Firefighters: Appreciating their service starts at home

When a fire shuts down traffic, we often have to walk across the street or drive around the block.

Meanwhile, the firefighters have to step over an obstacle or work around a hazard.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in Thursday’s destructive mobile home fire on Cascade (details on page A1). For hours, the thoroughfare was closed as firefighters needed room to operate and keep the public safe.

In addition to the smoke, flames and ever-present danger of explosion or fall, the firefighters had to deal with what was piled up around the house — jumbled debris, including a propane tank.

This is hardly unique; at past fires, everything from junked cars to kids’ toys have added to the hazards that volunteer and paid firefighters contend with when they answer a fire call.

These things add to our great respect for the men and women who don the “turnouts” and put their lives on the line whenever they respond to a fire, crash or other emergency.

They aid themselves through regular training and drills, and this week the Hood River fire crew also started a holistic nutrition class with the help of a local physicians clinic, as a way to improve their general fitness.

In 2007 the Oregon Legislature passed Joint Resolution 25 establishing Jan. 27 as Fire Service Appreciation Day in Oregon.

That date passed with little fanfare, other than that nutrition class in the recently expanded Ty Taylor Fire Station.

The declaration’s “whereas” list includes ... “the fire service members of Oregon have continuously supported efforts to elevate the standards and training of firefighters and have been instrumental in increasing the public’s awareness of methods of fire prevention and suppression” ... “firefighting is one of the most hazardous professions and requires extensive training, strength, endurance, courage and a selfless concern for the safety of the citizens of Oregon; and” and “the contributions and sacrifices of valiant fire service members often go unreported and are inadequately recognized by the public ...”

The declaration “encourages all citizens of Oregon to recognize and honor our fire service members for their efforts to keep our citizens safe from the ravages of fire.”

How best to recognize and honor them? Here are four practical ideas:

n Donate your quality items to the Pine Grove Fire Department annual auction, coming up March 2;

n Say “thank you” to the firefighters when they’re serving barbecue at Families in the Park and other events. They typically have time to talk when you see them in dark blue T-shirts.

n When a first aid or related class comes available, via the fire department or other agency, take advantage of the opportunity to learn these skills.

n Think “defensible space.” That’s the practice of clearing the area up to 30 feet around your home and other buildings, in case of grass or forest fire.

“Defensible space” also keeps propane tanks, trikes and other loose outdoor hazards out from underfoot as the firefighters provide their service.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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