WANTED: Applicants wanted for high-risk no-pay work. Applicants may be called out any time of the day or night, any time of year. Applicants must be prepared to work in summer noonday heat, rains or snow. Must take job training course at applicant’s own expense. Applicants may deal with intense heat, caustic chemicals, explosive substances, live electrical wires and other hazards. Wandering drunks or bystanders may also interfere with performance of duties. To repeat, no salary…
You’re not likely to see a want ad like the one above, but think about it the next time you see trucks from any of the county’s eight volunteer fire departments, with 10 stations, roll by on their way to a fire.
You see, the opening paragraph is a description of a volunteer firefighter’s job.
For men and women who generally don’t get paid for what they do, volunteer firefighters give a whole lot to their respective communities.
Most of this area’s volunteer firefighters in the country’s volunteer fire departments have full-time jobs. They leave those jobs when they’re called to a fire, or a traffic wreck, or to help search for a lost child or adult.
It actually costs them to be a volunteer firefighter. When they’re called out, they lose time on the job, and some lose the money they’d made had they been at work. Chickasaw County does carry insurance in the event the fire fighter is hurt while on the job. This insurance will help pay the medical expenses. The county also carries workman’s compensation insurance to cover some lost time in the event of an injury on the job.
In the event a firefighter is killed in the line of duty, a federal fund allows for payment of a lump sum amount to his next of kin.
In other counties, a few volunteer firefighters may draw a small monthly amount for their administrative duties, but that’s not the case in Chickasaw County. No volunteer firefighter in this county receives a stipend.
Although they work as unpaid volunteers, they save their communities money. Here’s how.
Firefighters – whether volunteer or paid – put out fires that would otherwise go unchecked, thus saving thousands of dollars in fire damage. As a result, residents served by fire departments often receive lower fire premiums.
Firefighters may be called any time of the day or night, any time of the year, in broiling sun or freezing drizzle.
It’s no job for the physically or emotionally fragile. Firemen may get smoke in their lungs, or may pass out from heat exhaustion brought on by strenuous exertion in heavy protective clothing in 90-plus degree heat. They haul heavy hoses, and sometimes use axes and pokers to cut and tear and chop to get at a fire.
Anyone who has ever seen their house catch fire, and seen firemen show up fast enough to save it, is grateful these men and women do what they do.
Any homeowner who has seen grassfire sweeping towards his house, with only a thin line of firefighters manning hoses and tractors between the house and the oncoming flames, is grateful.
Anyone who has ever been in a traffic crash, in pain and pinned inside the tangled wreckage, watching firefighters pull and cut and pry twisted metal, working their way toward extracting the victim, is grateful.
And any parent who has ever seen firefighters search for a missing child is grateful.
All of us should be thankful to have these men and women serving us.