While I was at work, my phone sounded. The message was one that I had never seen before. It indicated that someone had used the cell phone belonging to my teenage son to call 911. All types of scenarios began to swirl through my thoughts. Had he and my wife been involved in an accident? Did something happen at his school? I called his number and his response was, “Dad our house is on fire.” He had indicated that he and my wife were okay, and that the fire department had been called. I walked (with gusto) past the meeting that I was supposed to be attending and explained, “My house is on fire, gotta go”.
During the trip home I probably exceeded a few speed limits and kept trying to make contact with my family. After a few attempts, I finally got to speak with my wife, “The fire department is here and putting out the fire. Something happened in the garage.” After verifying that she and my son were well, I tried to triage the situation through questions. The available information was limited.
As I pulled into our drive, I had to circumvent three large fire engines representing the county. Spencer, Cedar Grove, and Fall Creek Falls were lined up to provide additional resources. As I drove down our rather long drive I closed in on a scene no one wants to see; a small legion of firefighters from Piney and other departments had joined with EMS personnel surrounding your home. Hoses had been engaged and I could smell the distinct odor of burning plastic. I could see my son and wife, and mentally inventoried the canine members of our family who often times rest in the garage. At this time, our four dogs were overjoyed that we had so many visitors and wanted to play. I had to warn the crews not to put their leather gloves on the ground. One already had, and within seconds our shih tzu thought she had scored a new chew toy. (I have had to replace may leather work gloves through the years.)
As I walked up to the main focus, I could see a charred pile of our belongings on the drive, the garage door was melted, and the once grey garage was a solid color of charcoal. I was greeted by the members of the various fire teams that had responded to the call. I knew probably 80% of the faces that I saw fully geared to protect my home and family. I had interacted with most through community events, and working in the emergency room. They explained the basics of what had happened, and told me what to watch for. “If you need us again, don’t hesitate to call,” were the departing words of the on-scene commander from Piney FD, Brian Bricker. His words were imbedded with genuine concern for the losses experienced by of one of his neighbors. As the crews packed up their equipment and left, my wife shared how impressed she was with the response and professionalism of everyone who came.
A lot of people focus on what Van Buren County doesn’t have, but I have to shine the spotlight on an asset that is so often taken for granted; our volunteer Fire Departments. I have been privilege to observe these men and women, and observe their dedication. It’s not for the money or glory, but for purpose; protecting our friends and neighbors.
With that said, ALL departments in our area are in need. Equipment needs to be purchased, repaired, or replaced. Most people don’t know that some departments dig into their own personal pockets to purchase fuel to respond to calls. Some crews are dwindling due to retiring volunteers. They are in need of men and women who are willing to stand up and train to protect their neighbors. If you think that you have what it takes, contact Tiwanna Bricker at 931-510-2859 to learn more.
If you see a fundraiser for the departments, help however you can. These groups must prosper. Our losses can be replaced, it was contained. Without the response we could have lost all of our precious memories and, tonight, my family and I would be homeless. We are blessed.