To All Special Areas Firefighters,
Fire Prevention Week has historically been used to help spotlight fire prevention topics with the public, as well as recognize the efforts of the dedicated individuals who serve our communities as volunteer firefighters. For Fire Prevention Week this year, I wanted to focus on highlighting what that service looks like, and to share a bit about some of the challenges we have faced together during the past eighteen months.
In years past, we would recognize the efforts of our dedicated firefighters by sharing pictures of the 14 fire departments which serve the Special Areas. One of the most difficult parts of the pandemic has been having to modify how we come together, from training and practices to responding to calls. Things like getting group pictures was not as simple as it was only a few years ago!
Our rural fire departments are manned by volunteers, people who step up to answer the call for their communities. During my twenty plus years in the Fire Service, I have come to realize Fire Services are so much more than responding to fires, medical calls, and motor vehicle incidents.
It’s difficult to communicate what it means to be a volunteer firefighter.
It goes well beyond answering the call – it means dedicating yourself to serving others, often to helping people you have never met before and may not meet again. It’s what drives the men and women who answer that call when it isn’t convenient or easy. It’s what compels firefighters to respond, even when it is 2 in the morning, or an important family birthday, or an awards ceremony for your child, or a mini crisis at home. “I guess this is what I signed up for” is what runs through your mind – and the minds of your friends and family – even as you feel like you are abandoning them to focus on helping a stranger instead. It’s knowing you will still be dealing with that crisis at home when you get back hours later, exhausted and sometimes emotionally spent.
Only a responder can fully understand what this feels like, what it means to live day-in, day-out. It takes a very special person – one with a commitment and drive not easily found. At the end of the day for me, what really stands out is that Fire Service is about so much more than just fire. Being a volunteer firefighter is about Relationships. Relationships forged through responding and training together. It’s about serving others. It’s about trust, respect, propping each other up and having that attitude of servanthood to help those in their time of need. As leaders in our community, we have a role to influence others to bring out the best in them for the greater good of our communities.
As I enter the twilight of my career, I am truly humbled by the relationships I have had with our local men and women and their families of the fire service. It’s a way of life that goes deeper than volunteering. Choosing to be a person who answers the call impacts our families, friends, employers, and surrounding communities. The Fire Service was never a goal of mine, but fate changed that and opened my world to all this way of life. Because of that I have many men and woman in the fire service whom I proud to call friend.
For some of our volunteers, Fire Services wasn’t their goal either. Yet they saw a need to step up and help. Thank You. Without you there would be no Fire Service! Emergencies know no boundaries, and Fire Services means working together with neighboring municipalities. Thank You for your support, your partnerships, and your friendships. To the families and friends of our firefighters, Thank You. Without your support, they would not be able to help others.
In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the men and women who have stepped up in our communities to be in the fire service. You may never know the full impact your professionalism, dedication, and courage have on those you help. But your service and sensitivity – on the worst day of many people’s lives – has lasting positive impacts. Thank you for all you do, on each and every call.
I’m so fortunate to be part of our Fire Service family.
Take Care, Keep Safe, and Yours in Fire Prevention,
Special Areas Fire Chief
P.S. Remember to “Check your smoke detector, CO detector and have a 72-hour emergency kit.”