Beyond the Call: Volunteer Firefighters Serve Beyond the Emergency
A blink. A breath. A heartbeat. Each day thousands of Americans encounter life-threatening situations. At these moments, their survival is aided by those who have pledged to help others – many of them without pay. Volunteer firemen make up 70% of the 1.1 million U.S. firefighters. In Rosewood Heights, Illinois, the 33-person, volunteer department consists of teachers, factory workers and medical professionals.
The department responds to calls nearly every day. Birthdays, anniversaries and vacations have all been missed, but those celebrating understand. “It takes dedication,” Rosewood Heights Fire Chief Tim Bunt says of his team. “Regardless if it has been a hard day in the factory, or if they are at a family event, they’ll answer the call.”
Chief Bunt has been on the force for three decades. When a volunteer joins, he makes it a family affair. Chief Bunt discusses their commitment with the husbands, wives and children of those signing up. They complete a minimum of 50 hours of initial training. Annual training requirements help firefighters serve a lifetime. The volunteers range from age 19 to the chief’s own 89-year-old father. They all understand the sacrifice.
Assistance after the Emergency
The firefighters and their chief are well known in this small southern Illinois town. It’s not necessarily because of the volume of calls, but rather for their commitment to the community.
It doesn't end with the call response. The firefighters revisit the families who have called on them for help. They've moved furniture, supplied food, or simply stopped in to say hello.
“It’s something we’ve always done,” Chief Bunt says of the extra effort. "It makes us feel better.”
Life Changing Calls Sometimes Come Full Circle
Whether a firefighter has served a day or decade, each can likely share a story that has changed someone’s life – maybe even their own. One of the most frightening calls of Chief Bunt’s career came across the radio almost two decades ago. It was an infant choking. Bunt says the adrenaline always kicks in with emergency call. However, when a child is involved, even more so. Bunt saved that child’s life. He vividly recalled those memories when a new recruit recently came to sign up as a volunteer. He was that baby Bunt had saved 18 years earlier.
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