Concern for others

Published 3:31 am Monday, June 9, 2008

By By now they are tired, if not close to exhaustion. They have been at it for nearly a week.
They don’t know when they will get a break. They will stay at it until it’s safe, until the fire is under control.
A lightning strike in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge started the fire Sunday night. The fire, with its origins about 15 miles northwest of Fairfield, has burned about 30,000 acres in and near the refuge, spreading from Hyde County into Washington and Tyrrell counties.
So far, and this is the good news, no one has been injured and no structures have been damaged or destroyed by the fire.
Firefighters with volunteer fire departments, personnel with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, emergency-management officials at the local and state levels and others have been working around the clock to contain the fire and extinguish it. Aircraft configured to fight wildfires are being used to battle the blaze.
Facing less-than-favorable conditions — extreme crowning fire behavior, extreme rates of spread, spotting, heavy pocosin fuels and deep organic soils — those fighting the fire are working feverishly to prevent the fire from taking lives and destroying houses and other structures. Poor accessibility and extensive residual ground fire are hampering those efforts.
As long as the fire burns, those fighting the fire will have a burning desire to see the fire defeated.
The fire poses dangers, but so does the smoke-and-ash plume associated with the fire.
Smoke drifted as far north as Richmond, Va., and clogged filters on two air monitoring stations a few dozen miles west of the fire, state Division of Air Quality spokesman Tom Mather reported, according to The Associated Press. Health officials are warning people that exposure to the plume could cause respiratory and other health-related problems.
Emergency-management officials have done an excellent job warning residents about dangers and hazards posed by the fire. They have effectively used the media to inform the public about the fire. People like David People, Washington County’s manager, and Tony Spencer, Hyde County’s emergency-management coordinator, have done an admirable job keeping the public and media supplied with as much up-to-date information as possible.
With this fire on their hands, that’s not been easy to do. They and others like them deserve recognition for their efforts.
Their concern for others is evident in statements they have made.
The county manager no doubt is concerned with how the fire will tax the county’s resources, but he’s also concerned with how the fire will affect people.
Wesley Smith, Hyde County’s health director, also expressed his concerns about not only the safety of Hyde County residents but their pets as well.
Any firefighter knows the first rule of fighting a fire is to protect and preserve lives and property, in that order. County managers, county health directors and county emergency-management coordinators understand that rule, too. That’s why they have been working long hours under stressful conditions to ensure lives and property are protected and preserved.
They will do that as long as it takes. Although it’s their job to do that, they are doing it because it’s the right thing to do.