Saturday, January 30, 2010

the reason

In my last post I said something about firefighting being a weird mix of bright and black. The bright is when you help someone . . . in my case it's usually on the highway, and it ranges from an encouraging word to a full-blown extrication. The black is when you can't help someone . . . again, in my case it's usually on the highway, when a person is beyond help. Sometimes the black times come at fires as well. And the black is even blacker when it affects a neighbour or friend.

Then there are the gray times. The blah, boring, in-between times when no one needs us. We get a lot of those around here, and it seems like more than usual lately. That's when I spend my days alone, checking trucks, checking equipment, cleaning, doing paperwork, planning training and pub ed activities, and feeling very, very useless. Sometimes I go on a cleaning binge (you can read about that here) and sometimes I go on a paperwork binge (you can read about that here and here). Ultimately, nothing fixes me until the pager goes off again.

A lot of firefighters volunteer because they have their eye on a position in a career department. Others join because they love the rush of the call . . . the sirens, the ride, the fire, the rescue. Still others join simply to help their communities. My brother Paul is one of those. If his pager never went off, he wouldn't mind , but when it does, he's always there and ready.

I didn't join for any of those reasons. I joined because our volunteer fire department posted a full time position. Upsala was tired of burning out fire chiefs and I was tired of being a bushwacker. It was a match made in heaven. My job description includes janitor, secretary, maintenance man, renovator, painter, trainer, the list goes on . . . along with fire chiefing.

It didn't take long for the emergency response side of the job to grow on me though. After all, that is the reason we train and maintain a fire hall and do truck checks and (ugh) the paperwork and clean (double ugh).

Someday they'll invent houses that don't burn and cars that don't crash and cats that don't get stuck in trees (we don't do cats). Until then, firefighters will do their stuff, whether it's black or gray or bright.

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