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A Time to be Thankful

By Jason Zigmont

Thanksgiving is often the time where we take a moment to count our blessings and be thankful for all that the year has given us. It’s also an opportunity for us to look at the positive, especially as we approach the new year and look for things to change. Most of the time, it’s easy to only identify the negatives in our departments and ourselves, so it may be hard at first to find what we are thankful for. However, both as a volunteer and as a department, we need to take a moment during this time of year to be thankful, to find our center and move forward.

Many departments have proudly served for decades or even over a hundred years, something that is only made possible by having a dedicated core of members that we should be thankful for. Each member dedicates as much time as they can to support the department, even if we all wish we could give more.

It is easy to count the number of drills attended to tell the member which ones they missed. But instead we should be thanking them for the ones they attended. The same goes for fire calls: We should be thankful for each time a member gets up at 3 a.m. for that fire alarm and gives up their time to help others. Departments that do not appreciate their members or take the time to thank them may not actually have members to thank next year.

There are others to thank, too. We have all given up family dinners and left family events for the firehouse, but we often overlook the support our families give to us individually and as a department. It takes someone very special to love a firefighter and we need to thank each of our family members for supporting us. Family members support us financially, emotionally and physically when times are tough.

How many times have they had to reschedule events, explain to others why we have to leave for a call or otherwise “cover” for us while responding? Our families need to know in their hearts that we are thankful for the commitment they make to us that allows us to commit to the department and community we serve.

While we serve our communities, they also support us and make it possible for a volunteer department to survive, which we need to appreciate. It does not matter if your department is funded by a fire tax or pancake breakfasts, the community provides for us as much as we provide for them.

We need to be thankful for their support and realize that they provided much of our equipment and even the roof over it. Even if it is not financial support, our communities are there to support us and cheer for us both when we are in need and when we are celebrating. Departments need to thank the communities they serve each and every day, even if it means going out of the way to do it.

Finally, we as members also need to be thankful for the departments we serve. Our departments provide a brotherhood that at times can frustrate us, but it is a part of who we are. We may even curse our department at times, but won’t ever consider leaving because of the love we have for it. We need to be thankful for all of the great social events, friends we made and calls we survived.

Each member needs to thank his or her department for the opportunity to serve. Rather than asking what the department can give us, what their retirement plan or incentive is, we need to thank it for making us a better person and helping the community at large.

Each year our department survives is another year to be thankful for. Volunteer departments are at risk across the country, but we continue to survive and in some cases thrive. This is due to the commitment each of our members makes and the support of our families and the communities we serve. Take a moment to count your blessings and next year at this time, you may have more to be thankful for.

Volunteer fire departments face a unique set of challenges. Learn how to manage or serve on a volunteer department with Jason Zigmont, founder of, in his FireRescue1 exclusive column, ‘Volunteer Professionals.’