A message that hit home
I commend Chief Brian Berry on his article “The ‘Fire’ You Are Unaware Of” (Volunteers Corner, Fire Engineering, September 2019). To be honest and discuss a very personal issue that has affected many in the volunteer fire service for years is refreshing. The old term used was “firehouse widow” when I started in the fire service more than 30 years ago. I did witness more than one marriage that did not make it, and a large reason could have been the second house. While the firehouse might not have been the sole or main reason for the marriage issues, it can be a root cause or the place to hide from the problems.
We can get so wrapped up in the day-to-day duties of the firehouse that we forget that it was not just “me” who signed the application, but my entire family—current and future. Between all the meetings, drills, alarms, and administrative duties, being a volunteer firefighter is a second full-time job with no pay, crappy hours, and all the stress of seeing people on the worst day of their lives.
It took me many years to understand that there are times when you do not need to go when the pager goes off. The automatic alarm 15 minutes before the parent-teacher meeting or heading to the lacrosse game or a Scout trip can and should take priority at times. It must be balanced with the all-hands alarms and the routine.
We all must think of ways to first protect our home lives. Date nights, quiet time alone, family nights/dinner—the list can go on—can help us ensure that our family does not become the “widow.”
The volunteer fire service must start to think of ways to address the issues of time to allow the volunteers to continue to give to their communities without sacrificing their families and careers. If we can adjust to the changed times, we will continue.
Past Chief, Engine Co. #2
Winona Lake (NY) Fire Department