Extra hours

Now I know why I couldn’t be a politician.

Tonight I went to a fire company banquet. No, I’m not a volunteer fireman: I attended because my future mother-in-law was honored for 50 years of service to the local ladies auxiliary. But not only was I there, along with a significant portion of this town’s fire company, but so were two local Delegates, the State Senator, and most of the County Council and town commission – oh, and a candidate for Delegate that I recognized as well.

You may read about it in the local news, but the point is multiply that by a half-dozen local fire companies in the county and then add the fundraisers, parades, and other local events where it’s good to have a face in the place and you wonder how the elected officials ever get any sleep. At least the State Senator had a plate of food – which was very good, by the way.

It also impressed on me the sense of community many still feel. Unlike certain political clubs, I noticed a nice mix of ages at this banquet as there were many members of the Millennial Generation in attendance, with most being involved in the fire company. While I was brought up for part of my adolescence in a rural area, it truly was a rural area and not a small town. The closest incorporated community was five miles away from me, although we lived about a mile from a small hamlet of a couple hundred, mostly residents of a trailer park. So I never dealt with the local fire department.

One part of the ceremony was the receipt of several checks from the county, the town, and the ladies auxiliary (which was the largest.) This body of women put together over two dozen charitable events each year for the fire company, a sum which supplemented the overall funding from the town and county. That dedication was echoed in the awards given out to various firefighters who went beyond the call of duty, one taking many extra hours to test equipment vital for the safety of all.

Living in an area which has primarily volunteer fire companies, I’m well aware of the many methods the various small-town outfits use to try and raise funds – anything from renting out the fire hall (pretty much a staple) to selling food by a busy intersection to holding Monte Carlo nights. It’s those events which really take most of a volunteer firefighter or EMT’s time – this small town only had 84 ambulance runs, so it probably didn’t have a vast volume of fire calls. None of the firefighters made it to more than 2/3 of the calls, but I’m certain they did their share for the fundraising.

But I hear a lot from those running for office about making the time to stop by the firehouses as part of their campaigning. I guess I sort of understood the intent, but since I’m not a volunteer firefighter I didn’t quite get the point. Tonight’s event helped in that respect, particularly when you consider they were in session today. Makes for a long day.

While the scope of the work has changed over the years for the colunteers, it’s hard to imagine a small town without a volunteer fire department, and even harder to imagine politicans not gladhanding at their banquets. It was something from which I learned quite a bit.