BEACH HAVEN — On Long Beach Island, President’s Day weekend brings summer homeowners back to prepare their homes and to enjoy turkey.

Each year, the Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Company welcomes crowds to the cold island with its annual Turkey Dinner.

This year marks the 97th annual dinner, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Almost 100 years ago, the dinner’s menu was chicken.

The fire department is the oldest in Ocean County, founded in 1883, after fire razed the Perry House in 1881.

Fire calls haven’t stopped since then. The company’s service data for the past 10 years show an average of 270 calls per year, ranging from structure fires to water and ice rescues to fire alarms, and vehicle extrication.

The latest structure fire happened at 11:45 p.m. Saturday at Liberty and South Bay avenues, Fire Chief Matt Letts said. He arrived to find heavy fire on the second floor of the home.

Letts said he activated a second alarm. Engine 1501 arrived and laid a line from the hydrant. Two crews attacked the fire inside while more crews cut ventilation holes in the roof.

A truck from the Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Department with a crew to help fight the fire while Surf City Volunteer Fire Department covered the Beach Haven Station. The fire was under control by 12:15 a.m., Letts said. A total of 26 members responded.

But the company struggles to raise the money to pay for equipment and vehicles, Letts said.

Letts said it takes the entire department and scores of volunteers to pull the dinner off .

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a tradition in Beach Haven and something that everyone pitches in to help with,” he said.

The department can count on the help from its life members and Beach Haven residents, including teens who come to the dinner to help with serving dinners and cleanup, Letts said.

The department hopes to sell more than 2,500 turkey dinners, including takeouts.

“This year we can expect somewhere around 2,000 people,” Letts said.

Contact Donna Weaver:

609-226-9198

@DonnaKWeaver on Twitter