Tony Harmon’s April 22 letter, “Fire help not needed,” is disappointing.
He’s correct that the majority of 911 calls are not fire-suppression calls. Firefighters also respond to auto accidents, public assists, domestic abuse, hazmat spills, downed power lines and medical calls (heart attacks, stabbings, etc.). They work 24-hour shifts but are sometimes away from their families for 48 to 96 hours.
They work Christmas, Thanksgiving and their kids’ birthdays. The sleep deprivation is huge. They are exposed to extremely stressful situations: infectious diseases, child abuse, toxic chemicals, violence and death. They die sooner, have a much higher rate of cancer and stress their backs on a daily basis.
Their pay and benefits reflect all of the above. Yes, they do wash the equipment, because they take pride in their presentation to the community, and yes, they work out on duty to remain physically fit for their rigorous jobs. They do, of course, sleep at the firehouse, but can be up two to five times a night running calls. In between calls, they grocery shop so they can cook and eat meals during their 24-hour shifts.
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It may appear that firefighters have it easy to those who are unfamiliar with what the job entails. After being married to one for 20 years, I can attest that being a firefighter is one public service job that takes a toll on both firefighters and their families.
But rest assured, even if you haven’t yet needed their service, when you call 911, firefighters will be there within minutes to help you.