Baptized in fire


Messenger Staff

Last Saturday ushered in the first day of spring. While many around the county were taking to the outdoors enjoying the beautiful weather, the men and women of the Flaherty Fire Department were at the Donnie Clark-Don Callecod Training Center behind the Flaherty’s secondary station on US 60, participating in live burn training. For some of the junior firefighters and new recruits, it was an opportunity to be baptized in fire for the first time.

Six firefighters at a time would don air packs and enter a modified semi-trailer with Deputy Chief Todd Vinton. Once inside, the doors were shut and the firefighters sat at one end of the trailer while a fire, reaching temps of 1,000 degrees, raged at the other end. Vinton instructed the firefighters on characteristics of not only the fire, but the smoke as well. In constant radio contact with safety teams outside, Vinton would have one group open doors on the top and side of the trailer, demonstrating various horizontal and vertical venting techniques and their effects on the fire and smoke levels. Another group manned the pump on one of the engines which supplied water inside the trailer for Vinton to use during his instruction.

A lot has changed since I last toured the Flaherty Firehouse 37 years ago as a kindergarten student at Flaherty Elementary School. Back then, they were in the small block building at the end of St. Martin Road where a privately owned mechanic shop now resides. Their fleet consisted of a single engine, a big red box van and maybe one other vehicle. The sign on the front of the building had a Coca-Cola sponsorship on each end, and a siren on the outside of the business was one of the most effective ways to let volunteers in the community know they were needed at the station for a call.

Starting next week, this series will begin showcasing the brave men and women who serve as guardians over our county, often as volunteers, and safeguard us all when tragedy strikes. Starting with the Flaherty Fire Department, we will take a journey around Meade County, opening the doors to fire stations, EMT buildings and police stations that dot our country side and meet the men and women who have dedicated their lives to, as stated in the Flaherty Fire Departments motto, display “the desire to serve, the courage to act, the ability to perform.”

Being a first responder is a thankless job in many ways. Their interactions are usually with individuals having the worst day of their lives. They often find themselves running towards that which has everyone else running away. Many do it out of the goodness of their heart. Nevertheless, it is long past due that these brave men and women were given the credit they are due. Whether it was the interview I did a few months ago about the family who suffered a house fire and had nothing but praise for the response time of the Payneville Fire Department, the interview last year with Meade County Sheriff’s Deputy Scotty Singleton and his deep rooted desire to serve his community, or the story on the terrible wreck a young woman was in last year when her mangled body was cut from her car by the Flaherty Fire Department and her life was miraculously spared in no small part by the efficient, well trained work by first responders, there is a long list of Meade County’s finest—our first responders—shining light on fellow Meade Countians’ darkest moments and sewing a little silver lining into these tragic events.

Only the brave run towards danger when everyone else is fleeing. Meade County is blessed with no shortage of such men and women. Join me next week as we turn the spotlight on those heroes who walk amongst us each and every day and deserve for all of us to see how they shine.

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