Can’t thank them enough

Published 12:13 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By Staff
The sign in front of the Econo Lodge in Washington says what many people in Beaufort, Hyde, Washington and Tyrrell counties should be saying each day.
The sign sends a message of thanks to those who are fighting the Evans Road fire, a wildfire started by a lightning strike June 1 that has burned nearly 42,000 acres, or who have battled several other, smaller wildfires in the area.
If fighting the Evans Road fire is not enough, volunteer fire departments and forestry personnel find themselves battling blazes like the one in southwestern Beaufort County on Monday. That fire burned acreage and structures.
With resources stretched thin, these firefighters have not complained about being called out during all hours of the day and night. They’ve been called away from meals. They’ve been called away from family functions. They’ve been called away from rest and relaxation.
They’ve been called; and they’ve answered. They are called to perform duties that most of us cannot or will not perform. They risk their safety to keep us safe. They work in dangerous conditions, made worse by high humidity, high temperatures and rough terrain.
Not only are these hundreds of firefighters and emergency-management personnel fighting fires, their presence in the area is helping the local economy, which can use all the help it can get. Area lodging establishments are serving as temporary homes for these people. They are, as much as possible, buying supplies from area businesses. They are adding dollars to the local economy.
Whether it is an out-of-state firefighter taking on the massive Evans Road fire for days at a time or a local firefighter responding to smaller wildfires that threaten several acres and a building or two, these people deserve more than just our attention. We know what they are doing, but are we acknowledging those actions?
They would, no doubt, be grateful for just a simple “Thank you” from someone.
But wouldn’t it be even better to pick up the tab for at least one firefighter who is eating a well-deserved, hot meal at an area restaurant? How about dropping off a cake, pie or batch of cookies for a group of firefighters who are staying at a local motel? How about treating a couple of firefighters to sausage biscuits, orange juice and coffee at a local restaurant one morning before they leave to fight the wildfire?
The Evans Road fire is nearly 2 months old. It’s not drawing as much attention, at least from the public and media, as it did in mid-June. It’s still burning. Just under 300 people are fighting that fire. They haven’t forgotten why they are in the region. What they are doing and why they are doing it should not be forgotten by those they are working to protect.
As for the local firefighters, many of them with volunteer fire departments that depend on the communities they serve to provide a significant amount of funding so they can operate, they also deserve a “Thank you” from each person in their communities. That thanks may be shown by buying an extra plate or two of barbecue or fried chicken when a department sells such plates to raise funds. That thanks may be shown by taking the amount of money a family would spend on pizza during a month and donating that amount to a fire department.
At the very least, these firefighters and emergency-management personnel should hear a “Thank you” from each person they meet in the area. Although they will not demand it, they deserve it.
The sign in front of the Econo Lodge carries a simple message. It’s one that bears repeating each day — even after the fires are extinguished.