Last year, we moved to a small rural township. My husband, who occasionally misses the excitement of being an undercover cop on the New York Police Department, joined our local volunteer fire department.
I was not sure what to expect when he signed up to be a volunteer fireman, but part of me was a little uneasy. We have two babies at home and the thought of his rushing into a structure fire did not set well with me.
The first fire my husband put out was a couch that someone had thrown on the side of the road and, for some unknown reason, torched. For days we drove by that burned up couch and I praised my husband for saving us all. Most of the calls he gets are for vehicular accidents, medical calls, or natural cover fires that get out of control. Occasionally there will be something as ‘exciting’ as a structure fire, but not often. During the winter months, when the roads are slippery he gets called up to the highway and lends a hand to people stuck in a ditch or involved in an accident. During the summer things quiet down.
We are 10 miles from the nearest hospital, and without the local fire protection district we would be just as far from a fire station. Rural communities depend on these fire department volunteers to come to their aid when no one else can help. Volunteers in our county get $4 for each call they go on, to help pay for the gas it takes to get there.
I have come to not mind the constant chatter and beeps of his pager that goes off at all hours. I smile when I see the blue light and the siren in his truck (which is a continual source of entertainment for my daughter). Each week there are training sessions that cover things from extrication from a vehicle, to hose maintenance and hazardous materials response. Once a month there is a dinner where the families can come together and socialize.
I have accepted that sometimes I have to get the kids ready for bed or feed them dinner without his help. I also realize that most times he is not doing anything dangerous, which has eased my mind that something will happen to him. I am proud he has found something he enjoys that helps our community and in some small way feel as if I am doing my part as well.
I oftentimes find myself wishing there were more people in our community that were fire department volunteers. As it stands, there are only a few men and women that go on calls with any regularity. Few people realize how important these volunteers are until they are unfortunate enough to require assistance. It is a thankless, but rewarding, job.