The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 2, 2013

Walk in a firefighter's boots

---- — Recently the Warrior Run Area Fire Department announced it will no longer hold a firemen's carnival at Turbotville. This decision was not arrived at lightly or quickly, as it has been under discussion for a number of years. As the wife of a nearly 40-year veteran firefighter, I find it extremely upsetting and troublesome to hear some people criticizing the decision and actually stating they will not support the department's carnival in Watsontown, a mere five or six miles away.

Traditions die hard, and the firemen's carnival has been a much-loved custom for many years. Obviously the community looks forward to eating good food, reconnecting with friends and neighbors, taking their children or grandchildren on the rides, and listening to the entertainment. However, I feel certain most people do not realize the tremendous amount of work and man-hours that go into running a carnival. Power poles have to be set, wires must be strung, tents and trailers need to be set up, and bands have to be booked well in advance. Setting up, preparing soups and other featured food each day, working for six nights, then cleaning equipment and tearing the tents and poles down, takes an enormous amount of work and organization by a very limited number of people.

Only five of the stands at the Turbotville carnival are actually run by the fire department, due to a shortage of personnel. A number of dedicated friends and family members have helped cooked and run even those five stands for many years. Furthermore, while the Turbotville carnival is still going on, some personnel need to set up for the following week's carnival in Watsontown, also a significant amount of work.

Long gone are the days when someone could join the fire company, jump on the truck after a few rudimentary training sessions with other firefighters, and rush to the scene of a fire or accident. Training is long and rigorous. The required training for becoming an emergency medical technician was 85 hours in 1974; now the training is 220 hours and costs nearly $1,000 per trainee. There are separate classes for several firefighter levels, vehicle rescue, hazardous materials, as well as special classes for officers, each requiring hours of training. This information is mentioned simply to give the public an accurate picture of the commitment necessary to be an active firefighter in today's world.

Perhaps people need to be reminded that these men and women respond to fires, hazardous materials spills, car accidents, and other emergencies at the drop of a hat -- whether it's in the middle of dinner, or in the middle of the night. And let's not forget that these same people also hold down "real" jobs to earn the money to pay their own family's bills.

To expect these volunteers to continue a tradition because the community enjoys it is at the very least unrealistic and at worst misguided. In short, the mission of the fire department is to protect life and property; it is not to provide a venue for socialization and entertainment. Certainly other organizations would be welcome to continue the carnival tradition just as they have in Milton and other communities.

So if you are not currently walking in a firefighter's boots, please don't be so quick to judge or criticize their decision. I urge you to make the responsible choice to support the Warrior Run Area Fire Department carnival, no matter where it is held. If your house is on fire, if you or a loved one are in a car accident or are severely ill, I feel sure that you will not be in the least bit concerned about where the carnival is held; you will just be happy to see a firefighter responding to your emergency.

Finally, it would be a wonderful gesture of support if you would simply say "thank you" to a firefighter, or better yet, volunteer a few hours some evening to help in a carnival stand so that a firefighter could take a night off and spend it with his or her family, or at least take a break. Thanks to those who do so; it is much appreciated.

Bev Staman, Watsontown