County volunteer firefighters deserve thanks and respect

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, April 1, 2012

They do not toil in anonymity, but the recognition they receive in proportion to their value to their communities is greatly out of balance.

     The members of Lincoln County’s eight volunteer fire departments, as well as those of surrounding communities, stand ready to lend a hand whenever needed.

     Their hands are needed to help put out a fire at a home, business or other structure, and the departments’ first responders are called out often to provide initial care during medical emergencies. Less frequently, but typically on a bigger scale, volunteer firefighters are among to the first on the scene to help clear roads and property of debris whenever storms strike.

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     For all their vigilance and preparedness to respond when needed, volunteer firefighters receive no pay and sometimes even personally cover the cost of gear and other items needed to do their tasks.

     Departments periodically conduct donation drives and hold fundraisers to support their true community service efforts. Lincoln County’s departments also share in the revenue from a small property tax levy and in fire insurance premium rebate funds the state returns to the county.

     With these limited resources, in addition to any funds the departments may be able to secure in the form of grants, approximately 200 volunteer firefighters and first responders strive to provide protection to homes and lives spread out over almost 600 square miles of Lincoln County.

     The departments are finding success in that regard, and residents are reaping the benefits.

     The Loyd Star Volunteer Fire Department earlier this month saw its fire rating improve from a 10 to an eight, and an area near Caseyville that previously had no rating was given a 10. The Zetus Volunteer Fire Department learned earlier this week that its rating is now an eight, whereas it was previously a nine.

     Other volunteer fire departments are currently awaiting letters regarding their classifications.

     Lower fire ratings for volunteer departments means lower insurance premiums for homeowners in their coverage areas. The amount of the savings varies based on a number of factors.

     Regardless, every little bit helps. Positively impacting the pocketbooks of those they aim to help represents another way that volunteer firefighters are a benefit to their communities.

     For all the good they do, volunteer firefighters  ask only for respect and a little funding assistance to help cover the cost of being ready to serve. And heartfelt “thank yous” are always appreciated.

     A note accompanying a submission by a volunteer firefighter captured the essence of what he and his colleagues do and the reason we should all be thankful for their service.

     “When you’re asleep at night and your house is on fire … and a masked firefighter wakes you up to save your life, do you ever think about the men and women that do everything in their power to put their lives on the line for yours?

     “Most firefighters don’t ask for money, all we ask for is a little respect. Have you thanked volunteer firefighters today?”