Our View: Firefighters: Saving lives is all in a day’s work
In a recent edition we brought you the story of Lincoln Fire Department Lt. Joshua Vincent and his 9-year-old friend Brantson Smith and the dramatic events that brought them together.

Vincent had recently gone to a Head Start center to talk to the pre-schoolers about fire safety, the importance of having an escape plan at home, and what to do if you find yourself in a burning building.

Two months later, young Brantson woke up to find his home was on fire, and he barely escaped with his life — that he survived at all is because he remembered what Vincent told him to do, and did it.

Firefighters in many parts of the country use a program called E.D.I.T.H. to encourage families to have a plan for getting everyone out of the home in case of fire. (The acronym stands for Exit Drills In The Home.)

The idea is for families to draw a sketch of their home and plan two ways to get out of every room in the house, through a door or a window. Family members are to agree on a meeting place outside the home to avoid confusion about who is in and who is out of the house. Just as schools have fire drills, families are encouraged to have them at home to reinforce the plan.

But what saved Brantson was remembering to get down low, underneath the thickest smoke, to breathe the cleaner air. He awoke from a nap in his room, where the fire had started. He got off his bed onto the floor, covered his face and crawled away from the fire while screaming for help. He suffered burns, but survived, and Vincent recently took him to Camp Conquest, a summer camp just for burn injury survivors, for the fourth year.

There’s a special camaraderie among firefighters, a fellowship rarely seen in other vocations. They are men and women who dedicate themselves to protecting the lives and property of others while exposing themselves to hazards as a routine part of their jobs.

The goal of saving lives is part of the job’s calling. While the imagination conjures up images of firefighters carrying people out of burning buildings, there are other ways to accomplish that goal.

Some of them seem mundane. Firefighters inspect and maintain their equipment, participate in training exercises, and study to update their skills, to be prepared for the next call. Some conduct inspections of public buildings to ensure that safety standards are met. And they sometimes meet with school children and preschoolers to talk about fire safety, and wonder if any of them will remember anything important they tell them.

They never really know; Brantson did, and it made the difference between life and death.

This has been a tough year for firefighters. The U.S. Fire Administration reports 66 have been killed in the line of duty so far in 2013. In recent weeks, they include 11 killed at an explosion at a fertilizer company in West, Texas, four in a motel-restaurant fire in Houston, and 19 fighting a wildfire near Yarnell, Ariz.

The agency reported 83 on-duty deaths in both 2011 and 2012.

We appreciate the work firefighters do in helping protect lives and property, and hope readers will give some thought to fire safety plans in their homes and places of business.

© 2013