Ok, technically I'm only in love with one particular volunteer firefighter (my husband) but I think it's time to shed some light on these special members of our community.
Before I met my husband, I really didn't know what a volunteer firefigher did. I did have both an uncle and cousin who served on volunteer fire departments, but I didn't know what that meant. I guess I just thought they went out on really big calls, like if there was a huge grass fire at a farm or something.
Then again, I really had very little understanding about what firefighters did in general, beyond just fighting fires. I had a wreck when I was 16 and I was so confused when fire trucks showed up. (For the record, I believe there were 3 fire trucks, 5 cop cars, and 2 ambulances. Needless to say, I shut that street DOWN for awhile. No one was seriously injured, a couple people did go to the hospital.) I really thought firefighters were just for fires; I didn't realize the actual role they played as first responders.
But then I met James. He told me he was a volunteer firefighter, to which I nodded and smiled like I understood. Then he took me to the fire station after our first date. (I think he was just showing me off in case I decided not to stick around :) ) The station wasn't some rinky dink building with some pickup trucks outfitted with hoses. This was the city's actual fire station, with engines and brush pumpers. It looked like the fire stations I visited as a kid - you know, the ones with the "real" firefighters.
Y'all, volunteer firefighters are real firefighters. Who knew, right? But they totally are. The difference is, they aren't getting paid to show up and cut you out of your mangled car when you have a wreck. They aren't paid to run into your grandparents' burning home and drag them to safety. They aren't paid to shovel snow out of the driveway so the ambulance can make it close enough to the house to reach the cardiac patient whose life depends on getting to the hospital quickly. They do that FOR FREE. They do it because they know it is important. They do it because no one else will.
In our small town, there are 3 paid firefighters and one fire chief. They work 24 hours shifts solo. That's why those firefighters have to be certified EMTs. In case they turn out to be the only person who is able to make it on a call, they need to be able to legally do what is necessary to save a life. But odds are that paid person isn't the only one that will be there. The volunteers will be there too; the ones who heard the tone go off and took off sprinting out the door, often leaving dinner on the table and a family behind. (I cannot tell you how many times we have sat down to eat only to be interrupted by a call. And there's no hesitation on James's part. He hears the tone and he's off and running.)
Our town relies on the volunteer firefighters. In fact, it was only recently that they had any paid firefighters at all. It used to be entirely volunteer. But the fact is, one firefighter can't do much on their own. The volunteers are absolutely essential to the town. And our town isn't the only one like this. Many of the surrounding communities rely on volunteer firefighters as well. And as it turns out, so do many of the communities in the area where I grew up. I just was completely oblivious to it!
So thank you, volunteer firefighters. You guys (and girls!) don't get the credit you deserve.
All photos were taken by Blue Elephant Photography as part of our engagement photo session.