Consider fire service

A little more than a week ago, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who serve Belmont County gathered to honor many of their own.

The annual Belmont County Fire & Squad Officers Association dinner is always an uplifting event, recognizing the heroism of the past year and the long, inspiring careers of local department members. Held at Undo’s West in St. Clairsville on March 23, the celebration provided well-deserved honors.

The one bleak aspect of the yearly observance is that the same people attend and honor one another for their courage and hard work. That is because no new people are getting involved, despite the need in departments in all of our local communities.

“We all rely on each other, and the greatest resource we have in this beautiful fire department service in this county is our people, and we need more people,” John Slavik said as he accepted his Valley Boy Award recognizing how he built on his local fire service roots to establish a career in Washington, D.C. He later returned home as chief of the Cumberland Trail Fire District until his retirement last year.

Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Jim Delman, Bruce Henderson, Greg Reline, David Lenz and Larry Zalesny and Bill Troy. We have heard most of those names again and again as we have reported on fires, auto accidents, spills and natural disasters over the years.

The familiar slate of award winners reinforces what Slavik had to say – the local region needs more people to get involved with fire and EMS departments. The workload for these responders is as heavy as ever, but the same people have been providing these services for the rest of us for many years. Eventually, most of them will retire.

Where will that leave us?

We urge area residents to consider how they can get involved and help our first responders. Those with truck driving skills, for example, could be tremendous assets as ambulance drivers, even if they have no medical background. Young people who have weekends and evenings free from school or work could provide much-needed manpower after receiving the proper training.

We congratulate and thank all the award winners, but we also remind readers to think about this: Perhaps the best way to honor our first responders is to become one.