When the first American organized volunteer fire department was established in Philadelphia in 1736 it was made up of prominent business men and civic leaders, and at its helm was someone you might have heard of – Benjamin Franklin. He started the Union Fire Company, an all volunteer regiment, as a service to the community and it soon became the duty and privilege of the local male citizenry to participate in its efforts. Fire was the premier enemy of townships and cities in 1736 and Franklin’s foresight started a trend that has lasted literally for centuries. The mountain community volunteer firefighters remind me of what I imagine the early Philadelphia days to be. In many cities firefighting has become the responsibility of people who simply need a job. It’s not that their commitment or contribution is any less, but there is something about people who leave their work, or their businesses or their beds at night to fight a fire – without a paycheck  – that borders on noble. The fact that many of our most prominent citizens have been a part of this effort means even more. A society can be judged by what it gives without thought of remuneration, without counting the cost. The selfless energies of the mountain area volunteer firefighters speak well of who we are and how we live. I have to think that Ben would be proud of what he created and all that it is today. What started out as an exercise in human dignity and sense of community, hasn’t changed and hopefully never will.


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