This editorial was originally planned for next month but events in the past few days have warranted moving it forward to now.

May 4th is International Firefighters’ Day, set aside to take the time to remember those who gave their lives while battling fires and rescuing civilians who were caught in the line of disaster. But it is also a day to remember the firefighters who are still alive, performing their duty while facing injury or death on a daily basis so the rest of us can be safe.

The importance of remembering firefighters was brought home dramatically by two different events this week.

On Wednesday in Houston, a $50 million luxury apartment complex that was still under construction caught fire. The blaze spread so fast and was so large, nine departments were called out to bring it under control. When the firefighters arrived, they found one construction worker had been trapped on the upper floor when the fire broke out and was now crouched on a balcony, trying to shield himself from the flames. The firefighters immediately began deploying from a ladder truck but the heat became so intense the construction worker dropped from the fifth floor ledge to one on the fourth floor as the glass behind him melted from the heat. A firefighter scrambled up the ladder and helped the man onto the ladder. They swung away just in time to avoid having a burning wall collapse on top of them. (For video of the rescue, go to this url:

While that event ended with everyone safe and only minor injuries, another fire on Wednesday did not end so happily. Multiple fire departments in Boston were also called out to battle a blaze in a four-story apartment building. The fire spread so quickly that some of the residents needed to be rescued from the upper floors when they could not make it down to the street. While trying to control the fire and rescue the residents, two firefighters died and 13 more were injured.

Across the country more than 30,000 fire departments are manned by almost 1.2 million firefighters. Of that figure, approximately 750,000 are volunteers. Every day when they go into the firehouse or every time they answer an emergency call, they go into action knowing that doing their jobs will put their own lives into jeopardy. They do it willingly, even though they know that in 2012 22 firefighters died in the U.S. while on duty and as recently as 2009 a total of 90 paid the ultimate price. That does not even mention the 343 firefighters and EMS personnel who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, running toward the danger as others ran toward safety.

And while it is easy to focus on the danger involved when the skyline is lit up by fires, firefighters also perform tremendous service to their communities when they are teaching fire safety courses to students or passing out fire alarms for homes. They are also called upon to help in events such as the ongoing search for survivors in the mudslides in Washington.

The Van Wert area is served by brave men and women who are both career and volunteer members of fire departments. We encourage everyone to take the time to thank them for their service.

(Statistics from FEMA/U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.)