Fire-Fighting Farmers

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson February 21, 2018 09:31

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The first firefighters were privately owned slaves that were organized into a group that fought common fire problems in Rome (4 AD).  Their duties also included catching petty crime thieves, capturing runaway slaves and acting in supportive roles during riots and violent crimes.  Centuries later, it was Benjamin Franklin who established the first U.S. volunteer fire department.

I found statistics in the world of firefighting rather interesting.  The U.S. Fire Department Profile for 2015 reports that of the 29,727 total departments, 9% were all career (meaning fully-paid staff), 6% were mostly career, 18% were mostly volunteer, and 67% were all volunteer.  However, in the overall picture that year, 49% of the U.S. population was protected by “all career” fire departments.

What this basically says then, is that those small, rural communities (of which there are many) rely heavily on those who selflessly give their time to protect the lives and property of the people who live there.  Smaller neighborhoods do not have the funds and other resources to attract and retain a career fire department.  So who oftentimes steps up?  In many cases it’s the farmer.

53-year-old Jon Eller of Shelby, Nebraska is one example.  He joined the department in 1990 as a beginning farmer and is currently the chief.  He enjoys speaking at local schools about fire prevention, and recruits active and retired farmers to the department.  He feels farmers make good emergency responders, saying they can be on-site quickly and quite often have a natural instinct about what they should do.  In his words:

They can run all kinds of equipment.  If I was trapped in a combine, I’d want a farmer there to help get me out.

When Jon is not busy being a fireman, he’s growing corn and soybeans on 3,600 acres with his father and brother-in-law.

Ron Hampton, a Cassville, Wisconsin farmer keeps his gear with him so he can go straight to the fire, and Texas farmer, Barry Tidwell,  has jumped in his tractor to start plowing a firebreak in front of flames.

As I read the information related to volunteer fire departments, I saw some parallels between them and farming.  The number of volunteer firefighters has declined, while the age of firefighters is increasing; and the demands for fire department services continues to grow.

I’ve known many farmer firefighters that have served or currently serve the rural area I live in.  Not only can I thank them for the food I eat, but for the comfort they give me in knowing they’re ready to respond in other ways as well.

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vigiles

https://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics/the-fire-service/administration/us-fire-department-profile

https://www.agriculture.com/family/farmer-givers-3-stories-of-farmer-firefighters?utm_source=ag-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=todaysnews_012018&did=211208

http://www.firehouse.com/article/12213966/firefighter-education-step-up-and-stand-out-volunteer-firefighters

http://firehistory.weebly.com/the-history-of-volunteer-firefighting.html

 

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson February 21, 2018 09:31
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2 Comments

  1. damengineer February 22, 08:40

    I worked disasters for 30 years as a member of a state agency response team. When we needed help quick and folks who could think outside the “box”, the local farmers and the County employees were the best help. In the rural areas the County employees were farmers, and since I have been a farmer for over 55 years, we understood each other. Farmers do not have to elect a “safety officer”, elect a leader, or have a conference to determine the cahin of command. They just know who is the best qualified for the task at hand and then the rest jump in to help….. Our elected officials could learn a lot from farmers…

    Reply to this comment
    • Teresa Olson Author February 22, 11:34

      Amen to that! Thank you for your many years of service in BOTH capacities, and thanks for reading our newsletter.
      -Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team

      Reply to this comment
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