Back in the fall of 1992, a friend of mine who was with Devola Volunteer Fire Company, asked me if I would be interested in joining the department. I said that I never really gave it much thought before, but I might be interested. Twenty years later I have seen things I never thought I would experience, been on calls that have stayed with me since the day they occurred, been on multiple fires, car accidents, squad calls, downed power lines and so on.
I have held just about every position in the department ... some more than once. I have seen good times and, most certainly, bad ones. And through it all, I knew that I was helping my community. I was protecting my neighbors, their homes, my family and theirs as well.
To the average citizen, a volunteer firefighter or EMT is just a "wannabe." But to the thousands of people we all help every day in this country, we are a lifesaver, caregiver, protector or a hero. Volunteers account for 80 percent of the nation's fire service. If we didn't volunteer, who would save your house when it catches fire or come cut your daughter out of her car when she crashes along the highway.
Sure, there are some stereotypes of volunteer firefighters that may be true in some cases. Yes, we do love fire trucks, and yes, we do enjoy wearing T-shirts that tell the world we are volunteers. That shirt is not for you to look down upon or mumble under your breath how we are a bunch of "wannabes." It is a badge of honor for us. It tells the world that I am a volunteer. That I am willing to get up in the middle of the night when it's cold or rainy and go save someone that I have never met. Can you say that?
Volunteers save more than lives and property. We also save money for the communities in which we serve. To pay a paid department costs a community millions of dollars where a volunteer service can run at a fraction of that. Your local volunteer fire department needs your help now. We need EMT's and firefighters. We need trades men and women who work with their hands every day. We need bankers and accountants, teachers, writers, mechanics, welders, plumbers, electricians, computer repair techs, gardeners and cooks. We need anyone who has the skill to do something, anything, around the station. Just because you don't want to be a firefighter or EMT doesn't mean you can't serve your community and your fire department.
I ask that everyone who reads this goes to their local volunteer fire department and ask what they can do to help out.
I am a volunteer firefighter. I am proud to say that and always will be.
J.J. Bichard, assistant chief
Devola Volunteer Fire Co.