AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
If anyone in McKenzie County deserves a great big community thank you, it is all of our volunteer firemen. And there is no better time than during National Fire Prevention Week, which is being observed across the country this week, to say “thank you” to these dedicated volunteers.
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 be 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.
After all, as their name implies, these volunteers are volunteers. They do what they do to serve our communities out of love of being a fireman and because a sense of community service. They sure don’t do it because of the pay because there is none for these selfless servants.
And contrary to what many people think, being a fireman is not a glamorous job. (Yes, they get to ride in big trucks with flashing lights and sirens which is the stuff that makes young boys dream of becoming firemen.) But being a fireman 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 all of the emotional stress our volunteer firemen experience in doing their jobs as they battle fires and respond to horrific automobile accidents.
Being a volunteer fireman in Watford City or with any of our other rural volunteer fire departments serving our county residents has changed a great deal in the past years. And the number of calls that these volunteers respond to rival what many other paid fire fighters are dealing with in many of our state’s larger cities.
But still these dedicated volunteers continue to serve us. And serve us well.
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 lastly, 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, make it a point to say “thank you” to your friends and neighbors who are serving as our volunteer firemen. And promise them that you will do your part in preventing the next fire that they may have to respond to.