By Randy Snyder
The examples of Paying it Forward abound in our area and are my motivation to write my eighth piece as an example of the theme.
For the purpose of this article, I interviewed Gary Wilson, FMFD Chief, Ken Jones, Captain and Linda Samarotta, President of the Ladies auxiliary. The most obvious and common attribute was their dedication and pride!
The Fairfield Mountains Fire Department is not only a premier example of Paying it Forward, but is the personification of quintessential volunteerism. The requirements to become a member and moreover to renew and maintain that certification were a surprise to me and heightened my respect for what these volunteers need to sacrifice in terms of time and dedication.
An excessive amount of training which keeps increasing for EMT qualification is now 200 hours for an EMT and 100 hours for a Medical Responder. The minimum hours for a fireman per year are 36 hours. Of course firemen are expected to respond to fire or medical response calls which total 150 calls in 2014 comprised of 65% fire related calls and 35% medical response calls. The FMFD became qualified as a medical response company two years ago and currently has four EMT’s and eight Medical Responders.
Ken Jones says the biggest challenge is a geographical one due to the thousands of acres and 48 miles of road that surround our area.
FMFD Chief Wilson who founded the department in March of 1981, has 34 years of service. He said that to start the department it took tons of paperwork and recruiting 24 original firemen working with a “loaner” truck from Lake Lure Fire Department and a converted oil tank truck with a first year budget of $10,000! Today the department has 28 members, and according to the chief, the biggest challenge is turnover and recruiting new members. Gary’s pride of his people was evidenced as he wanted me to know that Charles Sullivan has given 22 years of his time, Tony Brodfuhrer over 20 years, Earl Wyss 14 years, Kevin McFarland 19 years and Donnie Samarotta over 10 years! Also he recognized Joe St. Pierre for heading up the medical responders and all the required training.
Linda Samarotta and the Ladies Auxiliary organize and prepare the fund raisers for the FMFD. Currently there are four or five fund raisers that require major amount of time and oft times their own money to make it happen. Additionally the auxiliary prepares the food for the Olympiad, and shows up to feed the firemen when they return from lengthy fire calls.
The auxiliary presently has 25 members with about 15 described as active. Linda urged me to give credit to the original founders of the auxiliary and in her words “deserve all the credit”: Jean Pawelko gets credit for being the founder in synergy with Robbie Reidel, Carla Brodfuhrer and Beth Rose. They started the auxiliary on a mission and did it with their own money!
Along with the inherent things with being a fire department, the FMFD gets involved in a myriad of community activities giving back to the community requiring dedicating hours over and above the call of duty – the very essence of “Paying it Forward!” Some of those activities include:
Free fire truck rides for kids, providing water and security on some holiday celebrations
Replenishing supplies and acting as “helping hands” on nonessential issues
Providing shelter for locals in times of emergencies
Providing transportation for people needing same during those times
Keeping roads open during storms
Captain Wilson vividly described a situation during a blizzard in 1991 causing some residents to be without power for over a week exacerbated by 18 inches of snow requiring some firemen to be on duty for 48 hours straight without a break. A second example he cited was a 2400 acre fire on Young’s Mountain resulting in some firemen working over a week without relief.
The FMFD is funded by Lake Lure (around 75%) the county (around 10%) and fund raisers and donations (around 15%). Of course donations are welcome and anyone can do their share by stopping in at the FMFD and contributing to the department as their financial needs to keep equipment current and running at maximum efficiency is vast and a challenge! You can also support one of their fund raisers enjoying the food offered for a reasonable donation! There is no question of the need for this organization of dedicated volunteers and what they do to protect our community assets and our personal properties. In closing they Pay it Forward in terms of personal time and the things they do for our community! Give them a handshake or “thanks and well done” the next time you see them in action!