Columbia, SC — Last week, in a quiet neighborhood outside of Atlanta, Gwinnett County firefighters responded to a “routine” cardiac call. Firefighters respond to hundreds of similar calls every day. Unfortunately, the Atlanta caller wasn’t in distress; he was luring firefighters to his home, where he held them hostage until police stormed the house and rescued them. This easily could have resulted in four firefighter funerals.
Recently in upstate New York, two firefighters responding to a house fire were shot and killed as they got off the fire truck — another chilling reminder of just how dangerous our world has become for everyone in law enforcement, fire and EMS.
Firefighters, medics and police officers are trained to deal with situations that most people would not be able to handle. But we are still human beings, and this isn’t what most of us signed up for.
We need our citizens to assist us by keeping a watchful eye on their neighborhoods. Whatever seems out of the ordinary probably is, and should be reported to authorities. The smallest and seemingly least significant item reported to public safety agencies might be the difference between life and death. Many times people have told me they should have reported activities and behavior but didn’t, and now we were talking about it on the scene of a tragic event.
We also need to ask for understanding from our citizens. There may come a time when fire services will need to review whether we go in in every case. The fact is that a dead firefighter simply leaves grieving wives, parents and children asking, “Why?”
During our annual memorial service earlier this month, S.C. firefighters celebrated the life of a fire chief who had died in the line of duty. The loss of one firefighter is one too many. We must revise how we do business in the fire service. As we continue to serve our communities, we will be discussing how to prevent needless losses from events like Webster, N.Y., and Suwanee, Ga.
Please stop by your local fire department and thank the men and women who protect your lives every day in a very unselfish way. And thank you for your continued support.
Chief Investigator, Irmo Fire District