EDITOR’S COLUMN | It takes a special breed to be a firefighter

Well done Paul, well done.

Giving 35 years as a career fireman is quite the feat, by anyone’s standards. The crummy pay and odd hours aside, simply carrying around a squawking pager for that long should be enough to earn just about anyone’s respect.

I’ve been chained to one for a few years, so only have an inkling of what he’s endured. Think of the most annoying sound in the world, times it by infinity and you’re half-way there. Beeeeeep, booooop, BEEEEEEEEEP, BOOOOP. Engine 31, Engine 32, Tender blah, blah, blah.

Without fail they usually go off at the end of a 10-hour work day just as you’ve sat down with the family and are about to sink your teeth into the steak you’ve been dreaming about since lunch. The middle of the night is a good time too, but 10 a.m. on a work day? Never.

Thankfully my wife absolutely loves the pager. My kid too. In fact, while we’re watching TV and it starts to cackle they usually say, “Ooh ooh, turn it up dad.”

It’s not all bad. In fact, I get to pick and choose which calls I go to, unlike the poor men and women who wear the badge. They have to go to everything: medical calls, car accidents, marine emergencies, land slides, trees on power lines, fat guys stuck in hot tubs, nuclear war and alien invasions. Oh yeah, they go to fires too.

Being a career or volunteer firefighter is likely pretty exciting at first, but I’d wager the novelty wears off rather fast. That’s especially true in small communities where you invariably respond to calls where you know the people involved.

I remember going to a house fire in Coupeville years ago and realizing that I knew the homeowner. The flames were bright, yes, but as I watched her weep on her sister’s shoulder as all her worldly possessions burned to a cinder,  it dawned on me what house fires really mean. Several years later I was at another fire where a young woman died. People die in car accidents too. Not fun.

Actually, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their life as a firefighter. It sounds as bad as being the mayor of a small town.

I suppose it takes a special breed to wear the badge/fire hat, the kind of person willing to risk their life to save your own, someone who inevitably witnesses events that change them forever.

Thirty-five years. Whew! You’re the man, Paul. Thanks for everything.