At one point in time, most people have looked up to and admired firefighters. Whether you were a starry-eyed kid doning a red coat, black boots and a helmet for Halloween, staring at them in one of the many calendars firefighters are featured in or paying your respects at a 9/11 ceremony, we’ve all been there.
Firefighters come in many shapes and sizes.
Traditional structure firefighters that work for municipalities are what most often come to mind. They work full-time to protect your home and property. They climb huge ladders into burning buildings one day and rescue kittens from trees the next.
Most recently, wildland firefighters have made headlines following the deaths of 19 Hotshots in Arizona. They were overtaken by a wildfire that quickly changed directions with the wind. Just one of the 20 crew members on the ground survived. Wyoming has a Hotshot crew based in Greybull, just on the west side of the Bighorns.
But firefighters are also volunteers, they are your neighbors and they are your friends. Nearly every day in Sheridan County, volunteer firefighters risk their lives to help others.
Volunteer and paid firefighters alike know the dangers they face — fire, compromised structures, heat, falling debris and weather — and they accept them.
What many may not understand are the sacrifices, beyond comprimising their own safety, firefighters make.
Firefighters get paged in the middle of the night while most are fast asleep. They work holidays while others celebrate with families and friends. They leave grocery carts behind in the supermarket if somebody, somewhere needs their help. Beyond the call of duty, firefighters also dedicate hours to training and being prepared.
Fireighters also see things most people would never want to see. They see destruction and loss. They witness pain, suffering and, at times, even death.
The loss suffered by the Prescott (Ariz.) fire department rippled through the firefighting community. It touched the lives of structure, wildland, paid and volunteer public servants and their families. The death of 19 firefighters has spawned fundraising efforts, a re-evaluation of firefighting techniques and a reminder of the dangers those men and women face every day.
While International Firefighters Day falls on May 4 each year, thank a firefighter today. Then thank their families.