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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roanoke's Finest

The alarm sounds. Conversation abruptly ceases. A scramble ensues. Controlled mayhem. Followed closely on by disciplined, practiced, unhesitating, focused preparation.

Preparing to do what they do best. What they're trained to do. What's expected of them. What they demand of themselves. Roanoke's finest.

Lives are at stake. In every case. On every run. Civilians' lives most importantly. Firefighters' lives always.

Not to mention exhaustion. Dehydration. The potential for smoke inhalation. Injury. Worse.

Every day.

It comes with the territory. It's all part of a firefighter's accepted job duties and responsibilities: Be prepared to save lives and in the attempt, be prepared to risk your own. While most of us complain if the company coffee maker is broken or the wastepaper basket wasn't emptied overnight, firefighters hope their oxygen masks don't fail them. We want our work environment to be comfortable, air conditioned, and brightly lit. Firefighters hope theirs doesn't include combustible materials or explosives or toxic chemicals. Projectiles. A good day for most of us is one in which the boss doesn't give us a whole lot to do. For a firefighter, it's being able to go home at the end of the day. To be able to spend time with the children. To look in their little eyes and resolve to never let them know of or to witness the horrific sights they've seen. The anguish. The grief. The heartbreak. The mangled bodies.

On this particular day, a fire erupted in a maintenance garage when a can full of gasoline ignited and set a bus on fire. When the fire department arrived, smoke was pouring from the windows and doors.

I've been witness to some building fires in the past. I remember one in particular, many years ago, that engulfed a faculty office building at the university I was attending. It was very cool. Exciting. Fun.

But I could stand at a distance with my classmates and watch the drama from afar. The smoke billowing up. The flames shooting through the roof.

I could stand by and take pictures of the raging inferno. Firefighters are trained to run into its midst. Selflessly. Without hesitation. Without regard to the many hazards in store. Lives deemed more important than their own - somehow - are at stake. They act.

I'm not sure I'm capable of such things. I doubt that most of us are. Sure, we all dream of performing an heroic act. Of saving a life. Of dragging the unconscious victim of that car wreck to safety. And of living to tell the tale on Larry King Live.

These guys risk everything every day. And Larry King pays no notice. But they do it anyway. With pride. Determination. It's a calling.

They deserve our everlasting and heartfelt thanks for being there and for protecting our loved ones - our children and grandchildren - from harm.

The firefighter, by the way, pictured above with axe in hand heading into the flames is my son, Jarrod Fuhrman, Station # 3, Roanoke Fire/EMS.

Photos courtesy of Lt. Rhett Fleitz, Roanoke Fire/EMS & Roanoke Firefighters
Click on images to enlarge.