First Responder Series: Fire
Yesterday we brought you 3 things that your law enforcement first responders wanted you to know. Today, retired Division Chief Will Harrell, from the Columbia Fire Department has 3 things that he wants to tell you from his 26 years’ experience as a fire first responder:
- Like combat veterans, firefighters suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This comes from responding to multiple horrific incidents per year like fires and car accidents. I was a firefighter for 26 years and didn’t notice the evidence of PTSD until after retiring
- One of the most frustrating parts of responding to a call, is the public not knowing how to properly respond to our lights and sirens. If you are driving and you see an emergency vehicle approaching you from any direction, pull to the right and stop to allow the emergency vehicle to maneuver. Once they pass you completely, you may continue driving. Always remember, they could be responding to your house or going to the aid of someone you know.
- Unfortunately, there are many firefighters across the nation that qualify for welfare and other government subsidies because they are grossly underpaid. A major metropolitan fire department in South Carolina starts their firefighters at $28,000 per year with no chance for merit raises and no guarantee for cost of living raises. The only chance for a pay raise is through promotion. They must also work at least 28 years in the retirement system or until 57 years of age to receive half of their pay per year after retirement. Being a firefighter is great and very rewarding, but no one becomes a firefighter for the pay or the benefits.
Firefighters not only put their lives on the line every day, sometimes multiple times a day, but they also do so with a great cost to family and friends. The public often doesn’t understand the sacrifices that we make and the silent battles that we face from experiencing the situations that we do, but hearing thank you and knowing that we saved individuals or even their property from further damage is enough to make us love what we do. Next time you see a fire first responder, remember to tell them thank you and remember to pull over to save them time.