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For 76 years, the Elma Fire Company has been putting out fires and responding to accidents.

On Saturday, Betsy Goinski became the first woman chief of the volunteer departmnent.

“It’s a fantastic feeling knowing that I have a great group of guys working with me,” she said shortly before the swearing-in ceremony. “It’s fantastic to move up the ladder and accomplish your goals.”

Goinski, 32, cut her teeth early on firefighting, starting as a junior firefighter at age 16.

Over the years, she’s learned one recurring lesson.

“Any call can be dangerous,” she said. “Anything can turn drastically bad at any time. You always have to be aware of your surroundings, and you always need to stay one step ahead.”

Two calls over the years stick in her memory.

One was a car crash on Bowen Road a few months ago, when two people were taken by Mercy Flight to the hospital. And the other occurred about four years ago, when a firefighter from a neighboring company was pulled out of a burning home.

“The fire department is like a family,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in different companies. It’s all one family.”

A high-energy person, Goinski takes care of elderly family members, does some home health care and is a part-time cleaner for the Elma Senior Citizens Center. She is a 1999 graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster.

She started her fire career with the Jamison Road Fire Company in 1997 and joined the Elma company in February 2004. She has worked her way through the ranks, serving as secretary, vice president, lieutenant, third assistant chief and second assistant chief.

As the first woman to be chief in Elma, Goinski was asked if her promotion sends any message to girls contemplating a career in firefighting.

“If you put your mind to it, you can do it,” she said. “It takes dedication and hard work.”

email: citydesk@buffnews.com