October 12, 2011


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Ask any young boy what he wants to be when he grows up, and almost certainly, one of his top answers will be, “I want to be a fireman.”
Of course, one of the reasons that young boys are quick to say they want to be a fireman is because firemen get to ride in big, red trucks with loud sirens and lots of flashing lights. After all, to young boys with big imaginations, nothing could be cooler than to fight fires and to be able to wear that really neat fireman’s suit and helmet. And in the process, maybe be able to save someone from a burning building.
To most youngsters, being around a fireman is as close as they are going to get to a real life super hero. And they are right. Firemen deserve to be looked up to as super heros. Because that is truly what they are.
We all remember how our super heros of the comic book days or on television would duck into a phone booth or dash behind a building and suddenly return disguised and possessing superhuman powers enabling them to subdue criminals and other evil-doers.
The truth be told, there really isn’t much difference between the fictional super heros of our youth and today’s volunteer firemen, except for one big difference. While the real identity of the comic book super hero was not known to anyone but the reader, when it comes to knowing who our volunteer firemen are, it’s quite simple.
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 are the farmer or rancher who lives down the road. They are the businessman, the banker, or the clerk in a store. They are the people who are busy at work one minute and then are willing to drop what they are doing and rush off 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.
For that commitment and dedication to serving all of us so unselfishly and without question, we owe our volunteer firemen our most sincere gratitude.
Contrary to what many people think, being a fireman is not a glamorous job. 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. And that is to say nothing of the emotional stress our volunteer firemen experience in doing their jobs.
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 to the side of the road whenever we hear sirens or flashing red lights as emergency vehicles respond 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.