time basis since 2012. I absolutely love my job,” he said.
Wolfschmidt spent the last few years as a full-time deputy fire marshal for the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, and also worked for a few years as an EMT for the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad in Atlantic County. He continues to work part-time with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and also volunteers as an instructor at the Ocean County Fire Academy.
“I am very fortunate to have gained a lot of experience and training from those great organizations, which I have been able to bring back to Surf City,” he said. “I love making an aggressive fire attack, and I love helping other people. It’s hard to explain, but it gives me great satisfaction helping others and solving problems. It’s something that truly is a calling, and it requires dedication and courage.
“We don’t just do fires anymore. Firefighters today are involved in a wide variety of situations when we are called upon,” he added. “We provide emergency medical services, rescue extrication, water rescue when the lifeguards are off duty, respond to hazardous materials spills and much more. It all comes down to one thing: we love helping other people, no matter how big or small their problem is. I also love the tradition and brotherhood in the fire service. Being a firefighter is my passion in life.”
In 2003, Wolfschmidt received a valor award from the 200 Club of Ocean County for attempting to save a victim’s life in a Surf City house fire. In 2014 he was named the New Jersey First Responder of the Year by the New Jersey Grand Lodge of Freemasons.
He has also been awarded two CPR saves by the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad. Both people made full recoveries after being in cardiac arrest, Wolfschmidt noted.
Encouraging other local residents to join the Surf City Fire Co. as firefighters and EMTs, he is looking forward to continuing to move the department in a progressive direction through teamwork.
“I am extremely fortunate to have dedicated and skilled members and officers to work along side with,” Wolfschmidt stated. “I take what we do very seriously, and it is my goal that we are the best trained, skilled and prepared fire company and emergency medical service possible.
“I made some mistakes and learned some hard lessons over the years, but it has made me a stronger person having learned from them. Most importantly, I couldn’t have done it without the guidance from my dad, the chiefs, fire academy instructors, Scout leaders and mentors who taught me along the way. I wouldn’t be in this position today without them.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger
This article was published in The SandPaper.