Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Way to Get Involved in a New Rural Community

We hear a lot of people complain that its hard to get accepted when you move to a small rural community and it can be, but one way to get involved and meet people is to join local organizations and groups and one of the best in my opinion is your local volunteer Fire Department. We hadn't been here two days and I got approached at the local diner about being a volunteer fire fighter...the conversation started something like this: "Say your those Alaskan folks who just bought the ***** place aren't you?"...."You need to be at a meeting at the Fire Department at 0900 on Saturday...see you there". And that is how I became a fire fighter and first responder.

Now Holly is on the board of directors and Judy participates as part of the Axillary and we all find its very rewarding. My various injuries are just worked around and though I could not physically do it full time I participate in all fire fighting activities and am also a medical first responder. After having spent my entire adult life (since my 17th birthday) as part of something, mostly in the military, I find the camaraderie, the distinct roles, and the adventure of belonging to the brotherhood of Fire Fighters very fulfilling and it sure went a long way into meeting people and being accepted by the community.

One of our desires when we retired was to devote more time to volunteer work and helping others so this was a natural venue for us and besides, when I was a kid I wanted to be a Marine (did it), a Soldier (did it), a Farmer/Cowboy (trying to do it), an astronaut (still looking!) and a Fireman. If I could find a slot on the space station I would be all set!

I have been a Fireman and First Responder now for over 3 years but had never had the formal schooling or state certification, mostly due to the distance to the training sites, but also partly because I just was avoiding challenging myself again like I was used to in the military. So when the Chief just added me to the training list I was a bit grumpy but it turned out to be a great course and I just needed that boot in the butt to do it. There were numerous departments represented, we all have differing uniforms and equipment and of course like most things like this we all tried to out do each other...it was a blast.

After two weeks of class room instruction and field training we culminated in the final smoke chamber exercise where they light a fire in a bunch of straw and wood inside a shipping container and you go in with your Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) on and feel the effects of thermal heat layers.

It was cold and sunny outside, not so cold inside the container and it actually blistered the numbers on the helmets but it did show the equipment works.

I have been in several burning buildings with my SCBA on since I joined the Fire Department and a lot of the training was mostly already known to me but I did learn things and if nothing else, it demonstrated that my department is doing things by the book.

Almost everyone in the class was a volunteer, they all have jobs and yet they volunteer their time to train, work on the apparatus and respond to almost daily calls for fire and EMS services. I was second oldest in the class and it was gratifying to see so many young guys give their time and efforts like this. You hear about the bad but there are also a lot of dedicated young people still around who give back.

Fire fighting is dangerous and each situation is different but its also enormously rewarding and if you thrive on adventure and like a challenge I cant think of anything more exciting you can do that's legal.

The course of instruction included everything from radio procedures, public relations, classes of fire, safety, rescue, forcible entry, hose work, maintenance, ladders, emergency vehicle driving procedures, ventilation, SCBAs, etc. I am now state certified at the basic level, I am going to pursue more advanced certifications, and I am already enrolled in formal EMS certification training. I am glad I did it and encourage anyone, male or female, to join your local volunteer Fire Department even if in an administrative support capacity. 

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