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Jun. 17th, 2011

This may be kind of stream-of-consciousness, but that's as articulate as I'm feeling at the moment.

Regular readers, either here or on Facebook, know that I've recently joined my local volunteer fire department... not as a firefighter (soooo not in shape enough for that!!) but as their photographer/web/PR person. I'll probably "upgrade" to Public Information Officer at some point, but there's training to be done first, and the next set of classes get taught at the state level and they're not currently on the calendar in Indiana or any of the surrounding states. So for now, I'm the photographer and the web geek and general Extra Set of Hands whenever I can be useful.

That last part is mostly what this post is about. My first few runs after I signed on were pretty benign... a fender-bender car accident w/ minor injuries who'd already been transported when I arrived... a car fire (unoccupied)... some storm chasing. Then we had The Big Fire wherein a store caught fire downtown and tried to take the whole block with it. The building was fully involved when we got there, and there was uncertainty as to whether the man who lived over the store was out of the building, so the guys were preparing to enter and search this heavily involved building. As I looked at the flames pouring from the roof, and thought about the fact that this meant they'd have to go up an old wooden staircase and search the second floor, it began to sink in that this was the first time, in my limited time of involvement, that "my" guys would be going into danger. They train for this (even as recently as last month!)... they signed up for this... but knowing that didn't make it any easier to watch them getting ready to go into an obviously dangerous situation.

We cut because we care... )

And there it was, in black and white... proof that these guys are mortal, hitting a little too close to home. "Can you put a thing on (web)page and Facebook... thoughts and prayers with Muncie Fire and their families... line of duty death."

Muncie, IN, is about 35 miles away in the next county over. A 40-yr-old firefighter there, married with three kids, lost his life yesterday when the roof collapsed at a huge church fire that they were fighting. He'd been a chief in the Yorktown FD, between here and Muncie, before going to work for Muncie FD, so some of our guys may have known him. My friend Wendy, who used to be an EMT, knew him. I look at Yorktown FD's Facebook page, and the comments on the news articles (especially on the firefighter sites, rather than the local newspaper site), and I can see how the whole firefighter community takes these things to heart, even if they didn't know the man personally.

And it makes you think.

And I don't like it. I've only been doing this for six weeks, but it's amazing how close I feel to this group of guys and their families in just this short time. I don't like having to think about the fact that one day it might be one of our guys who goes into a burning building and doesn't come out. Firefighters are heroes and heroes are supposed to be immortal... right? Right???

So I'll go to as many classes as I can. I'll learn Where Stuff Is on the trucks, and I'll learn to change the SCBA tanks in the air packs so they don't have to take the pack off and put it back on again when they're already tired, and I'll learn everydamnthing I can about safety, and I'll do everything that I can to have their backs while I document what they do and why they do it.

And at the end of the day, I'll hope and pray that they all come home.

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