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Firefighters prove mettle, deserve praise

February 18, 2013

Fire companies have been in the news over the past year, and not always for the best reasons. Questions over accountability have dogged local departments, as well as the association that governs the individual volunteer companies.

Those issues aside, events of the past two weeks have once more demonstrated the dedication and efficiency of the vast majority of our local firefighters.

Major fires burned historic buildings in both the Williamsport and Hagerstown business districts. In both cases, the buildings were cheek by jowl with other structures that were very much in danger of catching fire.

Only the urgent work of city and county fire departments kept these fires from spreading and gutting major portions of the respective downtowns.

While there remain a number of matters that need to be corrected in local emergency-services circles (adequate funding, staffing and accountability, for starters), we first and foremost recognize and appreciate the brave service that first-responders give to their respective communities, often at little or no gain for themselves.

Men and women take risks to battle fires at all times of day and night, in both the heat and the cold, and under a broad array of difficult conditions.

And if the job itself weren’t difficult enough, fire and rescue workers, particularly in the county, must scramble for the funds necessary to pay for this very expensive service — saving taxpayers untold millions of dollars over the years in salaries and equipment.

Certainly, the system could be better, particularly on the financial side. In a perfect world, firefighters wouldn’t have to hustle for money and personnel, nor would there be occasional lapses in accountability that do not inspire confidence among potential donors.

We hope these issues will one day be fixed.

But until then, it’s important to see the big picture, and remember the fact that when people and property in our communities are in trouble, there are those who in a flash will be there to help.

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