But Community Need Remains High
By Eugenia Moskowitz
The recent tragedies involving the deaths of two young volunteer firefighters in the Hudson Valley has heightened the awareness of the importance of volunteer firefighters in our local communities which, according to Washingtonville Fire Department Chief James Skelly, are currently experiencing a dip in membership numbers.
Jack Rose, the 19-year-old captain of the Mount Marion Fire Department in Ulster County, died unexpectedly after battling a chimney fire. Justin Speights, a 20-year-old first lieutenant (posthumously) with the Silver Lake Fire District in Orange County, died while trying to stop a fight in progress at a New Year’s Eve party. The circumstances of their deaths underscore some of the things firefighters routinely do working hand-in-hand with police at 911 emergency scenes such as: car crashes and other accidents; downed power lines; and storms, floods and other natural disasters. They do educational outreach, such as the mock car-accident drills presented annually in springtime at high schools. They are present at sporting events, festivals and other community events. If the community is celebrating, they are there. If the community is hurting, they are there. Their heavy equipment means they can straighten vehicle rollovers and cut metal to extricate victims, correct capsized boats and pull people from a variety of life-threatening situations.
Unlike paid firemen in large municipalities, volunteer firemen in smaller towns are not paid to do what they do; they serve the community in addition to their regular jobs, making themselves available at all hours, their radios always on. The dedication they feel for the communities in which they live is exemplified in the story widely reported that Speights once rode his bicycle in full firefighter gear to the scene of a car accident when his parents’ car wasn’t available.
“A young person joining their town fire department will feel pride and a sense of accomplishment, both tangible and intangible, from being a firefighter,” Skelly said. “Because the emergency situations they experience bond firefighters, the group also functions as an extended family.”
For the complete story see the Jan. 15, 2016 edition of the Orange County Post.