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  Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

Monday, 17 December, 2018
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Yeah Baby

Date: 15 May, 2009

By: Chief

Imagend with deepest appreciation a heart felt THANK YOU to the men and women of the:

For extinguishing a really nasty, fast moving, wind driven brush fire on the 27th of April, 2009.

Their:

saved our home, several other homes and quite possibly our lives as well.

Their exceptional performance of duty during an emergency reflect great credit upon themselves, their departments, and are in keeping with the highest traditions of service with honor.

Well done!

Those of you who have never been involved in a fire of any sort — count your blessings. Let me tell you something: when you see the flames of a wild fire heading toward your home and devouring everything in its path there is no more of a feeling of absolute powerlessness in the entire world. There is nothing you can do to stop it (you will have better luck trying to control an earthquake). All you can do is grab your very important stuff, get out of the way, cross your fingers and hope.

Additionally, there is an instant feeling of just how utterly insignificant, as a species and as an individual, we really are in the grand scheme of things. While we may think we are big and bad and at the top of the evolutionary ladder — once a dose of reality, such as a fire, gives you a mental slap in the face you realize just how insignificant and powerless the human race really is on this tiny, backwater border town of a planet.

However, we were lucky. We hit the jackpot. Had the fire occurred the day before — well I probably would not be typing this story. The wind the day before was pushing gusts over 40 miles per hour and shifting direction every few minutes. We would have been screwed. Yeah, on the day of the fire there was wind, but it was from a constant direction (southerly) and at about 10 miles per hour. Still and all, it took firemen and equipment from five different fire departments several hours to contain the blaze and fully put it out. Nonetheless, the fire consumed somewhere between 25 - 40 acres. Like I said — we were lucky.

By far and away the single most important feature of that fateful day was no one was injured. Not one single, solitary soul. Fireman or citizen. Nobody was hurt. It doesn't — truly, it can't — get any better than that.

Did you notice anything about the responding fire departments? All but one are manned by volunteers. As most of New Mexico is rural the vast, and I do mean vast, majority of our fire departments are volunteer. That is just the way it is. Towns and villages just do not have the money to fund full time, paid fire departments. Additionally, New Mexico is anything but a wealthy state (though "fourth world country" does come to mind).

Now here is the kicker — as most of the firemen who battled this blaze are volunteers these same folks also have jobs. They work. Most also have families. Hence when a call comes in these people, indeed these wonderful, selfless people, must leave their jobs — their income — their families and race like mad to their various fire stations, suit up and head for the fire. Some head straight for the scene. While all this is happening the fire grows and consumes more and more. Hey, that is just the name of that tune and you deal with it as best you can.

The big deal here is these volunteers who literally 'put it on the line' each and every time they are called to fight a fire are just that — volunteers. In other words they are not paid. What is ludicrous is they are not even reimbursed for their:

And to me, friends and neighbors, that is just plain, flat-out wrong.

There needs to be, I think, a mechanism of some sort, possibly legislation though I hope not, which could or would fund reimbursement for these folks. I did not say salary or anything of the sort. Just simple reimbursement for lost wages and fuel. The volunteers are eligible for retirement under the New Mexico Volunteer Firefighters Retirement Act (VFRA) which you can read here. Or, you can take my word for it when I say — it ain't much at all.

We the People owe them that much at the very least. Truthfully, we owe them far more than we can ever pay. Just ask any property owner who's property was involved in a fire.

You know something? These firemen don't ask for anything. They are truly incredible. "That is what we are here for" you shall hear them say. I did hear those exact words, time and time again that day. Amazing. Simply amazing.

As you can plainly tell I have not spoken about the paid firemen who were here, standing shoulder to shoulder with the volunteers, battling the fire. It is not in any way a slight on them or their performance. None whatsoever. But there is a difference — a monetary difference to be sure. The paid firemen, like their volunteer counterparts, sailed their fire fighting brush trucks directly into harm's way in order save to homes, lives and property. Our home and my wife's and my life for starters.

So what can We the People do to ensure our volunteer firemen are reimbursed for lost wages and fuel costs without going to our state legislators (legislation is the very last resort, a kind of a bottom of the barrel solution)? I'm not sure. I do not know. But I do know this — those volunteer firemen saved our bacon and the bacon of many, many other citizens over the years and not only in our area. They have been called to fight fires as far away as Texas. More over they shall continue to do it — to put their 'bacon' on the line each time the alarm is sounded, no matter where the fire is. It is the way they are.

Some one out there has the answer and I am going to start searching for the answer. It may take time but the answer is out there — we just have to find it.

In the mean time to all you firemen — we wish you all the best of luck, calm winds and safe passage throughout your voyage of life.

Oh, a couple of things before I forget — the cause of the fire was a single spark from a welder welding up holding pens and gates about three fourths of a mile east of us. Hey, it happens. And the second thing is — here are a very few images for your viewing pleasure.

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