A volunteer fire department in a small, isolated community is crucial.
The recent early morning fire on Dec. 27 exemplifies why this is important. A camper trailer–very close to a neighboring house–burst into flames. The quick response saved the house and possibly lives, though, unfortunately the uninhabited RV was destroyed.
Then there was the Fourth of July tragedy in 2009 when a fireworks truck exploded in the village resulting in four deaths and other injuries. The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department was on the scene and helped from making it worse.
While Ocracoke has a new, long-overdue fire station, our fire department always needs new members.
There are many, physically capable islanders who can and should be fire company volunteers–both men and women. Less-experienced volunteers can help get the hoses off the truck, connect them and assist the experienced veterans which is crucial in containing a fire. They can also help with traffic control.
Volunteers also assist paramedics who have determined that a person in a medical emergency needs to have a medevac by helicopter. Volunteers help there by turning on the flood lights at night, opening the gates and assisting the medical crew and with traffic control. OVFD fire trucks respond to every medevac. Medevac work has saved many from serious harm and even death.
Volunteer firefighters must be willing to show up to emergencies–to drop their own work the second their pager goes off–and put in the hours of training so that they can provide the best help possible to the community.
Not all volunteers jump on the fire truck for emergencies. The department needs help in other areas including keeping the station clean and organized, landscaping, helping coordinate the Firemen’s Ball in the spring and the inevitable but necessary paperwork, including grant writing and updating the website.
Being a volunteer firefighter has many personal advantages. It gives one the opportunity to provide important public service, to get training on handling emergencies, and is a means to get to know others who are committed to the community and who have experience they can share with newcomers. Not the least, especially for young people, it looks great on a resume and may impress prospective employers that this is a dedicated and reliable person worth considering hiring.
Ocracoke being Ocracoke, some of the volunteers have work situations that may prevent from assisting when the pager goes off, or they may be off-island, as was the case with many OVFD members on Dec. 27.
Ocracoke has been fortunate that major structure fires are rare, but when there is one, as many hands as can help are needed. The more volunteers there are, the better the chances that catastrophes can be avoided.
An OVFD member is both a highly respected and appreciated member of our community.
We urge those interested to contact the fire department, 252 928-4692.
Meetings are bi-weekly on Thursdays and begin at 7 p.m.
Point of Disclosure: Peter Vankevich is on the editorial board for the Ocracoke Observer and is an Ocracoke volunteer firefighter.