The American Firefighter: A Security Net

Recently, your Columnists had the opportunity to participate in an annual Fire Department Banquet. Indeed, what a fine occasion that was! Clearly, it brought home to us, the sincere debt of gratitude we hold for these men and women who display such genuine dedication to duty, determination to competence and an untiring commitment to public service.

Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, Presidential Candidate in 1952 and again in 1956, said it so well when he stated "Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but it is the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." And that, right there, is the center piece, as we see it, of the American Firefighter. Devotion, dedication and determination... the combination of these three... that is the spirit of the firefighter's character.

Volunteer freighters, indeed, all firemen, are a valued gem of American history and heritage. Established fire fighting had a humble and simple beginning back in 1736. Benjamin Franklin was one of the first individuals to establish the first volunteer fire department in America. The initial energetic heartbeat of that early beginning established the momentum which has not ceased or wavered in its onward thrust of service and dedication.

Those who serve their country and communities by serving their fellow citizens are truly oriented "giants." Our firemen, policemen, emergency medical and other emergency personnel are all first responders. Most of us do not call on them often but when we do, we want them on the spot... "NOW!"

Former President George H. W. Bush once referred to the concept "a thousand points of light" as a way to describe the genuine quality of service rendered by thoughtful citizens. Many of our first responders truly exemplify the high standard of measurement of society's "thousand points of light." And our American firefighters are truly such points of light and a class act, characterized with a giving heart of human service.

So, then we ask...What is it about the firemen that stands out? Is it that they have a HEART that wants to save lives of those in peril? Yes, that is true. But then, physicians and other health care providers want and do that too, and their dedication is also unsurpassed. So, there must be something else for which we are looking. So, we point to the fact that the firefighter's heart is filled with raw courage at the very moment when such courage is most needed. Yes, a thousand times YES, courage is the word! But then, the heart of our bravest uniformed personnel, police officers and military personnel are flowing with courage and they too, are all part of our bravest and best.

So, what is it? What is so special about the character and heart of the firefighter?

It is not easy to crystallize a metaphor that approximates true "firefighter-ness."

As we see it, the fireman responds to all types of unpredictable emergencies. He or she is Joe Citizen's 24-hour-a day-, seven-days-a week, "emergency store." Their fire sirens will sound in the daytime brightness and in the nighttime darkness. It could be a raging fire, a medical emergency, accident, wind, flood, natural disaster, or a call to a Zoar Valley rescue. It is the firemen who so often serve as the ever present community's security blanket. They perform their duty in the most uncontrolled environment known to man, where lives, including their own, are in the balance. And often hurry-up time is of the essence. What often sets the firefighter apart from others is that one cannot talk down, negotiate, or smother with kindness a raging fire, roaring waters, or a damaging wind storm. They are dealing with an enemy that cannot reason and has no conscience. And the public expects the firefighters to control the uncontrollable. The general public counts on the expert service of the firemen at the most perplexing and unnerving moment of one's life. It is the firefighter who serves as the community's security safety net at the very moment when a secure trust is so eagerly sought. And therein is the essence of the American Firefighter... they are our "security blanket" ... ah yes, THAT is the term. And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.