I am a volunteer firefighter. I stood up and voluntarily accepted the call to civic duty. I have endured countless hours of training – training which tests my physical as well as mental stamina. I have given of my time to attend required classes. I have taken special courses regarding EMT training – training that just might someday save your life. I have used my vacation time to make sure I was able to attend any additional training that the state says I have to have to remain a firefighter for this community. I also have a full time job and a family that I love deeply. I make myself available to the community day and night, during all of my free time, during my family time, during the night when I am supposed to be sleeping.
I am a citizen of your local community. I go to community events and social gatherings. My kids go to school with your kids. I have a job that I go to most days of the week, a job that enables me to care for my family. I am involved in the community to such an extent that I have been known to take time from my family to tend to your family. I have been known to put my life on the line for someone I didn’t know. I have gone to schools and taught fire safety. I have crept behind slow moving vehicles trying to get to a fire, only to be disrespected in some way when I turn on my blue light signaling that I have an emergency to tend to. I try my best to do what I said I would do for the community, for you.
I am grateful that the surrounding fire districts have enacted a measure called “Mutual Aid.” Mutual aid means that the other volunteer fire departments that are close will come and help if the fire is too large, or if there are not enough of our own people available to fight the fire. Again, these people are volunteers, they are not paid and they are putting your life and well-being ahead of their own. I am grateful for their help, just as they are grateful when I am able to help them. We all work hand in hand to ensure the public’s safety – we work together for the benefit of all communities – for the benefit of all families in that community.
There are so many things I wish I could help you understand regarding the way a fire department works – things that I believe may help you in understanding our response to a fire at any given time. For instance, did you know that some stations cannot roll a truck without having two people present to drive that truck – so even if the fire is two doors down the street, if this rule is in place, that truck is not rolling with only a single driver. Did you know that there are some firefighters who do not drive the truck; therefore, even if they are present at the firehouse, they still have to wait for someone who is able and willing to drive that truck? Did you know that it takes two people to work the hose on most fire trucks? Did you know that it does not matter how close a firehouse is to a fire, if the fire is not noticed in time, the building is still going to be destroyed. Did you know that some employers will allow me to leave if the call is to fight a fire, then again, there are some employers who will not allow me to leave. On that same point, of the employers who will allow me to leave, some will cover my lost wages and some will not. Did you know that there are only so many people available at a time to fight a fire, and if a volunteer firefighter is out of town, ill, or working for an employer who does not allow the person to leave, that there will be less firefighters available to go to a scene. It is in these instances that mutual aid is very beneficial to all involved.
I suppose what I really want to say to you is this: I may not get to the fire first, and I may not throw the first bucket of water. But, when I am able to fight a fire, I do my best. I work in all weather conditions to protect you and your family. I put my life on the line for you – sometimes at the expense of my own life or well-being.
I am a volunteer firefighter.