If you, our reader, has been in the fire service for a year or so, or more, you have probably seen spectator problems, especially with "rubber-necking" on highway or roadway accidents. On our roads, these deliberate slow-downs often impede our ability to arrive on scene and even perform the necessary tasks to provide the necessary assistance. Add to that the rude replies we receive from numerous drivers and passengers when we politely ask them to, "keep moving," or we divert them with a detour...well you know what I mean.
Now some of you may think that this attitude is a more recent occurrence due to our society's devolving into the "Me," attitude of today, but you would be wrong. It was 1977 and I had just joined a combo department, just outside Greensboro NC. A section of I-40 cut right through our southern district and, it was an MVC on that highway, that was one of the first calls I was qualified to respond on.
Luckily, we were responding from the station before the dispatcher even finished announcing the call and the highway was just over a mile down the street from our station. Luckily the two or three involved vehicles were already in the "breakdown lane." Upon arrival in our Squad, my friend and I were detailed to traffic control on I-40. We were wearing orange vests and carried orange directional wands. The Captain and Chief met us and advised us what they needed us to do, namely, keep the traffic moving, slowly and safely past the accident scene.
"How difficult could that be?" we naively thought!
It probably took less than five minutes before I was reprimanded by a driver for "upsetting" his travel plans! I was trying to be very polite and explained the issue; over and over again. No matter what I said, he had already vilified me for upsetting his family's plan to go wherever they were going. And I wasn't alone. He and others like him that afternoon, blamed every difficulty they had ever experienced, as well as the world's geo-political problems on our fire department!
Now, nearly 45 years later, one might believe that our society world have evolved since then, right? Wrong! Take a look at social and news media reports of a major, five-alarm fire in Lawrence MA, last night. Lawrence is a mid-sized city, a northwestern suburb of Boston. This morning, I have read or watched multiple articles and videos about how uncooperative people were during this major catastrophe.
Even after being advised not to cross fire-tape, come to the neighborhood, etc., dozens of folks decided it was better to watch a major fire that was impacting their own neighbors, then to stay at home. There were multiple reports that the crowds were not allowing needed fire apparatus to get to the scene or their staging assignments. People thought of the tragedy as entertainment and decided to sit or stand and watch from the viewpoint that would best suit them, not our brave Brothers and Sisters, who were contending with active fire in four major structures, cold temperatures and winds gusting to over 25 MPH.
I have no doubt whatsoever that the Lawrence Police Department, as well as neighboring agencies and the Mass State Police did everything within reason to keep onlookers our of the way of the numerous fire services. Nevertheless, the truth comes out and we can only imagine how difficult that situation was last evening and for the rest of us, as well.
There is nothing to be gained by being a "rubber-necker" or an uninvited and unwanted spectator at the scene of a major emergency. I know I often wondered, when I got some "lip" from a driver or spectator, how he or she would have felt if it was their emergency and all these people showed up and got in the way of the emergency service people attempting to mitigate their emergency.
Listen, if we're some of the first on scene before the local fire, EMS or law enforcement teams show up, we know that we'll render aid; that's who we are and what we do. But when a major portion of your neighborhood is burning down and brave men and women are risking their lives to mitigate the emergency, please help us and STAY the F**K away from us! We're NOT the new feature at your neighborhood "drive-in!"
STAY SAFE & STAY WELL!
Fulfilling Our Mission
As many of you know, our new nonprofit is dedicated to one goal, namely to help our Brothers and Sisters in need. And of course, that includes their families, where appropriate. As we peruse the social media platforms, we see all sorts of pitches for money. And as we are all aware, this is a very difficult time to solicit funds for a nonprofit enterprise.
Moreover, both our goal, as mentioned above and our motto, "One Family - One Mission - First Responders Helping Each Other," take us on a difficult path. For we reach out when circumstances are tragic and dismal; when something terrible has occurred. While many of us, while serving as firefighters, paramedics, EMT's and LEO's have faced on calls, only a small percentage of us have personally dealt with the aftermath.
My extensive experience in Jewish ritual provided me with many occurrences dealing with families after the loss of a loved one or a family tragedy of other sorts. I have counseled families at the time of loss, officiated at funerals and unveilings of headstones, as well as subsequently, helping them during their mourning period. As it turned out, being a volunteer firefighter at the same time as working in Jewish ritual, provided me with the experience needed on both sides of this "coin."
Nevertheless, together with the two members of our Board of Directors, Battalion Chief Andrew Starnes and, Firefighter & Editor of "The Firehouse Tribune," Nic Higgins, we chose our purpose and have worked hard to fulfill our mission. As of today, April 2, 2021, we have donated $1,700 to firefighters and/or their families, as well as several volunteer departments, who have faced tragedy or other loss.
There will be more to come. We know that and you know that. For us to be able to continue our mission, we need your help! As stated above, we know this is a difficult time for most of us. We are all too aware of the price that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken on all of us. Sure, slowly but surely, life is beginning to improve, but we are certainly not back to normal.
That means though, that we area all on an "unbalanced" scale. We are mentally, emotionally and financially impacted by the current state of affairs yet we, as first responders, know that we never know what today or tomorrow may bring!
We are not asking you to donate beyond your means! And we never will! Our new donation processing allows you to contribute just one time, monthly or yearly. And, you can use a credit/debit card, a check or an ACH payment; whichever is in your best interests! For example, a $5.00 donation per month would equal a $60.00 annual contribution. Moreover, since we are a certified non-profit, your donation(s) may be tax deductible. (Please check with your tax advisor!) Thus, not only do you help us to help first responder families, but you may be helping yourself financially.
No one knows when the next emergency or tragedy may occur. However, we do know that the team here at 5-Alarm Task Force Corp., is dedicated to helping our "family" if and when, it does occur. Please join us in our efforts. Please visit our website at https://www.5-alarmtaskforcecorp.org and select the DONATE button on the top menu.
Thank you and may God bless you and yours and keep you safe and well.
Founder & President of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp. and Creator & Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.