Selfless service

Some friends were out to dinner at a local restaurant last Wednesday when they got the call. Cold water rescue, their pagers said, and the volunteer firefighters left their just-served meals and headed to the station. Other volunteer paramedics and firefighters around the island left warm houses, food and family to head out into the snowy night.

The rescue operation turned out not to be in the water. It was a tough, technical process to get three very cold people off a very steep mountainside in difficult conditions. As always, the rescuers’ many long hours of training paid off as the different departments worked together seamlessly and everyone got home safe.

And then, since it was snowing, some of the crew headed right back out and operated snow plows for the rest of the night.

This selflessness and toughness is amazing, but some first responders would rather not be called “hero.” Instead, the best ways to thank them are to support the fire department and ambulance service pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, road races and other fundraisers; to sign up kids for junior firefighter programs; and to support equipment requests at town meetings.

Also, consider joining their ranks.

Volunteer firefighter numbers are down across the state, for reasons ranging from an aging population to work schedules to training requirements. Perhaps those who move here from elsewhere in the country and world are unfamiliar with the tradition of local volunteer fire protection. Others may never have considered they have applicable skills and abilities because they don’t know any firefighters personally.

Training and calls take time in already-frantic family schedules. But in addition to the stated mission of protecting life and property, our ambulance services and fire departments build trust and connection in our community. That is something worth investing in.

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