Say hello to your local firefighters

By Steve Estes

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Big Pine Fire Department will be hosting an open house at the station on Key Deer Blvd. to celebrate 50 years of service to the community.

This is an event no one should miss.

Even if you have never needed the services of the firefighters or emergency medical personnel on a personal level, they still have a profound effect on your everyday life.

Dozens of times every year the local department is called out to lend a hand on extinguishing small brush fires. Because the firefighters, along with state Division of Forestry crews, are able to respond in a timely manner with the proper training and equipment, very seldom do we know much about the brush fires that occur here.

And that is as it should be.

At almost any time of day or night the paid firefighters and those who supplement by volunteering, can be seen tooling around the islands responding to emergency medical calls.

The prompt action and detailed training of the men and women who show up to these emergencies cannot be discounted.

Big Pine Fire has been providing public safety services for 50 years to the people of this community. For much of that time, those services were delivered strictly by volunteers who gave of their time, effort and dedication to ensure that the rest of us had what we needed in times of tragedy.

Big Pine Fire, or station 13, has the largest geographical coverage area of any department in the Florida Keys. It provides this coverage with four paid personnel supplied by Monroe County and a cadre of about 20 volunteers, eight or nine of which are consistently active.

The department also backs up the smaller Cudjoe station and is a back up for Marathon, again with a small core of personnel.

As a community we owe a great debt of thanks to the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to protect life and property for the rest of us.

The volunteers receive little in the way of dedicated funding from Monroe County. Volunteers receive training and some equipment, including emergency vehicles, from the county coffers, and are paid a small stipend for each fire to which they respond.

For the rest of the equipment needed by the 20 volunteers and the on-going training, the money comes through donations from the community, the folks like you and us who may some day have need of the services of fire/rescue and will be glad they’re available when that need arises.

The great thing about this dedicated group of volunteers is that they really expect nothing from us for their sacrifices.

So Saturday the local fire/rescue personnel will be hosting an open house to celebrate 50 years of service to the community.

They will be offering free hot dogs and drinks, tours of the station facilities, and a small ceremony at 11:30 to commemorate their milestone.

Music will highlight the event and distinguished guests will be on hand to offer up congratulations on many jobs very well done.

And that is why we all need to be there Saturday.

Not because there will be some pomp and circumstance, or because we can wrangle a free meal from the deal.

We need to be there so we can all say a heartfelt thank you to the men and women who provide for us what we don’t provide for ourselves, and do so selflessly.

And if by chance you can’t make it to the event Saturday, the next time you see a local firefighter at the grocery store, the restaurant or just out on the street, stop and shake their hand.

We owe them that much.

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