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  • DC Crater


“You only volunteer twice - once when you join, and again when you quit.”

I have heard this quoted around the firehouse many times. Many people say its something Charlie said one day when talking about us being a volunteer department. Something regarding, if we ask too much of our volunteers, they will walk away.

There are very few times when you volunteer to put your safety on the line to help another person. In all actuality, if you’re putting yourself in danger, it’s going to be a story shared for many years. It’s just not something we have to do that often. Most of the time, we have volunteered to train once a month and attend a few fundraisers. Sometimes you volunteer to help another firefighter prepare for a test. Other times you volunteer to put up a sign, to celebrate a holiday or birthday.

What we do on a normal basis, that is what we have volunteered to do. Teach kids about fire safety, pass out smoke detectors to our neighbors, even deliver some water to a family with a well that has run dry. All of the mundane things that come with any organization, are what we volunteered to do.

Then at 1:54 am the tones drop……


Was that us?!?

Uh oh that’s a second set of tones…..

That’s a structure fire…..

That’s where the volunteering goes away, and the compulsion takes over. Its scurrying out of the house with one eye open because of the cold wind. It’s the blue light flashing off the trees as you rush towards town. It’s marking en route to station so people know they aren’t alone on this one. It’s praying that someone else has done the same. It’s the knowing that whatever happens, someone else is having a much worse day than poor me, who needed a little more sleep. It’s the sound of the Q siren echoing down the empty streets. Now you’re wide awake and rolling towards the unknown. You’re not sure when you will see a glow, or smoke, or flashing lights from the police cars who have beat you to the scene. You just know that when you do, you will get to work. Not because you made a choice to, but because you know that your neighbors need you to.

At that point you might be in over your head, sometimes literally. The people who are looking at you don’t know that. Right now, you aren’t the volunteer that served them a sandwich last June. You are the fireman that they need - to help save their home, barn, or whatever has sent their day into a blur of panic and fear. That’s why you walk, and not run. They don’t know you’re scared for them. They don’t know what we don’t know. They just know that we are the fire department, and the fire department showed up when they called for help. We will work hard to take care of whatever the problem is, and wear ourselves out for nothing more than a thank you. Then we will take a shower and become a forklift driver, a cop, or a service tech, until we are needed again.

But none of us are going to go home and decide when to volunteer or choose when to stay or go.

When the time comes that we dread hearing the radio so much we turn it off, that’s when we have made a choice. When we decide it’s no longer something for us, or that it’s just too hard on our bodies or minds, that’s when the choice is made. We make a choice that takes away a part of our identity, the part that’s a fireman. Sure, we will always be someone that was on the department. But as time goes by, the faces get more and more mysterious to us. The guys that came up with you have moved on, and all that’s left are the memories.

Some people will have to make that choice. Others won’t. But until we do, we will continue to be compelled to rush into the dark to help our friends, families, neighbors, and strangers.

If you would like to make the choice to volunteer with us, give us a call or stop by and see us.

We always need an extra hand.

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