They Who Sit And Wait, Also Serve
Sometimes the most important task firefighters tackle is being ready in the hope that nothing will happen.
They train for hours on end to save lives and property, month after month, all in the blissful expectation that maybe their skills won’t be needed.
One example manifested itself on Easter Sunday (April 16, 2017). A two-alarm house fire broke out in Birdsboro, and the nearby Monarch Fire Company in Berks County was called to its scene on Cinder Street in the borough. Because there is always a chance another fire could occur in Monarch’s coverage area while its crews are busy elsewhere, outside fire companies were summoned to stand by at Monarch’s fire house.
Arriving Sunday to watch over Monarch territory from inside its Monocacy Station PA garage bays (photo above), were Berks Rescue 8 from Alsace Manor and Quint 58 from the Sanatoga Fire Company. Volunteers from both backed their trucks into the station, pulled up chairs, and waited patiently. Nothing happened. After a few hours, when the tired men and women of Monarch returned home, the stand-bys went home too … happy that a portion of the Easter holiday they might have otherwise spent with families and friends was uneventful.
What Firefighters Gave During March
Lower Pottsgrove Fire Marshal Lew Babel is a numbers guy.
Every month he diligently assembles a report for the township Board of Commissioners that documents who did what, how, and for how long among the membership of the Sanatoga and Ringing Hill fire companies. His paperwork usually doesn’t get a lot of notice, but during last month alone (March 2017) Babel reported:
- Sanatoga responded to 27 calls for assistance; Ringing Hill, 30;
- Sanatoga held 11 training classes, representing 226 total firefighter hours of emergency preparation; Ringing Hill held three classes, with an additional 27 hours; and
- Sanatoga personnel (firefighters and fire police combined) donated 334 hours of service to the community; and Ringing Hill added another 219.
The numbers vary monthly, of course. Some are higher, others lower. In each and every month of the year, however, firefighters give their time willingly. They don’t get paid; they volunteer.
The Shrinking Base Of Firefighters
Nationwide, there are fewer volunteer firefighters and emergency responders today than there were a quarter-century ago, several studies show. Between 1987 and 2013, according to Fire Rescue Magazine, the number of volunteer firefighters across the country decreased from 816,800 to 786,150, a loss of 30,650. There are as many reasons as there are firefighters. Generally, though, people lack time.
Yet the need for fire company services has skyrocketed, in circumstances folks don’t often consider: like dealing with local accidents on busy Routes 422 and 100, or pumping out basements flooded by storm water, or rescuing an increasing elderly population in a variety of medical emergencies.
If you have an inclination to help, or if you’re simply interested in knowing more about what local firefighters do, call the Sanatoga fire house at 610-323-4885, or Ringing Hill at 610-323-0474, and ask to meet with a representative. They’d be pleased to talk with you. They could use your energy, in whatever way you can offer it.
It’s Stuff That’s Noticed ‘Around Town’
You’re reading Around Town, a news experiment from The Post. It focuses on short, quickly scanned, and hopefully interesting items curated from a variety of feeds and other sources.
Around Town (for the week of April 17-23, 2017):
- Waiting Is Service Too For Township Firefighters
- Pottsgrove Gets Its ‘Fight Cancer!’ Groove On
Top photo from the Sanatoga Fire Company via Facebook; Babel photo by The Post Publications