Helping others out of catastrophic situations is all in a day’s - or night’s - work for Scotland County’s firefighters and emergency services personnel.
On Saturday, some 250 emergency responders and family members balanced that demanding calling with a day of play at the Scotland County Firemen’s Association family fun day.
“We needed to do something for our firemen and their families because every time we have a meeting it’s just business, business, business,” said Capt. William Skipper, president of the firefighers’ association. “We never get to recognize our families and spend time together as a group. This is the first of what I hope to be a yearly family fun day for the countywide emergency services.”
The event was held at Springhill-Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, with games for the children of emergency personnel and camaraderie for all. Among the participating agencies were the Laurinburg, Gibson, Laurel Hill, Wagram, and Springhill fire departments, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, Station 8 of the NC Forest Service, and the Laurinburg Police Department.
Although firefighters and other emergency responders put their lives on the line on a regular basis, it is the families of those individuals who make sacrifices unseen and too often unnoted, Skipper said.
“They are at home any time that we get called out; they spend more time away from us, and they have to do a lot that people don’t see: taking care of the kids when the father or mother is away,” said Skipper. “They are never recognized for what they have to go through, the nights at home alone wondering what we’re doing when we’re out and if we’re hurt.”
Firemen themselves know their capabilities, and for them facing danger is part of the appeal.
“It’s the thrill, the adrenaline, helping people,” said Springhill fireman Michael Strickland. “It’s sort of hard to explain, either you’ve got it or you don’t.”
And while their thoughts are never completely free of fear or concern, the husbands, wives, parents and children of emergency workers mostly feel pride in their loved one’s courage.
“Really the only down is being scared by the pager in the middle of the night, when it goes off, or being concerned when he’s at something that’s fully involved and you know that he’s inside and in the house,” said Tina Frier, wife of Laurel Hill Fire Department assistant chief James Frier. “But it’s something he loves to do, it’s something he enjoys, he’s dedicated to it, and he loves it, so I back him.”
Emergency personnel and their families were served a lunch of pork, chicken, baked beans and cole slaw donated by Murphy-Brown, LLC and served by the company’s employees and other volunteers.
Those at the event also dedicated the recently completed helipad at Springhill Fire Department. A UNC Carolina Air Care medical helicopter from Cape Fear Valley Medical Center landed on the pad during Saturday’s festivities, enabling children to get a close look and even climb inside.
The helipad will serve as a safe, established area for helicopters to land and collect severely injured individuals for transport to a medical center.
“We land helicopters here when we have major accidents. They land all over the county and we have to set a helicopter landing pad with our fire trucks - it could be in a field, it could be in the middle of a road, so Station 7 went out and built this helipad for this side of the county,” said Skipper. “Now, if they do have to land a helicopter, it’s here, it’s lighted, and they don’t have to have all of the fire trucks here. They can land and they can transport patients who need to be transported quickly.”