Fire Prevention Week focuses chiefly on public cooperation and advisory measures to prevent fires. However, it also directs attention to our firefighters, including the volunteers, who give part of their lives in time to public service in fighting fires.
We are so fortunate to have volunteer fire departments in our communities. Firefighting is a demanding activity. It consumes so much time on the part of volunteer firefighters — it is so demanding. Their service reminds us of an old saying: Many are called, few are chosen.
We have many chosen ones in our volunteer departments. It seems that volunteer firefighters are born to serve in this challenging and hazardous activity. The same is true of the paid firefighters. It’s a fulfilling career profession.
The training is rigorous as there is so much to learn to master firefighting techniques. There are so many types of fires that they have to deal with that you can’t just take a person off the street and put a hose in their hands. It takes many hours of training to master the techniques that have to be employed in fighting fires. It means volunteers must take time away from their families and even from their jobs to answer calls. Fires can occur at any time of the day or night. It’s not easy to fight a fire for much of the night and do a full day’s work the next day. The volunteers do that, many for years. There are weekend drills and fires know no holidays.
Often firefighters have to battle the weather and fires at the same time. Firefighters often have to respond to many other emergencies that are not fires. They are trained in rescue operations, on land and water. Sometimes the calls are for animals that are in trouble and need to be rescued. Highway accidents and other types of emergencies are responded to on a regular basis. Some calls are for air and rail and boating accidents. Whatever the emergency, firemen respond. It’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week type of volunteer activity.
Among the techniques firemen have trained for are emergency calls that require medical attention.
In addition to the many types of calls firemen respond to, they also do much to educate the public about fire hazards and how to avoid and handle emergencies. The public education part of their jobs is a never-ending task.
It takes special leadership skills to command a volunteer department. Washington and other area volunteer fire departments have had quality leadership over the years. Firemen express pride in their departments and we have observed the esprit de corps in the Washington department. We are sure it exists in the other volunteer departments also. Another observation about the Washington department is the excellent training that is required to have an efficient array of volunteers.
The businesses and industries that employ volunteer firefighters need to be constantly recognized for their cooperation in permitting volunteer firemen to leave their regular jobs to fight fires. These companies perform a public service by their cooperation.
We should be thankful every week for the protection provided by our firefighters. For many of us, in our minds, there are fewer higher calls in community life than to be a volunteer firefighter.