The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 26, 2013

Our Readers Speak - Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013


Vote yes to help Greenbrier firefighters

My bowed head as I pause at the monument to Greg Carter at Cornerstone IGA is out of respect, and to scrunch my eyes to hold back tears.

Greg was a volunteer firefighter who died fighting a fire. When a speaking engagement took me to Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., I wept also at Greg’s name on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

I remember, too, other volunteer firefighters who have suffered serious injury, like Lewisburg’s John Gherman. Firefighters risk injuries, indeed, their lives, to save ours.

All except four of Greenbrier County’s firefighters are volunteers. While we are enjoying our leisure, they are training to come to our aid. While we sleep soundly, they rush to disasters. And they do it for no pay.

They even hold fundraisers and write grants to buy their own equipment.

Now they ask us to support them by passing the March 2 fire levy. I will, and I urge every Greenbrier County citizen to vote YES.

Like many of the county’s 15 fire departments, Rainelle’s firefighters were on duty every hour of last summer’s power outage. Around the clock. All week. “They’re the best,” Rainelle Mayor Andrea J. Pendleton said.

Rainelle’s 22 volunteers are always on call, day and night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to serve the 1,500 citizens of the Town of Rainelle and about 6,500 people living in an area of 110 square miles in Greenbrier and Fayette counties.

What would you pay someone to risk their life trying to save your burning home or business or church or woodlands? What is it worth for Clintonville firefighters to use the Jaws of Life to pull you from a wrecked car on that lonely stretch of I-64 in western Greenbrier County? Or for the Rainelle Fire Department to rush to clean up hazardous chemicals? Priceless.

Yet it is possible to calculate the value of the volunteer fire departments. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) formula calculates the Rainelle Fire Department’s 5,000 hours of service in 2011 at $1,616,000, with each of Rainelle’s firefighters saving the community $16,160. The NVFC appraisal of services rendered each year by all 15 fire departments is surely in the $25 million to $35 million range. The $1.6 million in the levy call is a bargain.

Are the firefighters asking for too much money? I don’t know. But if they are willing to lay down their lives for me, I trust them to know how much money they need. Vote YES on the fire levy.

Joan C. Browning

Organ Cave