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May 3rd, 2013

Sometimes They Die

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            I try never to write two serious columns in a row – this is supposed to be, after all, a humor column. After last week’s diatribe about terrorism, I wanted to get back on the humor horse.

            But I was hamstrung by the fact that this column lands just days before the 125th anniversary of my fire department’s organization. Marking that meant being funny about something specific, something not intrinsically funny, and something I already wrote about just weeks previously. I was leaning toward ignoring the anniversary in favor of writing about it at a time closer to our official celebration, on July 20th.

            Then ten of my brother firefighters died in one horrible explosion, at a fire in a Texas fertilizer company.

            It was hard not to think about firefighters after that. It was impossible to be funny.

            Explosions are nothing new to firefighters. When Albion passed an ordinance establishing a fire department on May 4th, 1888, the Town Board included provisions for hazardous material safety. Back then Haz Mat included such things as gasoline and turpentine, which were limited to no more than 5 forty gallon barrels in one place, and gunpowder, which had to be kept to less than two 25 pound canisters. Putting too much bad stuff together was seen as a very bad thing.

            We’ve seen that.

            The little town in Texas where that explosion happened isn’t all that different from the small towns up here. West is only slightly larger than Albion, or Churubusco, or Huntertown. We’re not talking about some kind of outlandish, rare incident that “could never happen here”. We’re talking about the materials typically used in producing the food we eat.

            Sure it could happen here, where we’re served by volunteer fire departments just as they are.           

Volunteering to fight fires is insane. Doing it for pay isn’t much saner. Being “compensated”, as many volunteers do, only means you get enough money to pay for your fuel and wash the smoke out of your clothes, but not enough to make up for missing meals, sleep, or work. It’s nuts, and it’s way more dangerous than most of us will admit.Collapse )

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Sometimes They die

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


I try never to write two serious columns in a row – this is supposed to be, after all, a humor column. After last week’s diatribe about terrorism, I wanted to get back on the humor horse.

But I was hamstrung by the fact that this column lands just days before the 125th anniversary of my fire department’s organization. Marking that meant being funny about something specific, something not intrinsically funny, and something I already wrote about just weeks previously. I was leaning toward ignoring the anniversary in favor of writing about it at a time closer to our official celebration, on July 20th.

Then ten of my brother firefighters died in one horrible explosion, at a fire in a Texas fertilizer company.

It was hard not to think about firefighters after that. It was impossible to be funny.

Explosions are nothing new to firefighters. When Albion passed an ordinance establishing a fire department on May 4th, 1888, the Town Board included provisions for hazardous material safety. Back then Haz Mat included such things as gasoline and turpentine, which were limited to no more than 5 forty gallon barrels in one place, and gunpowder, which had to be kept to less than two 25 pound canisters. Putting too much bad stuff together was seen as a very bad thing.

We’ve seen that.

The little town in Texas where that explosion happened isn’t all that different from the small towns up here. West is only slightly larger than Albion, or Churubusco, or Huntertown. We’re not talking about some kind of outlandish, rare incident that “could never happen here”. We’re talking about the materials typically used in producing the food we eat.

Sure it could happen here, where we’re served by volunteer fire departments just as they are.

Volunteering to fight fires is insane. Doing it for pay isn’t much saner. Being “compensated”, as many volunteers do, only means you get enough money to pay for your fuel and wash the smoke out of your clothes, but not enough to make up for missing meals, sleep, or work. It’s nuts, and it’s way more dangerous than most of us will admit.Collapse )

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