Support your local firefighters

By Steve Estes

As long as is the tradition of volunteer fire departments in this country, almost as long is the tradition of the phenomenon known as a fundraiser.

Volunteer firefighters, who every day put their own lives on the line to protect our lives and property, have historically received little or no governmental support for their heroic efforts. We live in a county, fortunately, where the governments realize that volunteer firefighters are a necessity to fill out the ranks of the fire rescue services and do toss a few bucks their way come each budget cycle.

But those few bucks don’t go near far enough in paying for training and equipment costs needed by our heroic volunteers to provide the levels of service we have come to expect.

Thus was born the first need, a need that continues today, for fundraisers.

In the oldest, purest form of a fundraiser, volunteer firefighters stand at busy intersections holding one of their boots out to passing vehicles, hoping that the community cares enough about their training and equipment needs to toss some loose change, or the occasional greenback, into the boot.

Most of the time, the community responds. And sometimes, some of those community members complain about the strain on traffic, or the need to pay attention through an intersection so as not to run over a volunteer firefighter.

That’s sad.

But what’s really sad is that our heroic volunteers are pushed into these extraordinary methods to raise enough cash to pay for the things they need to respond to our needs in an emergency.

Volunteer firefighters don’t get rich off being volunteers. We thought people would have figured that one out by now.

The seconds it takes for us to respond to a firefighters plea for some financial help is but a small price to pay.

And the complaints show how shallow our society has become and how uncaring about the overall community in which we live.

That’s sad.

By now, homeowners in the Big Pine Fire service area will have received a letter from the volunteers asking for donations to the cause to help pay for training, equipment and expenses.

The paid fire departments receive tax dollars for these purposes. The volunteers do not. Big Pine Fire, which covers the most territory of any station with the smallest number of paid personnel, is a mix of both paid and volunteer. But there is no difference in their levels of compassion and professionalism.

When you receive that letter, know that it is part of the volunteer group’s largest fundraiser of the year, money without which training and equipment needs will suffer, and in the end, your needs in an emergency could suffer.

Open the envelope and give what you can. The life you affect could be your own, or the life of someone you hold dear.

Our heroic volunteers ask very little from us in return for the feelings of safety they give in return and the knowledge we have that they will respond regardless of their own personal hardships.

And, the next time you see a hard-working volunteer firefighter standing in the blazing sun risking life and limb to protect you and yours, remember to toss some cash into that envelope you received.

And if that’s not possible, just stop a local volunteer somewhere on the street, shake their hand and say a sincere “Thank you.”

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