December is a festive time of the year we all look forward to with much anticipation, but this year will be a little different. The economy and rise in unemployment makes this month especially challenging for many of our family, friends and neighbors. Could you imagine losing your belongings to a house or apartment fire?
A lasting impression stills rests in my mind, back when I first became a volunteer firefighter in 1974. I was a young 18 years old and responding to my first house fire in the country just outside of Warrenton, Virginia. It was an old two story house fully involved upon our arrival, with nothing to save or even salvage for the owner. I remembered the nauseating feeling I had when told that someone was trapped inside the fire, as I flowed water from my hose line. It was a dark cold night and the flames lit up the sky, until darkened down by our efforts.
I remembered the elderly occupant walking up his driveway to see his house nothing but smoldering rubble, and the tears in his eyes. Everything he had was in that house, but fortunately he had been visiting neighbors and wasn’t trapped inside as earlier believed. He had the clothes on his back, tears in his eyes, and a dog by his side as we returned to our fire station. We had left him a flashlight and blanket as we returned to our nice warm homes. I still remember it as if it were yesterday.
Today our fire departments do a much better job of taking care of people who suffer a fire loss. A department member is given the task to assist the occupants in any way possible. Items such as clothing, car keys, eyeglasses, medications, insurance papers, pet care, can be immediate needs, and doing anything to ease the burden of losing everything is a very important task. The Red Cross is called in to assist with lodging and clothes, some departments have CARES programs funded to help out citizens in various temporary financial needs, and often the firefighters step up on their own after the fire to help out.
This time of the year firefighters often put forth heroic efforts at raising funds and soliciting items from merchants when a family loses it home to fire. It’s just something about December that brings out the best in people, and I saw it time after time in my department. The uniformed guys and girls want to do something to help those less fortunate, and fire victims are close to their hearts. It’s with humbled pride when our firefighters are able to play one more important role in the season of giving and caring.
If your organization is looking for an idea for a community project, that will make a difference, consider this. “Adopt a fire station” meet with the Officer in charge and develop a plan to assist the fire victims this winter. Each station will respond to numerous house or apartment fires this season, and most will have occupants experiencing the worst day of their lives. Your group can develop a plan to come to the assistance of those in need. Helping get the clothing, food, medications, toiletries, book bags, Christmas gifts, etc together for the family and delivered, would be the goal. The fire department would simply contact your group after a fire loss, provide the required information, and assist in delivering the items to the families or occupants.
Have a safe holiday season!