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Our View: Fire department is high on our "praise list"

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There are many, many wonderful volunteers in our community, but among those high on the list deserving praise are the volunteer firefighters who respond to calls in the Hudson area any time of the day or night.

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This week is Fire Prevention Week and the main message firefighters want to relay to homeowners, business owners and apartment dwellers is quite simple -- first and foremost, however, is to be sure you have working smoke alarms!

Hudson Fire Chief Jim Frye said that over the years smoke alarms have saved many lives in the Hudson area -- a mere 30 seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

He also reminded people with carbon monoxide alarms to be sure they are installed properly and know what a signal means -- it can be costly to taxpayers to pay for a fire department response to a home and discover the "beep" was for a low battery!

After major fires, volunteer firefighters often look like -- and are -- heroes. Not so glamorous, however, are the runs that occur regularly -- accidents scenes, grass fires, minor fires, false alarms (there are many of those with alarm systems in homes and businesses today), etc. This year alone, the Hudson Fire Department is on pace to make about 400 runs: an average of more than one per day (the good news is that the number is likely to be down from last year's 452 calls)! Whether it's a front-page fire or routine mop-up duty, the local volunteers are ready to drop what they are doing and jump on the fire truck.

Of course, "volunteer" is not a totally accurate term. Hudson firefighters earn the grand sum of $19 per call -- some a buck or two more! Pretty cheap pay for performing life-threatening work and being on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

If we designed a help-wanted ad for a volunteer firefighter, readers would find the copy to be almost laughable. It would go something like this: Help wanted: someone willing to do life-threatening work; must be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week and will be lowly compensated, but compensated only when called. Position also requires a commitment to extensive training and practice schedules on some nights and some weekends. As part of the team, associates also should be available for parade duty, school education opportunities and other exciting informational sessions throughout the community. An equal opportunity employer!

Thanks goodness we have people willing to accept the challenge described above!

Taxpayers may be interested in knowing that if a volunteer fire department cannot be maintained, it would cost an additional $2.5 million annually to establish a department with some paid staff.

But, we expect to see a volunteer department for the foreseeable future and we should also pay tribute to the employers who are willing to allow firefighters the flexibility to leave the workplace when the alarm is sounded.

We know firefighters are not looking for praise -- most are extremely modest. What they are most concerned about is fire safety. If you want to pay tribute to our local fire department, make sure your smoke alarms are in working order. If you would like more information about the Hudson Fire Department, including safety tips, information, history, runs, photos and other interesting items, visit www.hudsonfd.org.

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