As I write this, the Fourth of July is just around the corner. Summer is in full swing. Time for picnics, family gatherings, fairs, festivals and fireworks. All the things summer brings to our communities.
The other day, I was discussing community. Not the cities, towns or counties in which we live, but the fire community.
The people I was speaking with were bemoaning the lack of community in our fire departments; the lack of “brotherhood” if you will. The crew comes in from a call and immediately separates. The captain goes to write the run report, one person goes to make a cell phone call, another heads to the day room to play video games, and yet another heads to the bedroom to nap.
Even meal time has become less of a fellowship and more of a “grab some food and sit in front of the television” affair. Families come to visit, but it is usually outside in the parking lot. No games of pitch or pinochle, no basketball games out on the apron.
Is this really happening? It certainly was not the norm in the fire departments I frequented. Those departments spent hours in the day room discussing families, playing cards, working out and occasionally playing practical jokes on the young state fire investigator. Down time during the day might include a visit to a daycare or grabbing lunch with the kids at the local school. Some might even work a little training into the day.
Something as simple as shopping for dinner at the grocery store became a community event including some good natured harassment of the grocery store staff and more than a few customers, most of whom they knew by name.
The local police would happen by, just as burgers were coming off the grill or the lid was being pulled off the chili pot. Families were welcome and even encouraged to stop in and hang out for a while.
When a call came in, they were out the door, headed to a neighbor’s home or to assist a friend’s loved one. Sometimes the firefighter living down the street was on the scene before the trucks, offering aid and comfort to the family.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not Norman Rockwell’s world. There was occasional infighting and anger. Some left the department and found employment elsewhere. But overall, the fire community was just that, a community.
Have we strayed that far away from community? Has the career become just a job? Are those who volunteer too busy with family and work obligations to socialize after a fire call? Are we losing our sense of community and brotherhood? I hope not.
Local fire service is more than just a service provided to the residents of an area. It is a group of people who have decided to make it a part of their life to assist others when the call comes in. Fire service needs to be out in the community promoting itself, teaching public safety and giving children (and adults) someone to look up to, believe in and respect. They stop to help a neighbor, visit the local nursing home or give directions to a lost visitor.
The fire service I know is that type of community. It is the community I want to exist in our state and the community our residents, your patrons, and the employees, volunteers and families of the fire service deserve.
Greg Carrell Acting State Fire Marshal