In an era where political divisiveness has reached levels not seen since the Vietnam War, and mass killings and drug addictions seem to indicate a deeply troubled society, good news and hope are hard to come by. However, I recently experienced an event that fundamentally changed my outlook on life and gives me the hope that, at least at the community level, America is still a great country.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 22, I heard the sounds of heavy machinery coming from the front of my house. My surprise at seeing the driveway full of fire trucks quickly escalated to pure terror when I saw the wall of flames spreading over the side of the property and into the woods. Only dedication, professionalism and four hours of hard, physical labor of over four fire departments and 30 men and women were able to contain and extinguish this fire.
Of course, when thanked, the first response was “we were only doing our job.” But what is “the job”? To be available 24/7. to risk life and limb at a moment’s notice, to train unceasingly, to work in a dangerous and unforgiving environment, and to do this all, in most cases, as a volunteer. In a society that lavishes adoration and millions of dollars on Hollywood celebrities and sports figures, it is time to recognize that these local volunteers, our neighbors, are real heroes and are deserving of our utmost respect and support.
I would also like to thank Mr. Richard Tupper of the Ellsworth Fire Department and Mr. Wesley Hatch of the Maine Forest Service for their kindness and compassion in their dealings with me regarding the cause and prevention of fires. I learned that the dumping of ashes, no matter how old, should only be done in a safe area — preferably in a thick bed of gravel from any combustible material — and that the ashes should be thoroughly doused, raked and turned then doused again. All brush (including wood, leaves and dead twigs) should be kept away from structures, creating a fire break. And, most importantly, always check with the local fire department and obtain a permit before any burning. Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the good Samaritan who not only took the time to call in the fire, but put himself in danger by moving a heavy woodsplitter out of the flames, not knowing that it was fully gassed up. His selfless act prevented a catastrophic explosion and possible loss of two structures, one of which was my home.
In conclusion, the rapid response of the local fire departments and the altruistic act of a person totally unknown to me (still) not only saved my property, but rekindled my faith in America, and especially my community.
John J. Donaghy