Tag Archives: Brotherhood

Presidential Reflections on what we do. (She hacked me)

 

It has taken me a little longer than others to get my thoughts together to comment on the events in Westerlo yesterday morning. Spoiler alert **** Long post ahead. Cliff notes version **** I am in awe of our volunteer first responders and am so grateful for the caring community to which I belong.

First, let me say that I’ve been a member of Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company for 5 years. When I joined here I was issued a pager so I could hear the calls and know what was going on and if the Auxiliary needed to respond. Prior to moving up here I was at Thomas Corners Fire in Scotia. Their call volume was much higher and the Auxiliary was called if needed. Actually I think most of the wives would just go to the station when their husbands went on a big call. I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to help out there.

Now, and keep in mind that I live 5 houses from the station, I am Westerlo Fire’s Company President, and date a firefighter, the tones going out take on a whole different meaning. Still, when the alarm sounds in the middle of the night, my instinct is to say a prayer for all those that are helping or are needing help then roll over and go back to sleep. 1:30 Monday morning, that was almost what happened. The alarm had stopped before I realized that “Oh shoot! That’s US! And I ran down the stairs for the pager to see what was happening.

STRUCTURE FIRE! Well, sometimes a passerby sees flames that are in a burnpit that’s close to the house and panics. Maybe that’s all it is. Quickly that theory was dispelled by listening to the radio traffic. THIS WAS REAL! THIS WAS BAD!

Still, you have the facts. You know the address and it’s a fire. You know people are injured but you don’t know how badly. You don’t know whose house it is. You don’t know how many of your firefighters are making the call. You don’t know if you are going to be able to get water once you get there.

Being in the Auxiliary and not needed at the scene right away I had the luxury of being able to get dressed, let Bailey out, and pull myself together for whatever lay ahead. Not so for the Firefighters and EMS personnel. They jumped out of their warm beds, threw on whatever and raced to the station to don their gear, load up and rush into the face of danger. I could barely operate the coffee pot at the hall an hour after the tones went out, but these folks were on the scene and actively trying to fight this massive fire within just a few minutes.

We packed up the coolers and headed to the scene with drinks and snacks for all about an hour into the event, then served breakfast at about 6. There were so many people there. We are lucky to have such great mutual aid companies that came in to help. We had assistance from East Durham Fire, Freehold Fire, Greenville Fire and Greenville Rescue Squad, Medusa Fire, Medway-Grapeville Fire, Rensselaerville Fire, Westerlo Rescue Squad, Albany County Fire Investigators, Paramedics and Sheriffs. The scene remained active for over 12 hours. It was amazing to see everyone work together.

The home belongs long-time residents of Westerlo. All were treated at the scene, transported to Albany Med and then transferred to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse for their burns and breathing problems. Please say a prayer for them that they recover quickly and fully.

The family has great neighbors. The family got into their car and drove down the street to a neighbors house in the middle of the night, banged on their door and asked them to call 911. They waited there for help to arrive. Another neighbor found their St. Bernard and one is caring for him while his family is away. Many people stopped by to see what they could be doing to help the family and a fund has been set up at the National Bank of Coxsackie to assist them.

There is one group of unsung heroes that I don’t often see recognized. Thank you to all the employers who graciously allow your staff to leave during work hours or take time off to help their neighbors. We had a number of people who went in to work late or never made it at all because of the fire. We are so fortunate here in Westerlo with Hannay Reels being here. We have always had a number of members that work there and they have been wonderful in supporting our efforts. I am so grateful for them and for all the employers who understand the need for these volunteers in our community.

I am so proud of our Fire Company and want to thank you for a job well done. I am so glad that you all returned home safely. Thank you to all our mutual aid companies that came to our scene and those that may have been on standby for those companies. Oh, and thank you to Albany County Fire Control for being so calm and organized. I don’t know who was on yesterday but he pretty much rocks in my book.

For all those who are not in the Fire/EMS business, please take a moment to thank a First Responder when you can.

And don’t forget that its EMS Week!

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Today We Stand for Him

If you are unable to attend the services today for Lieutenant DeVoe you can watch via the following link.   abc27 I’m not sure of how much of the procession, etc. they will be covering but they will cover the Noon service.

I can’t be in Harrisburg today but I am with the Brotherhood and Fire Wife Sisterhood in Spirit.

We Stand with You

 

We Stand with You

Last night the Brotherhood lost one of their own.  Lt. Dennis DeVoe was loved by many, but none loved him as much as his wife Amy and their children.  This week the Brotherhood lost other members.  Captain Bill Dowling from Houston and others answered their final alarm.  While I prayed for those families, for their Brothers, I never felt the grief that I did last night when Harrisburg issued their formal statement.

I’ve never had a personal connection with a loss until last night.   I never met Denny, but I met, love and will forever call her Sister, his beautiful wife Amy.  Her smile lights up a room and a heart.

