Editorial: The extent of sacrifice and our fire fighters

A fireman takes a moment to rest and drink water. Several people brought cases of bottled water to the scene for the firefighters. Photo by Carrie Gloeckner.
From the Middleport fire. A fireman takes a moment to rest and drink water. Several people brought cases of bottled water to the scene for the firefighters. Photo by Carrie Gloeckner.

EditorialThis afternoon Meigs County was once again reminded of the importantance of our volunteer fire fighters. In the course of covering the story, I heard something that instantly set my blood to boil. I listened and began to understand those speaking were uneducated as to the extent of sacrifice a fire fighter goes through along with the fire fighter’s loved ones. I’ve spent a lot of time through the past 20 years on the scene with fire fighters. Nothing against paid departments, but we are blessed in this area with incredible volunteers. Instead of ranting about it, I decided to put my fingers to the keyboard.

When you love a fire fighter
Imagine hearing tones in the middle of the night, there is a structure fire. Your loved one jumps up out of bed and quickly pulls on clothes to head for the door. You don’t know when they will come back. You push down the terrible thought that maybe they won’t come back. You can’t go there. You think about all the ones in the department you know and how many times you have worked with them at chicken dinners and other fundraising events. The fundraising seems endless, but it means keeping the department going. You might contact others you know with loved ones on the fire department. You watch Facebook looking for information and you wait. You wait and pray for their safety. Through family events and everything else, you wait. Sometimes those tones go off in the middle of dinner or family get togethers, but you think if it was your family you would want someone to be there for them. It’s difficult to wait, but finally you hear the vehicle in the drive way. It’s okay, today.

When you are a fire fighter
You have to help. You have to go when those tones sound and respond to the call for help. You don’t know if it could be a neighbor, a friend, a loved one, a stranger, you just know you have to go and go quickly. You respond to car crashes, many you wish you could forget. You respond to fires no matter what the weather may be from extreme cold to extreme heat. You go. You spend time away from family to train in fire training mobile burn rooms, have meetings and always work on fundraising. It’s a volunteer department and that means fundraising through chicken BBQs or something else. It is what it is. You go, you respond and you try your best not to care visibly care too much. Sometimes it’s a car crash and maybe you coached the teen in the driver’s seat. You know they won’t make it. You know, but you work like hell to cut them out of the twisted metal. You do it and in the moment it’s one thing, but afterward is something else entirely. You see things you didn’t want to see, but you keep helping. Some days are the good days too when you stop the whole block from burning down and when everyone walks away from the car crash. You endure heat from fires that would take most people’s breath away. You do it. Then there are days like today when the temperatures and humidity are hot enough already. The fire must be fought and together with your gear on it is as if you entered a level of hell’s very flames. The heat is horrible. Maybe you end up needing the paramedics to assist you, maybe you have to watch your buddy be taken away by ambulance too. It’s that kind of day where the worst is possible. Maybe you respond to a meth lab bust, and pray you really are not needed. You give of yourself time and again for your community from keeping the streets safe at Trick or Treat to educating the Kindergartners about fire safety to saving lives. Did I mention your full time job as well?

This does not begin to touch what our fire fighters and their loved ones go through. It is not the total extent of sacrifice they are willing to give including laying down their very lives to save another. It is not a sum total of their efforts to make our communities a safer, better place. So the next time you have the opportunity to go to a fundraiser for a volunteer fire department, do it. The next time a fire fighter has spent more calories than you can imagine while battling a blaze and the heat, give them a sandwich. These are our friends and neighbors. They are the helping angels that dare tread through fire to save us. They dare to carry the burden few can for us.Salute them, thank them, support them because the Meigs Independent Press and I sure do.