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Support the Rugby Fire Department

By Staff | Dec 3, 2010

By John McClintock

It’s come to my attention that a number of local citizens in Rugby and the surrounding area have been critical of the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department in the recent past. I am writing to lend my full support to the department and its dedicated members. I am referring to criticism which has surfaced over the building of a new fire hall, where to locate it, how to pay for it, fundraising efforts of the department in this regard, the use and cost of an antique fire engine, the annual meeting which includes county and city agencies, etc. In my opinion, those folks should re-evaluate their critical remarks and move on, and use their time and energy to support one of our finest service departments rather than attempt to tear it down.

I realize some citizens understand and appreciate the dedication it takes to be a volunteer fireman, but for many it appears they probably do not. Being a volunteer fireman means you are literally risking your life on every call reported to the dispatch center, whether a fire call; motor vehicle accident, including semi-trucks and hazardous material carriers; an anhydrous ammonia leak at a dispenser; a railroad car derailment and/or spill; etc. The job is not only to put out or contain any fire or potential fire or hazardous material substance, but also to do extrication work to free a person, whether from an accident or a building or hazardous material site. The volunteer firemen do this without hesitation. They are trained as well as any community department can be with many hours of their own time and effort put in. They are on call 24/7. When the term “volunteer” is used, this is definitely the case. At the end of a calendar year, the department member gets a nominal amount of pay, based on the number of calls he was able to make. You would be surprised at the minimal rate they are provided. Money is taken out of their pay for department clothing they receive, including coats and t-shirts, and beverages the department may purchase during the year. Also, please remember that members volunteer their time tor host local schools at the fire hall during Fire Prevention Week; drive the trucks in parades; escort high school athletic teams on their playoff excursions and welcome them back; go out to businesses to check their facilities and provide safety tips to prevent problems in case of emergencies, etc.

It is my understanding much of the criticism recently has been in regard to how the department handles any monies provided to them through donations, whether through fundraising efforts or otherwise, and through taxes. In my 17 years on the department, I never had any issue whatsoever that our tax dollars and any donated money was accounted for and used by the department for all its intended purposes. Did the department have its financial accounts audited at the end of each calendar year? Probably not, but during my time on the department, nobody was asking for it to be done.

It is my understanding the department is being asked to do a full accounting of their financial accounts. They have been fully cooperating and are eager to continue in that regard. But naturally, rumors and innuendos have been circulating around the community. The department has heard them all, and they are tired of it!

Would the community rather tear down the department over issues, which are being worked out, and have the members resign? Could the community afford to hire a full-time department, assuming they could not find enough volunteers to put up with the rumors, innuendos and complaints? Certainly any public official, office or department has to sustain a bit of criticism. When it’s constructive, it can help improve any official or department. But when you realize what the volunteer fire department members risk to keep the community safe, I believe you would realize that criticism only goes so far.

So, I ask the community to turn your time and energy to supporting the department. Give them a shake of the hand, or a pat on the back, and thank them for their commitment to keeping our community safe. They are a humble and modest bunch, and they won’t be out there asking for any thanks, but I know they would appreciate any support.

John McClintock is a fourth generation and lifetime member of the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department, and a Rugby resident.

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