The LMFD is primarily responsible for answering calls within the Lookout Mountain, Ga., city limits. But our local department has an agreement called “mutual aid” so when the need arises, volunteers find themselves working alongside firefighters from neighboring departments, often with the Town of Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
When asked why they would work so hard and give up so much for us, one firefighter’s simple response was, “I would want someone to come to my rescue,” so he comes to ours.
When their pagers go off, there is no time to think about the sleep they will miss or how tired they may be when making tomorrow’s presentation. One past Christmas morning, sparks from an electrical fire caught and started burning through the walls of a home in our community. There was no hesitation as these heroes ran out of their doors just as their own children were beginning to open Christmas gifts.
A few years ago, Deputy Chief Mike Chalverus spotted smoke just below the brow home where he was preparing to grill Easter lunch. He put in the call then ran to join his team without stopping to rush home and change into his gear. He and a few of his fellow firefighters found a way down the bluff to the fire, and their efforts kept nearby homes from suffering any damage. He couldn’t say the same for the clothes he had worn to the Easter service or his ruined dress shoes.
We have been very fortunate that most of the calls for the LMFD in the last few years have been medical, and fairly routine, but some are serious. The skills and quick response of firefighter and EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) Frank Youmans recently saved the life of one of our neighbors.
There have been a couple of calls for chimney fires, a few brush fires, and the occasional car fire at Rock City, but thankfully, these past few years have been less eventful as far as fires go. In fact, one of the last big fires they fought was at Ruth Oehmig’s Cafe on the Corner in May of 2014. A gas leak started the blaze in the wee hours of the morning. By the time the gas company rep arrived a few hours later, the flames were 20 feet high. There was a group of firefighters on Scenic Highway shooting water on the building’s roof, trying to prevent the flames from leaping onto the adjacent building. Our LMFD answered the call to help and were behind the cafe on Watauga. The relentless flames caused a utility pole to topple, sending live wires dancing and snapping in the water on the street, but the firefighters on Scenic were unaware of this life-threatening situation.
Unfortunately, our firefighters did not have radios to warn them, so someone had to carefully make his way through the dangerous scene to alert them before anyone was hurt. Communication is always important, but in a fire situation, it can be the difference between life and death.
Ruth watched many examples of bravery that night and said, “Later I caught wind that some of the volunteer firemen’s equipment was inadequate. The communication systems are lacking. This equipment isn’t cheap, but it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to keep safe the people who are risking their lives to save our homes, businesses and often our lives.”
Ruth will graciously host her sixth annual Fill the Boot for Firefighters fundraiser at Cafe on the Corner on Tuesday, November 10 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. “This year, due to COVID-19 and the need to raise spirits and bring our community together, we have come up with a safe alternative, so we will be doing things a little differently. We will have a drive by event. [The mountain’s] volunteer firemen will be handing out family to-go dinners that include hot dogs, Firehouse Chili and Chef’s Café Slaw. We will be front and center with the Fireman’s Boot ready to take donations when guests pick up their to-go orders. There will be a surprise event (top secret) scheduled for 7:15 p.m., and it is not to be missed. If you can’t make it that night, there is a boot in the cafe all year long where you can leave your donation.
There are many pieces in the puzzle of keeping our firefighters safe and helping them to be successful in their ability to fight fires. Personal radios to communicate much needed information, masks and companion SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) with acceptable fit and function, voice amplifiers that hook to each mask so instructions can actually be heard and understood over the noise of a fire scene are just a few of the needs. Three masks have been ordered, but more are needed.
Under the watchful eye of Taylor Watson, fire and police commissioner for the city of Lookout Mountain, Ga., needs are prioritized, and purchases are made, but there is not enough in the budget for everything. Currently, one of the most pressing needs is for radios that can survive being soaked, knocked around and exposed to temperatures above 500 degrees. They cost thousands of dollars each. The radios they have now are a decade old, and the support center can no longer repair or reprogram them. Our city supplies the basics, but sometimes safety and efficiency call for more than the basics. That is when we can get out our checkbooks and sacrifice a little for those who sacrifice so much for us.
I have never had to call on these generous neighbors for a fire or medical emergency. A lot of you haven’t either, but if chest pains ever take my breath away, if I ever wake to the smell of smoke and hear detectors shrieking the alarm, I know who will be racing to my assistance. If I would ask them to lay down their lives for me, how much am I willing to lay down to ensure that they are as safe and as well prepared as they can possibly be?
by Jan Weaver