Something devastating happened today that hasn’t happened in our area in a number of years. There was a fatality this morning at a house fire.
It doesn’t matter where, it doesn’t matter what departments were involved and it certainly doesn’t matter if the firefighters were volunteer or not volunteer. All that matters is that there was a fatality.
For the family who lost a member and for the community as a whole, there was a horrific loss of life today and honestly some of the comments I have seen flying around social media today have me sickened. Sickened that family members may have seen them, sickened that firefighters may have seen them and appalled that any human being with even an ounce of humanity in their souls could have thought them let-alone put them to print.
There is a time and a place to air views on what firefighters do or don’t do (I suppose). There is a time and a place to squabble about the worth of volunteer vs. non volunteer firefighters (I suppose) and there is a time to rally around all firefighters to let them know how much they are appreciated.
My husband (and many others I know) have the knowledge and experience of both volunteer and non volunteer firefighting. Do you honestly think that when the tones go off for a call any of these firefighters are thinking about whether or not they are responding as a firefighter who is getting paid or not or that the level of the work they do during that call is going to be elevated or compromised based on whether they are on-the-clock or getting up from a family dinner? I can tell you most emphatically, the answer is no.
The majority of firefighters do the job that they are there to do. They protect. And as with any of us with a job there are times when they fall short of their goal. Their goal to protect. Unfortunately, even with the best equipment, the best training, the best gear and the best of circumstances, they do have times when they find themselves in a sorry plight and they end up grieving at the loss of a life. They go back to the station and spend much time evaluating, reevaluating and dissecting what they could have done different, what they could have done faster, what they could have done to better protect. Many times there are no answers. Many times these firefighters have to settle that they did everything they could to protect as best they could. Not much satisfaction for them or the family of the person whose life was lost.
So what makes them do it? What makes a firefighter do what they do? I’ve asked my husband this a few times and I don’t think I ever got an answer that would justify the reasoning behind someone running into a burning building. It’s a calling, I guess, like everything else. We all do something and we all have something we do well. Firefighters are no exception.
Are they heroes? None of the firefighters I associate with consider themselves heroes. Are they brave? Much braver than me, yes. Are they looking for glory and praise at the end of the day? If they are, they’re in the wrong field.
I read today that
volunteer firefighters do a difficult and often thankless job. I agree, they do a very difficult job. But I don’t think they do a thankless job. And I don’t think it’s thanks that most firefighters are really looking for. Of course, there are those who want the glory and accolades that come with the hero persona portrayed by few, but that certainly isn’t the general consensus. Who doesn’t like to be thanked for a job well done? From a corner store worker to a surgeon, from a janitor to a CEO, from a volunteer to a non volunteer firefighter; everyone wants, needs and appreciates thanks.
Firefighters are a special breed. True firefighters genuinely care about each other and it doesn’t matter how many stripes they have on their shoulders or what department is named on the trucks they drive. They have a brother/sisterhood like nothing I have ever experienced before. They reach out to each other in times of need and sorrow. They make sure they know there is always someone there.
Upon learning of the devastating events today my husband made sure he contacted as many of those as he knew who were directly involved. This has been something he’s done for as long as he’s served. He knows the value of knowing someone is there. Members of the department that he relieved on shift today and others who he personally knew belonging to volunteer departments. It didn’t matter. He reached out to firefighters. Because that’s what he does. That’s what he was taught to do and that’s what so many other firefighters have done before him and others will continue to do long after he hangs up his helmet for the last time. The call isn’t finished when the trucks are back in the barn and the equipment is all cleaned and repacked for the next call. They take care of each other in only a way that firefighters can. They do their best to protect their communities and they also look out for and protect the protectors. It’s a life that can’t possibly be explained unless it’s lived.
And as low as the lows are when there is a loss of life; the highs are just as high. When a firefighter looks into the eyes of a 7 year old girl touring the fire department with her Brownie troop 6 1/2 years after some of those same firefighters pulled her out of a burning building; that’s when they get their thanks. Not necessarily in the form of words but in the feeling they get with a job well done. Sometimes words aren’t needed. Sometimes there simply are no words.
Before you think you have all the answers, remember first, there is always a time and a place. Firefighters who are firefighters for the right reasons don’t care about the age-old debate of volunteer vs. non volunteer. A firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter. And at 3:00 some morning in the middle a raging snowstorm when your house is compromised by flames, you really shouldn’t care either, as long as trained, competent firefighters are responding when you need them with the services they can provide to the best of their ability.
In a time of tragedy it’s always easy to point fingers. It’s only too easy to say what should have happened or who should have done what. Let’s try instead to rally around these men and women and show them our support. If you ever at any time feel as though you can do better, I’m sure there are many departments that would only be too glad to recruit you to their teams.
To the family who lost a loved one today, may I offer you my most sincere condolences. To all firefighters who responded to the call early this morning, may I offer you my gratitude. Your training and your dedication allows you all to run toward danger as many run in the opposite direction. Your efforts are not unnoticed nor is your dedication and commitment. May you sleep easily tonight knowing you do make a difference and that your pledge to protect saves many more lives in our communities than are lost.
The man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Until next time…