Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Volunteer force deserves our thanks, support

February 16, 2006

Earlier this month a De Soto man-and-wife firefighting team was injured responding to a fire on Evening Star Road in rural Johnson County and required the assistance of the Eudora Fire Department in extracting them from a wrecked vehicle.

Fortunately, they weren't seriously injured, but the incident underscores the fact there is inherit danger in fighting fires and responding to them.

According to figures compiled by the National Fire Protection Association, it is not uncommon for 40 to 60 firefighters to die in the line of duty each year (any average would be skewed by the 340 firefighters who lost their lives responding to the World Trade Center terrorists attack), while another 60,000 to 80,000 are injured. That same association's research found that firefighters were more likely to be injured or killed traveling to and from a call than while dealing with the incident.

Training, research and experience can reduce the risk to firefighters, but fires always have an element of the unknown, and therefore, the unpredictable.

Drivers responding to fires must balance the need for haste with safety, a conflict compounded when volunteers drive unfamiliar vehicles. On their return trip, drivers deal with fatigue from the middle of the night call or fighting the fire with its emotional expenditure, perhaps in the case of volunteers, the effects of a full day at work.

Although there are some who volunteer as a step to becoming career firefighters, most of those in the department do so out of a sense of civic duty. It is a shared commitment that allows the department to function and represents a bargain to taxpayers and insurance paying homeowners.

We owe those volunteers not only thanks, but a continued financial commitment to provide them with training opportunities and safe equipment to remove as much of the unexpected as possible.

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