Our view: Local firefighters deserve our praise
There are plenty of volunteers in our community, but among those at the head of the list deserving praise are the volunteer firefighters who respond to calls any time of the day or night.
Fire Prevention Week was recently observed and firefighters have safety tips for homeowners, business owners and apartment dwellers. First and foremost, however, is to be sure you have working smoke/CO alarms!
And, make sure to always have fresh batteries in the devices -- for your safety and to help save taxpayer dollars. Hudson Fire Chief Jim Frye said that over the years, working smoke alarms have saved many lives in the Hudson area -- a mere 30 seconds can be the difference between life and death.
Even though the Hudson Fire Department is a volunteer organization, Hudson Fire Chief Jim Frye said it costs about $400 in personnel costs (not counting equipment) every time the department pulls the trucks out of the garage and responds to a call, including false alarms.
Of course, “volunteer” is not a totally accurate term. Many Hudson firefighters earn the grand sum of $19 per call -- some a buck or two more (tops is $23.50)! Pretty cheap pay for performing life-threatening work and being on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
After major fires, volunteer firefighters often look like -- and are --heroes. Not so glamorous, however, are the runs that occur regularly: accident scenes, grass fires, minor fires, false alarms (there are many of those with alarm systems in homes and businesses today), parade duty, school visits, etc. This year alone, the Hudson Fire Department is on pace to make about 420-plus runs -- an average of more than one per day.
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.
If we designed a help-wanted ad for a volunteer firefighter, the copy would be 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 men and women (there is currently one woman on the HFD roster) willing to accept the challenge described above! The HFD currently has a full roster, but Chief Frye is always interested in talking to new recruits. Anyone who may be interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter should call (715) 386-5861, or stop by City Hall and fill out an application.
Taxpayers may be interested in knowing that if a volunteer fire department cannot be maintained, it would cost nearly $2 million annually in additional costs to establish a department with some paid staff. But, we expect to see a volunteer department for the foreseeable future. The day may come, however, when a full-time chief would make sense. For the chief it’s not just the fire calls, but the ever-increasing piles of reports and paperwork -- the chief’s commitment is tremendous. Chief Frye, by the way, is retiring at the end of this year. He has done a great job as chief for the past 13 years; he’s been with the department for 33 years. A new chief will be on board soon.
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/CO alarms are in working order. Change those batteries! 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.