AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
This week, McKenzie County fire departments, along with thousands of other fire departments across the United States, are observing National Fire Prevention Week and are encouraging everyone to practice fire safety and prevention in everything that we do in our daily lives.
Here in McKenzie County, we know our local volunteer firemen like we know our next door neighbor. That’s because the volunteers who drop whatever they are doing whenever their fire pagers sound are our neighbors. They may be the farmer or rancher who lives down the road. Or they may be the businessman or the person who one minute is waiting on a customer and then drops what they are doing and rushes to the fire hall not knowing whether or not they are responding to a grass fire, a burning home or a major car accident. Nor do they know whether they will be back in an hour or if the emergency call will keep them away from their homes, families and jobs for several hours.
As a community, and a county, we owe these volunteer firemen, who so selflessly serve us, our most sincere gratitude.
Being a fireman, contrary to what many people think, is not a glamorous job. While the fireman may be depicted in movies and television shows as being glamorous, it is in reality one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs that a person can do. Being a fireman requires hundreds of hours of constant training, being physically fit and having the willingness to put themselves in situations where sometimes their lives are in danger as they try to save other people’s lives and property.
Yet no amount of training or experience can ever adequately prepare a fireman for some of the things that they will encounter when they arrive at either a fire or an accident. The emotional stress that our neighbors and friends encounter as volunteer firemen is beyond most of our comprehension.
But yet, thankfully, our volunteer fire departments are full of men who willingly volunteer to serve us without question.
For that, we all should be eternally grateful.
And what do our volunteer firemen ask of us in return for their dedicated service?
They ask that we be careful with fire and that we do everything that we individually can to ensure that our homes, businesses and farms do not have fire hazards. They ask that we teach our children not to play with matches or fire. They ask that we have fire escape plans in place and that we practice using those plans. And they ask us to make sure that we have adequate fire extinguishers in our homes and businesses.
And they ask us to pull our vehicles over whenever we hear sirens or flashing red lights as emergency vehicles travel to their call.
This week as our local firemen observe National Fire Prevention Week, be sure to tell your friends and neighbors, who serve you as a volunteer fireman, how truly grateful you are for the valuable service that they perform for you. And promise them that you will do your part in preventing the next fire that they may have to respond to.