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I can’t tell you what it’s like to walk into a burning house dressed in firefighter turnout gear, but Jay Hayes and Mark Steele of the Unity Volunteer Fire Department can.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to work hours and hours over a week preparing for a huge community barbecue, but Randy White and Dennis Cauthen of the Elgin Volunteer Fire Department can.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to ask fellow volunteers to commit to catching up on work we’ve let slide, but Jeff Walden of the Riverside Volunteer Fire Department can.
What I can tell you is that I admire the work these folks do.
As volunteer firefighters, these men use the skills they’ve gained from countless hours of training and years of experience to fight fires. They also answer basic medical calls, putting their first responder training to work. And they train. And train.
Folks like Hayes, Steele, White, Cauthen and Walden – all veterans with years of experience under their belts – do even more.
They are chiefs and captains at their departments, which means they are the ones other volunteers turn to for direction and leadership.
But it’s deeper than that.
When I talked to these guys, I sensed a paternalistic devotion to their departments – a belief in the mission of their departments, a belief in the firefighters with whom they serve and a belief in their departments’ place in their communities.
I hope you’ll never need these folks to answer a call, but I hope you’ll thank the volunteer firefighters in your community, and let them know you believe in what they do, too.