In appreciation of firefighters

Putting together the Fire Prevention Week pages this week brought up some strong memories from my childhood.

As I have mentioned, my parents were both educators. But my dad was also a volunteer firefighter, which I thought was very cool. He would spend a lot of weekends hanging around the “station.”

I say “station,” because we lived in the county and he volunteered for a private company that provided fire and ambulance service in areas outside the city. So, it wasn’t exactly a station in the classic fire station sense.

Dad responded to the scene of fires fairly often, and we were one of the only families I knew that not only had a fire escape plan, but also practiced it from time to time (much to the annoyance of my brothers and I).

I can still smell the smoke on the gear dad kept in the laundry room. I used to love to put on his giant boots and helmet and pretend I was a fireman.

Dad even made the local paper once for saving a dog from a house fire. The dog wasn’t breathing, and dad resuscitated him. There is a picture of him in action that day somewhere. I would sure love to see that again.

Years later I went to work at the same newspaper that ran the photo, and got to know the man who shot that picture. He worked at the paper until they basically forced him to retire.

My dad eventually stopped volunteering as his regular career became more demanding, but I think he always had a soft spot for fire-fighting.

I did as well, and have covered a few fires as a reporter over the years. The smell of smoke and seeing people (men and women now – all men when I was a kid) wearing all of that hot gear really takes me back to my childhood.

I have a great respect for fire-fighters. These days, their training is so incredibly intense. Many are also emergency medical certified, and can pretty much do it all. I have a friend who works as an EMT in my hometown, and I know how much time he has put into training and getting great at his job. It has taken years.

I appreciate that commitment, and I hope we all do. I remember my dad and those guys wearing all that gear to attack a fire when it was 110 degrees outside. Here, fire-fighters do it in below freezing temps.

It takes a special person to do that.

Me? I might have pretended to be a fireman, but I didn’t really dream of being one when I grew up. Really, the last thing you would want if your house was on fire and your life was in danger is for me to show up. The hose would be too heavy, I couldn’t lug around all that gear and the smoke would certainly irritate my eyes.

I’ll stick to my current profession, thank you very much.

But I will always admire the men and women who do this difficult job. Take some time to thank a fire-fighter if you see them. Make sure you move out of the way when they are on their way to a scene. And when you complain about your taxes, remember that a portion of those tax dollars go to making sure you are safe.

To all local fire-fighters, thank you for putting yourselves in harm’s way for the community.