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Today's word on journalism

Friday, January 20, 2006

Variations on "truthiness":

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

-- Mark Twain, author, newspaperman and humorist (1835-1910)

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Paradise firefighters sound an alarm for more help

By Jen Beasley

December 2, 2005 | PARADISE -- If you're "warm and breathing," Troy Frederickson wants you. The chief of the volunteer fire department said more firefighters are needed on the force, especially for the day shift.

The department currently has 13 firefighters, but only two are available to respond to calls during the day because most of the volunteers leave town to go to work. The problem is neither new nor unique to Paradise, Fredrickson said.

"Volunteerism is dead in America today as we know it," Fredrickson said. "I think we're in a stage where we go to work, get stressed out, it's a high-paced world, you go home, hit your garage door opener in your SUV and shut the world out."

Frederickson, who has been with the department since 1984, said he enjoys volunteering but has not been as successful as he'd like stirring up support in the community. Two years ago he said the department sent out fliers to every household in the fire district asking for volunteers.

"Out of the 750 fliers we had one person respond, and you know where that person lived? Wellsville!" Fredrickson said. Ironic, he said, because Wellsville has its own volunteer fire department.

Frederickson said they require volunteers to pass Firefighter 1, a class at the Bridgerland Applied Technology Center, for their first year with the department. He said the department pays the fees for the class, and requires a two-year commitment.

Firefighters speculated that there are many reasons why people may be reluctant to volunteer.

"Some people, it's just not their ball of wax," said firefighter Blake Pulsipher. "Most people run out of the fire, we're running in. But if we weren't firemen we'd be pyromaniacs."

Fireman Jeremy Otero agreed. "Every fireman has a little pyromaniac in him."

Emergency Medical Service Director Peggy Nath said volunteers may get excited with their training, and then feel like they don't get to use it much.

"We're not a very active department as far as calls and stuff, and they kind of go by the wayside," Nath said. The department has had 30 medical and 10 fire calls this year.

The time commitment is great, said Fredrickson, because there are separate meetings for HAZMAT and Emergency Medical Service training, as well as weekly training meetings.

"Not only are you dealing with this stuff, now your wife is ready to send your bags to the fire department," Fredrickson said. "It takes a special kind of person, I guess, with a commitment and desire to serve your fellow man and community, to stay with the department."

But when asked what kept them going, the firefighters were a flurry of excitement, talking over each other listing the reasons.

"It's fun, it's a rush," said Spencer Winn.

"Every fire is a new challenge," said Tip Tibke. "Every one's different."

"When that pager goes off..." Otero said

"...You stand up without even bending at the waist!" finished Fredrickson.

Fredrickson said for those who aren't lured by the excitement, volunteering doesn't have to be limited to -- or even include -- fighting fires.

"If somebody comes in and says, 'I don't really care to run in a burning building or be knee deep in blood and guts at a car wreck, but I'm willing to take over the fundraiser,' we'd have a job for you," Fredrickson said.

Tibke, who said he has sometimes spent two days just sorting through fire department grants on the Internet, said someone volunteering to apply for grants would be a great help. He said the costs of running a fire department increase every year with equipment maintenance and continuing training. The department would also like a new fire station, but needs grant money in order to build it.

"We've got three vehicles we can't fit in now," Tibke said. "And we are sitting on an earthquake fault, and this building is going to fall down."

"You can look out here on the building and see where bricks have fallen off," Otero said.

"The joke is when there's a big earthquake, everyone's going to have to come on down here and help clear the bricks off the fire trucks!" Fredrickson said.

Anyone interested in volunteering in any way should contact the department.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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