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Have you thanked a fireman today

October 15, 2017
Chuck Hunt - Register Editor ( , Faribault County Register

Just in case you missed the memo, this past week has been Fire Prevention Week.

Perhaps you noticed the full page ads in last week's Faribault County Register saluting all 11 (and yes, that number is correct - eleven!) fire departments here in Faribault County.

That is a lot of fire departments, and it also means there are a whole lot of people in our county who are willing to spend the many, many hours it takes to be a volunteer firefighter.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a place far, far away, I was one of those volunteer firemen. So I do know whereof I speak (or write).

I was 22, newly married and living in the wilds of North Dakota.

I volunteered to be a fireman for a variety of reasons. I had several friends on the department and they talked me into it. I was young and thought it would be exciting. I?thought it would be a great way to serve my fellow citizens in the community.

And, I had an ulterior motive. I have never told anyone this before.

When I joined the fire department, I became a part of the fire call paging system. You see, back in those olden days, there were no pagers on your belts or scanners to listen to. The firemen got the fire call on their home and work telephones.

No cell phones either, in those days, you see. Just the regular rotary dial phone sitting on the desk or hanging on the wall. When there was a fire, all the firemen's phones rang with a special ring.

So, being on the fire department and getting that special phone call was a great way for the local newspaper editor to find out where all the fires and accidents were at.

Yes, I carried a camera in my car at all times and snuck it along with on all the fire calls I went on.

My fellow firemen didn't care. I was first a firemen, and secondly a newspaper photographer, and they knew it.

Compared to the Blue Earth Fire Department, we were mighty ragged. We had old equipment, old uniforms, not a lot of training and we covered a large area. Our department was not a city fire department, it was a fire district, much like UHD is a hospital district, and we covered half a county or more of area.

By the time we got to some fires, 30 miles or more away, the barn (or whatever was on fire) was a total loss.

I quit being a fireman after I?started having kids, and the truth be told, I was a pretty busy guy trying to run a newspaper or two and could not get to all the meetings and training sessions.

But the honest truth is that one night being a firefighter ceased to be exciting for me, and I quit shortly after.

It was a terribly cold North Dakota night in February, I think. The actual temperature was 26 degrees below zero with wind chills (and it is always windy in North Dakota) of 60 to 70 degrees below zero.

And, while it wasn't snowing, the wind was blowing what snow was on the ground so much it was hard to see.

The fire call was a house fire. And it was totally engulfed in flames when we got there.

The word was, there were still family members trapped in the house. Despite some valiant effort, two people died in that fire, and one was a child.

I can remember trying to move my arms in my fireman's coat and was unable to do so. It wasn't because my arms were so cold I couldn't feel them (which was true), but it was because my coat had been covered in water from the hoses and the coat was frozen solid.

We took turns sitting in the cab of the fire trucks just to thaw out a little and then return to the fire fighting.

I learned a valuable lesson in my brief four-year stint as a fireman. It gave me a whole lot of respect for all the people who are willing to volunteer to be a small town fireman.

These men and woman put in an incredible amount of personal time, going to meetings, attending training classes, taking care of all the equipment and trucks and the fire hall itself.

Oh yeah, and also going to fires, sometimes in the middle of the night or when it is rainy or snowy or miserably hot or dangerously cold.

So, while we spend fire prevention week remembering to do things such as plan a fire escape, check the batteries in our smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or install some if we don't have any in our home there is one other thing we should all do.

Thank all of our local volunteer fire fighters, men and women, for everything they do for our Faribault County communities. These unsung heroes deserve a lot of credit, during fire prevention week and the rest of the year, as well.



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