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Volunteer firefighters come to the rescuePosted Friday, May 1, 2009, at 11:07 PM
Too many times we take for granted the work of our faithful public servants like volunteer firefighters until they are really needed.
I experienced the key and essential job our volunteer fighters do on Sunday afternoon in a remote, wooded area of Highland Township.
It was not by choice that I had to call on the service and firefighting skills of those dedicated members of the Highland Township Volunteer Fire Department.
Call it stroke of bad luck, mixed with a healthy dose of hard-headed German temperament and more than a spoonful of male stupidity.
That combination at the start of a would-be relaxing afternoon of fishing with my family and some friends at a beautiful pond turned the day into a virtual nightmare.
Not wanting to hike around to the "backside" of the small lake, in my wisdom I decided to drive my 2001 Dodge Caravan to my selected fishing spot.
The drive was discouraged by other family members -- especially after my son-in-law got his pick-up truck mired in mud a few minutes before I made my last, short excursion in my dark blue-colored van.
But being head-strong and determined, I decided to try and drive through what looked like a perfectly dry grass-covered path.
That was my first mistake that led to worse things very quickly.
I got stuck a few feet from my son-in-law's truck.
It didn't appear really bad -- at least that was my initial thought.
I summoned the strong backs of several of the younger guys with us for a couple of pushes. I just knew the van would be easily extracted from the muddy rut.
We tried several times and the thing wouldn't budge enough to let me drive it out.
Then the macho kicked in and stupidity was close behind.
I decided to give it one more try -- rocking back and forth -- putting it from drive to reverse -- like I had done before when hung up in a small snow drift.
Guess what? Getting out of a mud rut is different than snow -- especially when there is a crop of grass under the vehicle.
During the rocking process, the catalytic converter apparently overheated -- igniting the dry grass sticking out of the mud rut.
And the rest is history.
Smoke was visible from underneath, then flames were seen out both of my van windows.
The ground under the van was on fire.
I bailed out, grabbed the grandbabies car seats, and my camera bag and called for some help.
The family and friends started running, grabbing a bucket and an empty cooler and began bailing water from the nearby pond and sloshing it over a piece of plywood under the van in an effort to extinguish the growing fire.
It looked like we were making progress, but a stubborn spot just wouldn't go out.
The Greene County Sheriff's Department was then reached by cell phone after several unsuccessful tries because of the lack of signal and the fire department was dispatched.
The flames quickly grew in intensity and soon the van was consumed.
The fire department really made a quick response -- about 30 minutes from the time they were dispatched. That's a long time when you are watching your van burn, but I realize the men and women are volunteers and were probably spending some time with their own families on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
We were all so thankful to see the fire tanker trucks roll down the county road toward our location. They arrived on the scene just in time to save a log cabin on the property from any damage.
I can't say enough good about this particular group of firefighters. They reacted quickly and professionally and did a good job of assuring all of us that it was going to be OK.
I want to personally thank every one of them. My van was lost but nobody was hurt and the cabin was saved. That's the good news of this unfortunate story.
Thank you to my son-in-law and friends who fought fearlessly with blankets, quilts and a small water hose to keep the fire from spreading too far until the firefighters arrived.
I salute and sincerely thank chief Jim Abrams as well as firefighters Ty Byers, Scott Byers, Courtney Hasler, Cindy Wilkerson, Larry Michael, Brad King, Homer Abrams, and Mike Bolten.
Assistant Chief Ed Michael also provided me with the necessary state forms I need for insurance purposes.
Seeing them in action reminded me of a quote about volunteers that I heard long ago.
I don't know the source of it, but it makes a lot of sense to me since last Sunday's incident.
It reads: "Volunteers are seldom paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are PRICELESS."
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