Column: I'm not a firefighter; I just play one in the newspaper

“WHICH ONE OF these is not like the other?” It shouldn’t take too long to figure out who isn’t the real firefighter here — look for the guy with the goofy grin. Dennis Luskey photo

It’S BEEN A ROUGH WEEK for the Ripon Area Fire District.

With its chief removed and a bit of discord within its ranks, the focus has been on what sometimes is the uncomfortable business side of running the fire department.

For all that’s been made of this issue, let’s not forget one key fact:

No matter what, these are the guys (and one “gal” — Heather Donovan) that help keep Riponites safe.

As I’ve written before, these are the people who run into burning buildings when the rest of us are following our senses to run out.

Regardless of what the facts in the fire chief situation are, this is something that should not be overlooked.

I got a small taste of that last week Monday. And, as I’ve said to a number of those within the department, I found the great respect I have for those who do this job swell after the experience....

Firefighters [were] downtown last week Monday doing a drill at the former Davis Hotel. It was the second time in three weeks the group had been there practicing for the real thing.

Had you looked closely, you would have seen the group running through its drills with a sense of polish.

Then there was that other guy. He was dressed like a firefighter, but ...

This one fumbled for the right straps to tighten to get the oxygen tank on right.

Couldn’t manage, to save his life, to attach the tank to his face mask.

And every minute or so, kept letting his motion alarm go off, probably much to the chagrin of every legitimate firefighter within shouting distance.

It was ugly.

I should know.

I was that guy.

I TOOK UP AN OFFER FROM the district to suit up and tag along on last week’s training exercise.

For that night at least, I got to be the envy of my 4-year-old as I played firefighter while trying not to get in the way of the real ones....

Politics of running the district aside, I’m glad these guys do the job they do, because they are well-trained and passionate about firefighting.

And it’s a good thing, too. As that evening proved, I sure can’t do the job. Ripon could have burnt to the ground, and I’d still be trying to get my air mask on.

Let’s leave this job to the professionals.

Read the entire column in the March 25, 2010 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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