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How Many Lives Have They Saved?

February 12, 2012
Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The firefighter who called our office Friday about the blaze that killed two elderly people in Ohio County became emotional in discussing the tragedy, I'm told. It's not difficult to understand why. Firefighters, some of whom lived near the inferno they tried desperately to stop, were not able to save the man and woman inside.

Not a single one of the men and women from several units who fought the blaze received a dime for their hard work and bravery. All were from volunteer fire departments in our area.

Down through the years, beginning when I was a child and my father was a volunteer fireman, I've known scores of them. And on occasion, I've been at the scenes of blazes in which people died. I've seen the tears cutting through thick soot on the faces of men who don't lose control easily.

More than once, I've watched them risk their own lives to save others, going into clouds of thick, black smoke. Sometimes they emerged with children in their arms or unconscious men slung over their shoulders. But sometimes, they did not.

Here's the thing: Not being able to save someone from a fire must be tough on the volunteers. Again, because many of them serve thinly populated rural areas, quite a few of those who perish aren't just victims. They're neighbors, friends, co-workers, sometimes family members.

It's got to hurt, terribly.

But even as they mourn, I hope the volunteers can think about how many lives they've saved.

Without them, house fires out country roads would be fought only by homeowners and, perhaps, a few neighbors.

Without them, the skill they build during hundreds of hours of classes and drills would not be brought to bear against humankind's best friend and worst enemy.

Without them, children wouldn't learn about fire safety. Families wouldn't be reminded of the need for smoke detectors and escape plans.

Most of all, the most selfless, dedicated, courageous people in our communities would not have saved scores of lives - sometimes of people who didn't even know they were in danger - down through the years.

Thank you, volunteer firefighters. And may God bless and watch over you as you defend us.

Myer can be reached at:

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