I was down at the local fire station waiting for a man who was getting me a burn permit. Now this is a volunteer station where the firefighters, EMS people and dispatch are all manned or womaned by selfless individuals who would do good for our little town. So it was, I went down to the station to find out about burning and such, as I had last fall's trimming of the trees in a large open pile on me property leaving lots of wood branches that could be burned. I meant to do it while the snow was on the ground but was too busy shovelling to find the energy to burn the rubbish. So just as the weather forecast our last snow I decided to go down for me permit. Otherwise, the weather has been dry and burning is a no-no, but with the snow on the ground, I could do the deed.
As I waited, I noticed there was an older woman in her nineties who was sitting at a microphone behind a desk. She had been checking logs when there was a call for a brush fire outside of town. Within minutes men and women started arriving and the one engine we have was made ready but could not go as an "officer" (a person designated to drive), had not arrived. Finally, he did and without any hesitation or a how are ya, he jumped in the cab and out they roared. I thought how much me kiddos would have liked to see all that. Then it hit me the man who was getting me permit left on the engine!
I asked the woman at the desk, who now had two other people in the "office" with her if I should leave and come back another day.
"No, Marilyn here can do that for you. Just sit tight." She turned to a lovely young woman who had heard this and was already getting out the proper paperwork. She smiled and started writing when I informed her the other guy had already taken me particulars and that must be lying around.
"Oh, okay let me look." She said and busied herself.
It was then that the fire call came in as three alarms since engines were slow to respond.
The man who had actually arrived too late to be on the engine was making coffee and offered me a cup, which I gratefully accepted. As we sat, the squawk box on the desk came to life with a little static and then a voice said, "We need an engine for (town name). Can you send?"
Well, this was the next town over and that engine had gone out on the same one as ours, so there was no engine to be had. This the older woman, one Hattie told the man.
"I will try ((another) town name)." Was the response as I guess there was another fire and that town had its engine at the brushfire and now had a fire of its own to put out but no engine.
After a bit the voice came back.
"Okay, well we need someone to cover this station." Was the response.
All three of them froze and exchanged looks. Then the shaking of heads.
"We need someone to cover station (town name)." The voice repeated.
"Matt you want to go?" Hattie asked, her voice low as if the voice on the radio could hear her, her finger poised on the toggle switch to answer if there was an affirmative.
"Nope." Was his response as he started pouring coffee.
"Mari?" Hattie asked the young thing.
"Are you there? We need coverage for station (town name)." The voice bristled.
"Sorry, what was that?" Hattie asked back.
"I asked for coverage for station (town name)."
"Sorry, you are breaking up, please repeat." Hattie said as me eyebrows rose into me hairline.
"I ASKED FOR COVERAGE FOR STATION (TOWN NAME)!" Was the shouted reply.
Nothing, Hattie sat there with her finger on the toggle switch. We were all sipping coffee as the static came back on and the same voice, repeated his request.
"Are you both sure you don't want to go to (town name)?" They both nodded they were sure.
"There is no one here." She flipped the switch and said.
"YOU'RE THERE." Came the irritated voice.
"I can't leave this station." Was Hattie's reply.
"Never mind." The reply came back rather cross.
Giggles in the office. REALLY? I kept me coffee cup to me mouth like I had nothing to say. Strangely I felt right at home. This would be what a Weasil manned fire station would be like. I was sure of it. He'd do the same thing. I settled in as the rest of me fire permit was filled out and handed over.
"We could use an able bodied young man like yourself," Hattie said to me.
"Oh no, no, I have three kiddos and well, time just isn't mine to give, BUT when they be grown perhaps then," I said nodding thanks to the man who made the coffee, to Marilyn who gave me the permit, and Hattie who would make me a volunteer. I backed me way out with small niceties and then made a run for me car. I tell ya!
I did wonder what would happen in a medical emergency and I kind of had to wonder if Hattie just didn't answer right away was because she be hard of hearing but that didn't explain the other two who heard just fine. The thought was like a waking nightmare it was. Truly what does one do? I think drive oneself to hospital because they might not hear the call. You think? Or worse, get a lawn chair and watch your abode burn to the ground?
Well, in all fairness I did come to realise that the needing a body at a station was to babysit it until all returned and to take any emergency calls which are few considering these are rural towns (not even towns) with just a few hundred people living in them. Yet . . . the 'voice' probably wanted to go home or back to work, or whatever and was stuck babysitting his station when he didn't want to be there. I suppose that is.
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