JMU in the Community

Some like it hot


by Jan Gillis ('07)

 
image: /_images/news/2015/firefighters-232938-1082-655x393.jpg

SUMMARY: In the time it takes you to read this paragraph, somewhere in America firefighters will respond to an emergency call for help. National statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of our firefighters are volunteers, including a dozen JMU students who serve the local community at Hose Company No. 4.


By Rob Tucker



JMU students serve and protect local community as volunteer firefighters

Odds are overwhelming that in the time it takes you to read this paragraph, somewhere in America firefighters will respond to an emergency call for help. National statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of our firefighters are volunteers, including a dozen JMU students who serve the local community at Hose Company No. 4.

These students commit to rigorous training of more than 200 hours to qualify as firefighters, but the majority of them seek additional skill development in specialties such as emergency medical training, technical rescue and hazardous material response.

As volunteers, they not only gear up and fight fires, but they have responded to some pretty gruesome scenes, including house and barn fires, traffic fatalities and suicides.

In addition to emergency response, they provide training, fundraising, and administrative services to the department, according to Walter Miller, chief of Hose Company No. 4, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in October. JMU students have been helping the company protect the community for more than 15 of those years.

“These students are a tremendous help and an inspiration to our department,” Miller said. “The fact that they will join and provide these services to a department that is not in their hometown demonstrates their true desire to serve the public good.”

The JMU volunteers sacrifice social time to staff fire stations in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays, and around the clock on weekends. Each volunteer commits to working 16 hours a month, year round, and often returns during the summer to fulfill their duty. Many students volunteer for additional hours.

Now, the burning question, why do they do it?

Jonathan Simmons (’15) worked as a volunteer fireman before coming to JMU and continues to serve as deputy chief at Hose Company No. 4 after earning his degree in ISAT.

“I had some experience before I came to Harrisonburg, so I felt there was no better way to get involved in helping my new community and learning as much as I could about it,” Simmons said.

JMU President Jonathan Alger expressed appreciation to the students after touring the Port Republic Road station earlier this year.

“This is incredibly important and meaningful volunteer service,” President Alger said. “Your efforts are a great example of community engagement, and I am deeply impressed with the time commitment as well as the dedication you bring to doing work that is hard and demanding on multiple fronts.

“As I watched and listened to all of you today, “ Alger continued, “I thought often of my grandfather, who was a volunteer firefighter for many years in upstate New York, and who once risked his own life to save the lives of some young children in a burning car. I hope your can-do spirit of volunteerism and service will inspire future generations of Dukes to do the same.”

Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Last Updated: Monday, November 7, 2016

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