Volunteer Firefighting At Its Best...and Worst
Submitted by Michelle Rhodes - Palo Pinto VFD # 541
Like any job, firefighting has its advantages and disadvantages. It has its ups and downs, moments when we want to rip our hair out and moments when we all stand proud.
The best part comes from saving a person or animal from a burning building, the worst is not being able to save anything. When arriving on the scene of an accident or fire is when being a part of the team kicks in. Working together, side-by-side, with other fellow firefighters for the greater good makes all the difference in the world. It's not for ourselves, always for others.
Alot of hard work goes into being a volunteer firefighter. It's not just throwing on the gear and going. It consists of trainings, meetings, work days, fundraisers, time away from families, and lots of stories to tell. The trainings are for everyone to learn and be able to fully operate any and all equipment that is in the fire department. This is a good time to know what everyone can and can not do. This is also a time for the firefighters to ask any questions pertaining to vehicles, equipment, gear, etc. As far as training goes, it also teaches to be part of a team, to think as one, to know what others are thinking. This is important when being on a call, knowing what to do and how to do it. If not for the trainings we would all be lost and confused.
The meetings are for everyone to get together and discuss issues of the department. Maybe there's mechanical problems with a truck, or personal issues with another firefighter. There's new business to discuss and old problems to solve. There's voting on certain things, such as whether to purchase a new computer or what kind of fundraiser to have. A huge portion of these meetings are all done by unanimous voting. The department officers do not do any major decision making until brought in front of the others members for a vote.
Fundraisers are the departments way of making money to keep up and going. Because it is a volunteer department it relies heavily on donations and the help of the community. The fundraising committee can be very creative in coming up with ways to make money. For example; car washes, yard sales, bake sales, fun runs, banquets, and lots more. This brings in money for the department to pay bills, pay for repairs, purchase new gear if needed, purchase new vehicles if needed, and basically, to keep the department up and running.
Time away from families is just that. It takes time to train a firefighter, takes time to teach one all they need to know to be safe and aware of their surroundings when on a call. This can not be done by sitting at home watching movies with the children, but in the end, it's worth it. There are family functions that are good for everyone of all ages, but it takes alot of work to put that all together.
Some people say that there is no way they would ever be a volunteer firefighter. They say it isn't worth it if we don't get paid. They say it's too dangerous to put our lives on the line for others to be saved. Well, they're half right. Yes it dangerous, but then again, so is walking down the street. We may not get paid a salary wage or even an hourly wage, but the rewards are endless. The endless satisfaction at the ned of a long day, knowing that because of our team someone still has a house to live in, or someone's life was saved. It's not always a happy ending, but knowing that we all did our best, well that makes it worthwhile. The community knows they can count on us to be there in their darkest hour, when they need us.
Don't be afraid to join a volunteer fire department. Even if fighting fire's is not one's cup of tea, there is so much more to a department than that. Not everyone goes out on calls, but we all do our part. So go visit a local department today and become a member of the team.
For better or worse, we're in it together!