Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Forest For The Trees. . .

A week or so ago I posted about an accident that occurred while some old Fire Department friends of mine were fighting a house fire.

Since then I’ve spoken several times with folks still there and trying to keep up with how everyone is doing. Fortunately, they’re all recovering, slowly, but recovering.

Among the things that have struck me is how Jack Cottet has really been struggling with this. I fully understand why, it’s in his nature. He’s so concerned, about the crew, all the time, that an incident like this just rocks his core.

You see, the thing is, I don’t think Jack really understands how instrumental a role he played in saving the lives of each of the firefighters injured that day. Now I, and I’m sure he as well, know he didn’t do it all by himself. The fact remains however, Jack was the catalyst, the activator, the spokesperson for the revolution.

What revolution?

A revolution in how Volunteer Fire Departments are run, the equipment used, the funding obtained and how it’s obtained, the training, in short, everything.

This guy was the ‘go to guy’ for the leaders in most, if not all of the neighboring departments. He always had time, made time to share what he knew. You see firefighting was not only a volunteer activity for Jack, it was also his career. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t know exactly what Jack did for a living, as it never really came up.

I know he worked for a large insurance company and that he also set up internal fire departments for companies like Miller Brewing. Other than that, I really don’t know.

I do know he brought innovative techniques for supplying water at rural fire scenes. Ran seminars that dispelled long held myths about how equipment could, and would work. He also helped many departments understand what was required to get their department, and it’s funding, into the town budgeting process.

One of the more important things he did, in my mind, was to push relentlessly for and getting, gear for his crews that rivaled that of any paid department.

He was so convincing that when I initially signed on with North Bay, I went out and purchased my own gear as there wasn’t money in North Bay’s budget for it. Today I’d expect that there’s an actual budget item for gear, and gear replacement in that budget.

The point here is that has he not been there, those firefighters that were injured, most certainly would have been more seriously injured, or worse, killed.

I got an update on John Hinds a day or so ago, and in that conversation a couple of things were said, that reminded me of why I still hold all of these folks in such high regard.

John is burning up his vacation time as he recovers, and knows he’ll use it all, and most of his ‘sick time’ from work as well before he’s able to return to work. You need to remember, these guys are all volunteers, they have regular jobs to pay the bills, they fight fires for their neighbors, for free.

John was quoted as saying two things that really stood out to me.

“It could be worse; my wife could be looking at an empty chair”

And…

“We’ve never been beat, set back a little, but it’s never beat us.”

The “it” he’s talking about, is fire. Even now, as he endures daily bandage changing on the burns, he’s still not beat.

There’s a lesson in here folks. One man can make a difference, a real difference, in the lives of other people. If he manages to gather a couple of other ‘revolutionaries’ he can change entire communities.

I remain honored, to know, and have worked with, these men.

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3 comments:

Steve said...

i can see that you have a great site.... do you like to do Link exchange with my blog let me know by mail honeyfam02@gmail.com thanx in advance if you agree we should do both. mine http://english-premier.blogspot.com
and there is also http://celeb-buzz.blogspot.com u can exchange any one u like byee..

Beth said...

Wow, Bill, I'd be honored as well!

Bill said...

Hanif - Thanks, I'm glad you like the site.

Beth - Thanks, they are a great bunch!