Hon­or­ing ScHuylkill county FirE­FigHt­ErS

The Republican Herald - - POLICE/COURT - Matthew Swartz Ring­town Val­ley Fire & Res­cue

“I’ve al­ways been an adrenalin junkie. I wanted to be a me­te­o­rol­o­gist…a storm chaser but I couldn’t han­dle the math.” So Matthew Swartz grad­u­ated from Penn State with a busi­ness de­gree as his “back-up plan”. In­stead of busi­ness, he con­cen­trated on where he got his first taste of ex­cite­ment: fire­fight­ing. Start­ing at age 14, Swartz spent 20 years at the Good Will Hose Co. #1 in Frackville – his fa­ther’s com­pany – be­fore he moved to Ring­town and the Ring­town Val­ley Fire & Res­cue.

In ad­di­tion to his work with lo­cal fire com­pa­nies, Swartz is also a paid fire­fighter. Presently, he is a tech­ni­cian, also known as a ve­hi­cle driver, with En­gine Com­pany 20 – North­west in Wash­ing­ton DC. Twice a week, Swartz com­mutes to DC for a 24 hour shift be­fore re­turn­ing to Ring­town.

Swartz has the unique po­si­tion of be­ing both a paid and a vol­un­teer fire­fighter and said he is asked many times which is bet­ter but “I don’t be­lieve in that ques­tion. Each has it’s own perks.” Paid fire­fight­ers have more ex­pe­ri­ence, sim­ply be­cause of the sheer vol­ume of fire calls. As one of the busiest com­pa­nies in the na­tion, his DC Com­pany an­swers ap­prox­i­mately 3,000 calls a year. In com­par­i­son, the Ring­town Val­ley Fire & Res­cue – with 30 ac­tive mem­bers -- an­swers ap­prox­i­mately 100-150 calls each year. “I’m a fire­fighter. That’s what I know how to do. But in my [Ring­town] com­pany I have car­pen­ters, me­chan­ics, a Boy Scout who is a ge­nius with knots. When you get all these guys to­gether it’s pretty amaz­ing.”

Fire­fight­ing is “a sci­ence” ac­cord­ing to Swartz where peo­ple with dif­fer­ent knowl­edge work to­gether to fight a fire in the most ef­fi­cient way pos­si­ble. In DC, dif­fer­ent fire­fight­ers have dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ties, some work with pumpers, oth­ers lad­der trucks, oth­ers res­cue. “But up here and in most of Penn­syl­va­nia we do ev­ery­thing. We are multi-skilled in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of fire­fight­ing.”

“I tell peo­ple that here we’re com­pet­i­tive. We have high school foot­ball and fire­fight­ing. Some will do it un­til they reach their last breath.”

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