It has its ups and downs, moments when we want to rip our hair out and moments when we all stand proud.
The best part comes from saving a person or animal from a burning building, the worst is not being able to save anything. When arriving on the scene of an accident or fire is when being a part of the team kicks in. Working together, side-by-side, with fellow firefighters for the greater good, makes all the difference in the world. It’s not for ourselves, always for others.
A lot of hard work goes into being a volunteer firefighter. It’s not just throwing on the gear and going. It consists of training, meetings, work days, fundraisers, time away from families and lots of stories to tell. The training is for everyone to learn and be able to fully operate any and all equipment that is in the department. It is a good time to know what everyone can and cannot do. It is also a time for firefighters to ask questions pertaining to vehicles, equipment, gear and more. As far as training goes, it also teaches to be part of a team, to think as one, to know what others are thinking. This is important when on a call, knowing what to do and how to do it. If not for the training, we would all be lost and confused.
The meetings are for everyone to get together and discuss issues of the department. Maybe there’s mechanical problems with a truck or personal issues with another firefighter. There’s new business to discuss and old problems to solve.
There’s voting on certain things, such as whether to purchase a new computer or what kind of fundraiser to have. A huge portion of the decisions are done through unanimous votes. The department officers make no major decision until brought to members for a vote.
Fundraisers are the departments’ way of making money to keep up and going. Because it is a volunteer department, it relies heavily on donations and the help of the community. The fundraising committee can be very creative in coming up with ways to make money. For example, car washes, yard sales, bake sales, fun runs, banquets and lots more. This brings in money to pay bills, pay for repairs, purchase new gear or vehicles if needed, and basically, to keep the department up and running.
Time away from families is just that. It takes time to train a firefighter, takes time to teach one all he or she needs to know to be safe and aware of surroundings when on a call. This cannot be done by sitting at home watching movies with the children, but, in the end, it’s worth it. There are family functions that are good for everyone of all ages, but it takes a lot of work to put that all together.
Some people say that there is no way they would ever be a volunteer firefighter. They say it isn’t worth it if they don’t get paid. They say it’s too dangerous to put their lives on the line for others to be saved.
Well, they’re half right. Yes, it’s dangerous, but then again, so is walking down the street.
We may not get paid a salary wage or even an hourly wage, but the rewards are endless. The endless satisfaction at the end of a long day, knowing that because of our team someone still has a house to live in, or someone’s life was saved. It’s not always a happy ending, but knowing that we all did our best, well, that makes it worthwhile. The community knows they can count on us to be there in their darkest hour, when they need us.
Don’t be afraid to join a volunteer fire department. Even if fighting fires is not one’s cup of tea, there is so much more to a department than that.
Not everyone goes out on calls, but we all do our part. So go visit a local department today and become a member of the team.
For better or worse, we’re all in it together.
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