Mutual aid

Published 6:46 am Sunday, February 17, 2008

By Staff
A week ago, fire departments throughout Beaufort County, not to mention the rest of the state, were busy fighting brush fires.
The firefighters, thanks to their training and equipment, were able to prevent those fires from causing major problems. Most of those firefighters are volunteers, not paid personnel.
There’s no doubt those firefighters performed admirably. But the public needs to take credit for fighting those fires, too. At least the public that supports the many volunteer and paid fire departments across the state.
Without the public buying those barbecue dinners, fried-chicken dinners, barbecued-chicken dinners and seafood dinners to pay for fire-fighting equipment and training for those firefighters, those firefighters would be hard pressed to adequately respond to fires and successfully fight them. Volunteer fire departments have relied on and will continue to rely on financial support from the communities they serve.
To be sure, many volunteer fire departments in the region have received grants, many from the N.C. Department of Insurance, to help buy needed equipment. Those grants do help. For the most part, the money it takes to keep those fire departments equipped and those firefighters trained comes from the residents and property owners in those communities protected by the fire departments.
In a way, buying those dinners, raffle tickets or shots at a turkey shoot is a form of insurance. Most residents and property owners realize the better equipped and trained firefighters are, the better they are able to prevent and fight fires. The better equipped and trained a fire department is, the better rates residents and property owners receive when it comes to insurance premiums.
Investing in a fire department is buying a degree of protection.
As alarm after alarm came in last Sunday afternoon, firefighters did not hesitate. They responded. Fire departments supported one another. As firefighters from one community fought a fire in that community, firefighters from neighboring communities helped, either by showing up to help fight the fire or by manning a fire station left vacant by firefighters called out to save property and lives.
It’s called mutual aid. Mutual-aid agreements spell out what fire departments will do to help each other. But among the firefighting community, there is no need for such a piece of paper. Firefighters will assist each other because it’s the neighborly and right thing to do.
Last Sunday, when Washington’s Fire-Rescue-EMS-Inspections Department had three fire engines and firefighters helping fight three fires in Beaufort County, fire trucks from Aurora and Williamston were sent to the Washington fire station. City firefighters who were not scheduled to work that day showed up to man the station while the on-duty firefighters were fighting fires.
That afternoon, firefighters and equipment from the Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department responded to a kitchen fire in Washington, where city firefighters also answered the call as they were returning from a fire in the county.
Fire departments will continue to help one another. Those they protect should help those fire departments.
The next time a fire department holds a fundraiser, stop by and buy a plate of pancakes and sausage or a carry-out tray filled with barbecue. The firefighters will appreciate it; also give them a heartfelt “thank you” for what they did last Sunday and they will appreciate that even more.