While we were at the beach I spent a great deal of time working on my new Moonlight Harbor series, which will be set in a small beach town on the Washington coast. (Gee, I wonder where I got that idea.) I had a chance to visit our local fire department and take a tour. Lt. Corey Kuhl was a great tour guide and filled me in on the life of a fireman.
We all love our firemen, of course, but I came away with new respect after hearing the many dangers they face. Including the risk of cancer from all those carcinogens that erupt right along with the flame. They soak right into the skin, so a fireman is risking death in more than one way when he rushes in to save your burning house. Thankfully, our little fire department has invested in a detox booth, which looks like a sauna, that will enable the firemen to get rid of those toxins they've picked up. After a fire they spend thirty minutes in the booth before showering, and their gear goes in a special washing machine for bio hazards and carcinogens. After that it's put into a special drying cabinet.
The men take their job seriously, and are proud of their new fire station. They did the work on the cabinets and decorations themselves, and I loved the flag they'd hung, which was made from old fire hoses. Their workout room is still a work in progress (pardon the pun), and is a testament to how seriously these men take staying in shape. With all the heavy equipment they have to strap on their backs it's no wonder. The station's six bays are filled with an impressive array of vehicles - fire engines, a ladder truck, aid car, a rescue boat and a surf rescue jeep. And something that looks like a Hummer for Godzilla to drive called The Hulk. The thing is huge, and is taken out if there's a fire on the dunes.
Our fire department, probably like many in isolated towns across the country, could use more help, but it's hard to get volunteers at the edge of the world, especially when, these days, volunteers need to take almost as much training as the professionals. Still, they appreciate volunteer help for events they put on for the community (yes firemen believe in being involved with the people they serve), so if you're looking for a place to volunteer you might consider contacting your local fire department.
As for calling 911, I learned that, when small communities are sharing medics and hospitals are forty minutes away, it may take a while before help arrives. Understaffed fire departments do their best, but truly, if you want to make sure those emergency services are there when you need them, make sure you vote yes on propositions that benefit your local fire department. The one who will benefit the most is you! After talking to Lt. Kuhl I'll be voting for any proposition that favors our beach town's fire department, that's for sure.