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Firefighter Spotlight - Ed Stelmakh and Efren Bernacet

Posted November 16, 2023

Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Company #2 (MTVFC# 2) will be sending two recruits to have the most fun they can while learning to keep their community safe.

Ed Stelmakh and Efren Bernacet will spend the next four months (240 hours) at the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy (SCESTA) fire school, where they will learn the history, science, and strategies used to fight fires. We caught up with Stelmakh and Bernacet at the firehouse.

From left: Ed Stelmakh and Efren Bernacet.

Stelmakh, is the CFO for OptimizeRx, a health tech company. He has lived in Montgomery for 13 years. Bernacet works as a platform designer for Holman, one of the largest automotive service companies in North America offering fleet management and commercial and retail vehicle sales. He has lived in Montgomery for two years.

Ed Stelmakh

Stelmakh knew a few firefighters who told him it was a blast and that he should give it a try. What sold him was the 100-percent volunteer aspect. “I felt that everyone was there because they wanted to be there for their own individual reasons,” he said. “That sense of cohesion and community is the secret sauce that make 46 a great place to volunteer.”

Also, fire fighting is completely different than his day job as finance executive in the pharmaceutical industry. “It makes it that much more interesting if you have the curiosity and willingness to travel a path less traveled.”

He is learning critical skills such as: forcible entry, handline deployment, and dressing hydrants. A handline is a firefighting hose that is operated and maneuvered by firefighters. Dressing the hydrant involves connecting large-diameter hoses (LDH) to multiple ports on the fire hydrant.

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Stelmakh is concluding that fire school is a “huge commitment and not to be taken lightly, especially, if you have a packed personal/professional schedule. “One needs to have a realistic perspective and a workable plan to get through the program. Not only do you have to put in the time in the classroom, but there is a significant amount of homework and study time outside of the classroom.”

Efren Bernacet

Bernacet would regularly drive by the firehouse on Route 518 in Blawenburg and see a sign calling for volunteers. “I was looking for something new to do and thought it would be challenging and a chance to learn new things and engage with other people in the area that I would otherwise probably not meet.”

He spoke with a coworker who volunteers in southern New Jersey and decided it would be a good idea to give it a shot. Bernacet said he wants to become more active in responding to calls. “I’d like to get more training in hazmat, and how to manage/handle questionable materials.”

He also says he enjoys meeting other volunteers at fire school, who are from different locations, ages, and backgrounds. Bernacet says his family is proud of him for “branching out to trying new things.” One of Bernacet’s strengths, he said, is that he is “very calm under pressure and can interact well with others. I think these qualities will go a long way.”

Interested in learning more about volunteering with Fire Company 2?

Come out any Wednesday night at 7 pm or, email membership@

MTVFC#2 is located at Station 46, 529 Rt. 518, Blawenburg.


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