October 27, 2017
Volunteering makes the world go around and usually it is easy to work it into our schedules. Many emergency responders have no set schedule in that they are self-employed and everyday can be different, especially for farmers and ranchers.
Emergencies are not scheduled either! In the middle of a funeral, volunteer firefighters got the word there was a fire a few miles away. All of the firemen left the service to fight the fire. Though it was a sad occasion, it was fitting to see volunteerism in action on that day. It is just what rural residents do.
Just four days earlier a thunderstorm with 2 inches of rain passed through our place. Generally, that gives relief to firefighters as many lightning-caused fires are extinguished by rain. A rainy day is always an invitation for a catnap and we had gotten started on that project when we were told a neighbor's house had just been struck by lightning and was on fire.
It was fortunate that the neighbor's son was at home because the house sits behind several trees and it undoubtedly would have been engulfed and too far gone if no one was there to sound the alarm. The Oral (S.D.) Volunteer Fire Department responded and called on the Hot Springs (S.D.) Volunteer Fire Department for mutual aid. Oral generally fights grass fires and Hot Springs is better able to handle residential fires with their ladder truck. Although we have 911 addressing the layout is not familiar to those who don't frequent the area. Consequently, I met the requested backup firemen to lead them to the scene and save valuable minutes. In this case, the fire was seven miles outside of town, the road winds around and the house sets over a hill. The fire had been knocked down and little smoke was visible so that wouldn't have been a guide.
“It was fortunate that the neighbor’s son was at home because the house sits behind several trees and it undoubtedly would have been engulfed and too far gone if no one was there to sound the alarm.”
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An ambulance got lost and eventually showed up. It is standard operating procedure for an ambulance to respond to structure fires. Everything was fine and the fire departments were mopping up when the EMTs received a call to go to a different emergency. One of the ambulance personnel picked up his radio to call the fire chief asking to be released. The chief was standing 10 feet away and I could see he didn't have his radio. I asked the EMT, "Why don't you just ask him in person?" and I took him to the fire chief so they could talk face to face, the old fashioned way. To be fair, he wouldn't have known which man was in charge as there were volunteers from different towns and services.
There is just so much that volunteers do. We are grateful for all of our area volunteers and realize they are always on call, even during the funeral service of an old friend. ❖