Volunteer firefighters are just that, volunteers. Just last week, a volunteer firefighter, Tim Brinkley, and a former firefighter, David Ferrell, risked their lives to enter the burning home of Joann Snyder to rescue her disabled son, Richard Snyder.
These two individuals, and every volunteer firefighter in the county, do not get a salary to protect our lives.
They may have a range of reasons to do what they do, but most are there because they are willing to protect complete strangers, who they would call “neighbor.”
Rescue squads are usually staffed by volunteers. They take their free time to learn to use equipment and train with techniques that save lives.
Regularly, they are called to accident scenes to extract victims from mangled cars. They risk their own lives on the lakes to venture out in bad weather, looking for boaters who unwisely risked an excursion on the water.
I hope I never need their services for myself or my family, nor volunteer firefighters, but if I do, words could not thank them enough. I thank them now for all they do every day to make the county a safer place.
Then there are ordinary people who do heroic things.
When I worked in Cadiz, a friend and I were returning from lunch. The sky was slate gray, but on the other end of town, I thought I saw smoke. My friend was a fellow reporter, and I said we should investigate.
We came to the scene of a burned car. The occupants had been removed by rescue personnel. We learned that a 3-year-old boy died in the wreck. A 4-year-old boy, however still had a chance at life thanks to a selfless act of heroism by an ordinary man.
The man was no firefighter or rescue squad member, just a guy. In fact, he had a criminal record.
Yet when he passed the burning car, he left the safety of his own vehicle, climbed into the car, and cut the boy free with a knife.
Tragically, the boy later died, but I still remember his rescuer as a hero, not for the times later I had to write about more brushes with the law.
As I was coming to work last fall on the Purchase Parkway, I came on the scene of a wreck that must have happened moments before.
There were no police or firefighting teams on the scene. One man was running toward a burning semi, not knowing what its cargo might be or if it could explode.
He checked on the driver, and the condition of a state worker who was nearly hit by the truck.
It’s people that run toward fires that I salute. They put their fellow man’s safety ahead of their own.
I later learned this man was yet another volunteer firefighter. After ensuring everyone was safe, he again put himself in harm’s way by directing heavy traffic on the parkway until deputies and other firefighters could take charge of the scene.
There are other heroes in the community. These people may not have saved lives directly or indirectly, but still put others above themselves to make a difference.
Some people who have little themselves give a small donation to reputable charities to help others with even less.
Others volunteer their time with a non-profit group to make a difference for someone else. The Red Cross says one pint of blood donated may save up to three lives.
For everyone who thinks of others before himself, every volunteer or anyone who has worn any uniform, I would like to say “Thank you,” for your efforts.
Many times you probably don’t hear those words, but I can’t imagine anyone who would not echo this sentiment. n