Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank a firefighter this weekend

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Stormy weather …

Those words are not only the the title of a song, made famous by Lena Horne and Billie Holiday, they are synonymous with weather across the U.S. during the early months of 2011.

Parts of the country have been devastated and many lives have been lost. Our area has been spared for the most part and we have been lucky that we have not seen weather in the same league as those in Tennessee and Missouri.

While our area has been spared the death and destruction, we have had more than our share of rain, wind, thunder and lightning.

And, in spite of the fact that our weather is never as bad as some of our professional weather prognosticators make it out to be, there has been damage and a few of our friends and neighbors have suffered losses.

Most of us think of our local firefighters as, well, men and women who fight fires. We are blessed in Miami County to have a mix of professional, full-time and volunteer, firefighters who are among the best in the business.

What many may not realize is that our firefighters, and rescue squad members, have been losing lots of sleep in recent months, not due to house or barn fires, but rather, to reports of utility poles burning and downed trees due to wind and lightning.

They, along with area law enforcement officers, brave the driving rain and wind to identify danger and either repair or isolate it until utility crews can arrive.

I don’t mean to paint their efforts, under these circumstances, as “heroic”, but most of us have, at one time or another, been caught, outdoors, in a thunderstorm. I think that we would all agree that it is not a lot of fun. And, there is an element of danger involved. Lightning and falling trees are dangerous.

Most of us, given the choice between sitting at home where it is warm and dry, or standing outdoors in a deluge of rain making sure that someone does not drive into high water or a downed tree, would probably choose to stay home.

A couple of months ago, when a series of storms came through the Covington area, a downed electrical wire left a large portion of the community in the dark. Out of the darkness came the Covington Fire Department. As calls came in to the Miami County 9-1-1 Center, members of the department patiently and methodically investigated every report of downed wires, high water and arching power lines. Once they caught up with the calls and tentatively identified the source of the problem, a number of the volunteer firefighters stuck around until Dayton Power & Light arrived on the scene to begin repairs.

Similar scenarios play out in other communities with every storm.

It also bears mentioning that most of these firefighters are married and have families. There is a natural feeling when potentially dangerous weather is targeting your community, your home, to want to be there to protect those you love. When things are looking the worst, these firefighters have to leave their family and go out to help and protect others.

Family members of our volunteer firefighters deserve credit for their strength during these times. One might tend to think that circumstances such as these would see wives, or sometimes husbands, and children feeling scared and abandoned during crucial times. It have been my observation that it is a sign of strong families who know that they can take care of themselves when the chips are down.

Maybe, this is one of the reasons why so many firefighters, both paid and volunteer, are second and third generation firefighters.

Most firefighters love “sinking their teeth” into a big fire. It is a rush to be involved in putting out a large blaze. For every hour a firefighter spends pouring water on a raging fire, he, or she, probably spends 20 or 30 hours standing on some country road next to a fallen tree or power pole, waiting on someone to arrive to clean things up. Few of those hours are during pleasant weather conditions.

There is an old saying, “it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.” Thank God for our firefighters who respond to disasters, large and small, and almost always, with a smile on their face, even in a rainstorm.

Memorial Day weekend is to honor our fallen military heroes. Many of us will be attending parades on Monday. Taking part in those parades will be members of our local fire departments. As they pass by, how about giving them a special wave and thank you for a job well done?

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