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I met Amy through the Firefighter Wife Sisterhood, the wives part of 24/7 Commitment.  I’ve written about the Sisterhood, the impact it has had on my life and my marriage.  I’ve written about the fact I know the Sisterhood will have my back if anything ever happens to my husband.  My heart knows this, my head knows this.  My heart hoped it would never happen to one of our own.  Yesterday, the group of Fire Wives that attended the Girls Getaway in Windham messaged, loved and prayed.  We banded together as Fire Wives need to when one of our own is hurting.  Our arms surrounded her from miles away hoping that she felt our love and strength.

Yesterday, last night and this morning reminds me that the Sisterhood is the backbone behind the Brotherhood.  There is no tougher job in the Fire Service, than that of the Fire Wife.  Together we unite to hold one of our own so that she can find the strength to carry on.

Amy, you are loved, you are supported,  you will forever be in my heart and on my mind.  My Sisters, your strength, your love and your grief have showed the Commitment we have to our own through all that the Fire Service throws at us.

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Firefighterwife.com : Why our Fire Families need it.

Evening Reflections on the Sisterhood

Take, Take, Take. Where’s the Give

As a Fire Wife and Firefighter I’ve often asked myself what do we give back to our community?  After all, we hold breakfasts during the first three months of the year and ask for donations from attendees, we hold a calendar drive every fall, and ask for donations, we show up on your tax bill, etc.  It seems like we take a lot from our community.

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So the question becomes:  What do we give?  So I really got thinking about this.  And I have come to the conclusion we give our souls, our hearts, our family’s so that our community has heroes.  These heroes don’t wear capes, they don’t have super human powers, they don’t drive Batmobiles.  These heroes drive beat up pick-up trucks, cars and when they respond to our community’s needs, they come in big red trucks with flashing lights and sirens.   Ask anyone of these heroes and they’ll deny the title.  They are just average men and women giving back to their communities.

These needs are many, some aren’t true emergencies but each one is treated the same.  It is treated with the professionalism of the Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood that for hundreds of years, from St. Florian through to our heroes in bunkers and SCBA’s, has been giving their lives to fulfill a calling most run from.

And yet we continue to give.  From the cat in the tree (yes, that really happens, and yes the big red trucks respond), to the school bus stuck across the road (yes, that really happened just this morning) we are there.  We are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Giving of ourselves, our time away from our children, our spouses, our families.  We miss plays with our kids, birthday parties, holiday dinners.  Why?  Because we were called to give.

We were called to give peace to a family that lost someone in a flooded stream.  We were called to give our time, while our own homes suffered during Hurricane Irene.  We fought 2 structure fires that weekend.  Not to mention the countless man hours spent manning the station and the phones as we created a call list to respond to.

We are called at 2:00 am by a passerby who sees a vehicle off the road.  We give hours of our time at the scene while we need to be in training at 8am that same morning.  We are called to extricate someone from their vehicle using the equipment on those big red trucks, while our “capes” protect our bodies.

Maybe some don’t think that is enough giving.  Those are minor right?  Those minor things add up.  Our department gives the following on an average  year (these are MINIMUM hours):

Total Volunteer Man Hours (meetings, drills and calls ONLY):  2,300 hours

Average # of Volunteer Man Hours per Active Member (meetings, drills and calls ONLY): 110

# of hours it takes to be granted those “capes” and carry that hose line into a burning home: 168

These hours do not include the numerous training hours we complete each year to be on top of our game.  The best we can be.  These hours only show what we give, on a volunteer basis, to keep our community safe, to protect property and lives.

So…., they’re only hours.  Right?  They are hours spent away from our children.  Those children who look at us with tears in our eyes and ask:  Does Daddy really have to leave for that car accident?  Yes, he does.  Someone needs him.  But Mommy, what about the play we are going to see with our friends?  How will we get there?  Please Mommy?  Does he really have to go?  Can’t he skip just this one call?  Those are the hours that we give.  We give hours of our children’s lives because others need us.  We give hours of our families lives because other’s need us.  We give hours of our own lives to train, to be the best we can possibly be so that when our community needs us we can do our job with professionalism.

That’s a Firefighters perspective.  What about a Fire Wife’s perspective?  My husband took Firefighter I when our twins were 6 months old.  I was single mother of 2 while he trained, studied and attended class.  A single mother of 2 little bodies that could do nothing for themselves.  I was the wife who gave hours of her night when her husband couldn’t sleep because of the visions in his head of that one bad run, that to this day, still lingers in our home.  I was the wife that fought each step of his trip up that ladder to those white helmets because I knew the hours it would take him away from us.  The hours he would spend at the station because he now wore a white hat and all of the responsibility that came along with it.  I’m the wife that takes our kids to functions because those tones went off, just as we were about to walk out the door to go to a birthday party.  I’m that wife that needs to explain to the parents of the other child why we have to leave the party in a rush, because, again, those tones have no sense of timing.  Emergencies occur when they need to, not when it is convenient for us.

So the next time the thought crosses my mind of do we just take, what do we give?  I’ll remind myself, we give our lives.  We volunteer so that others can have heroes.