It was an unusually busy weekend for Johnson County and Buffalo firefighters and emergency responders. The crews responded to two house fires Saturday night into Sunday morning. Thankfully, no one was hurt in either fire.

We are very fortunate here in Johnson County. We have professional volunteer firefighters in our community who keep us safe in the event of a fire, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our firefighters have tremendous training and on Saturday had water on the fires within minutes of responding. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for their service.

The local county and city crews have a mutual aid agreement – if a page goes out for a structure fire, both crews will respond. It is a system that proved invaluable this weekend as members of both crews and trucks from both agencies responded to the fires.

Our volunteer firefighters conduct themselves with poise, purpose, professionalism and expertise, knowing full well that they are meeting homeowners on one of the worst days of their life. They do their jobs and they do them well. And for that, we are grateful.

It’s also notable that both crews, as well as the crew of the Powder River Fire District in Kaycee, are composed of volunteers. When a call comes in – regardless of the time of day – firefighters leave the safety and warmth of their homes to offer their services to their neighbors. They then willingly walk into burning buildings because there is a need. That is an especially high calling that requires both bravery and selflessness.

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are answering that calling every year. The city and county crews could both use more members. According to Johnson County Fire District #1 Chief Colby Richins, there are two challenges. First, there are not as many volunteers as there used to be – that is true of almost every volunteer organization across the country from firefighting units to Kiwanis Clubs. People in their 30s and 40s aren’t volunteering at the same rate as their parents and grandparents did. The other challenge is that people have full-time jobs that they can’t just walk away from when their pagers sound.

We hope all our readers who are able will consider volunteering to serve as a firefighter. It is a vital service that without active volunteers will cease to exist. There have been more than a few volunteer fire departments that have closed in recent years, having to rely on a neighboring community’s fire departments in an emergency. In rural Wyoming, that’s just not a viable option.

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