The Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire gained national attention as the largest wildfire in history for the area. News stations nationwide have kept the country up-to-date on the acres burned and estimated losses.
By the time this prints, the fires will probably be contained. The Washington Post will likely not report on any Kansas-related events for months to come. The wildfires will be all but forgotten by most of the country.
The irony of this, is that the very men containing the fires and saving homes are working to keep this event as un-newsworthy as possible. They don’t want us to be able to report deaths, loss of cattle, and millions of burned acres. They are working around the clock to prevent as much damage as they can. They want these fires to gain as little news coverage as possible.
For this, they deserve front page recognition.
I had the honor of interviewing a community of volunteer firefighters from across the country. I asked them to enlighten me on the hardest and most rewarding part of their jobs. These were their answers:
Waking up at 2am to go help someone when you have to be at work at 6. You leave your family during a birthday party for a structure fire, or respond to a call about a heart attack during Christmas. Going to a call on Thanksgiving to a family who just lost a loved one. It’s tough, but I love it.- Aaron
The hardest is going on a call only to find someone you care about. The rewarding part is everything else; being a part of a great crew, and accomplishing what needs to be done.- Mary Ann
My husband and I are both volunteers. We have two small kids. It’s hard getting up in the middle of the night and taking them to our Cheif’s wife so we can respond. We have missed family gatherings, birthday parties, and many other events, but we do it because we love it and want to help our community.- Adriana
There are many things that are hard, including knowing many people on the calls you attend, and not being able to save them all. It’s also hard organizing work, family, and calls and training. But, the benefits are many; satisfaction in serving the community, and pride in the recognition you do get.- Jordie
The hardest part is looking in the eyes of your brother or sister and trying to comfort them as everything they hold dear in life has gone up in smoke, and they pray their family made it out in time. It’s hard knowing you gave your best, but sometimes it’s not good enough. The most rewarding thing is the family you have anywhere in the world just by belonging to the thin red line. And knowing when you see that the life you changed is not only your own, but everyone you have come in contact with. Children have parents because of you. Families can return home. Those are the moments that make this job great.- Cassandra
It’s hard. They are fighting fires with one hand, while the town and the homes are burning, and with the other hand they’re texting their wives and telling them to get out of town. Many lose their own home while trying to save others.- Magdalene
The hardest part is leaving your family, and not knowing if you’re coming back. The rewarding part is knowing that you may be helping someone else see their family again, and they might not have if you hadn’t gone that night.- Robby
The hardest part is not knowing what you’re ever walking into. The most rewarding is seeing lives you’ve saved or comforted after the call is closed.- Ryan
Hardest part is when the whole crew doesn’t return. We all go knowing we may not make it back, and it can happen at any time. The most rewarding part is knowing and feeling the support from anywhere in the world. The brotherhood is one strong community.- Jeff
Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do to save someone/something, no matter how trained, fast, or ready we are. The most rewarding is kids’ reactions when they see me driving the trucks. Pure awe, wonder, and excitement. So yeah, smiles are the most rewarding.- Brian
You wake up at 1am to save someone’s house before work. Walk into a medical call and see a child unresponsive, and doing everything you can, but not being able to save them. Never knowing if this call will be your last. The most rewarding thing is being able to have a relationship with the community you protect. They know if they call, someone will always show up. That is part of what drives a volunteer. It’s not about money or fame, it’s about people.- Cory
The hard part is lack of understanding or respect from the people you bend over backwards trying to serve and protect. You leave your kids birthday party to go to a house fire, and they want to know why you weren’t there sooner. You get to a wreck, and there’s an injured child with two dead parents in the front seat. But, it only becomes hard if you let it. You have to retain compassion.- Terry
We are sometimes called adrenaline junkies, but we are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters that live to help others. When fighting wildfires, we pray for the families, farms, and ranches that are in harm’s way. It could be our place next time.- Rhonda
I live to serve my community.- Tim
The hardest part is leaving my family. The most rewarding is coming home.- Tyler
The hardest are the ones you can’t save.- Tyler
Being in a small town, the hardest is knowing 99.99% of the calls involve people you grew up with.- Todd
These men and women risk their lives to help others. They miss their son’s basketball game, or their daughter’s dance recital to save someone’s home. They drag themselves out of bed at midnight to make sure other people’s families live to see tomorrow.
They give up a part of their life to keep us out of the news.
For that, on behalf of the community, we would like to say Thank You.
*Published in the Minneapolis Messenger of Minneapolis, KS.
(Online newspaper is not available)