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One of the TV shows I watch regularly is CBS Sunday morning. This week’s program featured a tribute to volunteer firemen and women. I’d like to add my own praise for these most vital members of our community.
Several years ago, I think around 2000, I answered a knock at my front door on the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving to see a fireman standing there. “Mrs. Boyd, you might want to move your car. The warehouse is on fire,” he said.
I live right across the street from the site of the old warehouse on Fourth Street, and it was indeed on fire. For the next several hours we watched as volunteer firemen and women from all over the county, and maybe beyond, battled the huge blaze. It burned so long and so hard that television stations from Louisville and Cincinnati came to cover the fire. It was cold that day and the hours were long. I was fortunate enough to be able to go down to the public library to get the large coffee pot and load up on cookies, providing the firefighters a sugar lift and a moment’s rest on my front porch.
There was no doubt about the training, efficiency, and dedication of these men and women who not only fought the fire all day long and into the evening, but on into the night and some again the next day as hot spots flared up.
The fire also provided a Kodak moment as I snapped a picture at the very moment the wall facing my house came crashing down, sending sparks high in the air. One of the engines was right in front of the wall and all of it together gave me a picture worthy of a ribbon at the county fair.
A few years later I had my own need for a few of these vigilant men. This was an embarrassing moment. It was New Year’s Eve and I had the oven on, baking a pie to take to a friend’s house for a gathering. Unbeknownst to me, a friend had spilled bacon grease in the oven the week before when we were broiling a large pan of bacon for a brunch. So I wound up with a grease fire. With flames shooting up from the back of the stove, I grabbed for the phone and hit 911. Then I started throwing flour everywhere. It was only minutes before the men were at my door—at least ten of them in full firefighter regalia. The engine was parked in the street, lights swirling. Of course, I had the fire extinguished by this time, the flour having done the trick. All I could do was apologize over and over for my hasty call.
These men, however, didn’t seem upset with me at all. They double checked everything and assured me that I had not acted foolishly by calling.
I must mention one other example of the dedication of volunteer firemen. This took place in Williamstown on Christmas day, in the early 80s. It was a bitter cold day when the better part of one block on Main Street started burning. From the family room at my Mother’s house, through the large picture window, we could see straight from the ridge her house sat on to the ridge that ran through town. It was so cold that the water from the hoses seemed to freeze upon contact with the buildings. All of the west side of Main Street appeared to be encased in ice. And the volunteer firemen stayed with it all day. Lawyers, grocers barbers, city council men and young fathers worked those hoses and climbed ladders to the roofs of three story buildings all day long.
I know there are many other stories of the community’s experiences with our volunteer firemen. We live more comfortably, knowing that when the siren sounds these men and women will drop what they are doing and travel as swiftly as possible to help put out the fire. When you hear anyone complain about paying city taxes, think of those shiny red engines at the station and the dedicated volunteers who rush to help when the need is there.
Jarrett Boyd is a resident of Carrollton and the retired director of Carroll County Public Library.