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FIGHT THE WILL TO Volunteer fi refi ghters step up to save lives in Oklahoma’s rural communities T 12 WWW.OKL.COOP By Hayley Leatherwood


hree fi refi ghters sit around a table in a small-town restaurant. The brother- hood is evident from the handshakes, hugs and good-natured jabs. One is a paid fi refi ghter and the other two are volunteer. In the same way wildfi res don’t care if the truck battling the blaze says “career” or “volun-


teer” on the side, neither do they. They see traumatic and triumphant events many of us never will, and they shield us from what the average civilian couldn’t handle. Although they take pride in their work, none of them are looking for a “thank you” or an “atta boy.” Each has radios and cell phones easily accessible, a visual reminder their time is not their own. A blaring alert sounds from one of the radios, a signal loud enough to wake the dead.


The static and stated codes and a rushed goodbye indicate, for one of the fi refi ghters, this dinner will be cut short. There are more than 900 fi re departments in Oklahoma serving communities of


10,000 people or fewer. What many don’t realize is those departments are completely comprised of volunteers. These volunteers respond to incidents or “calls” without pay. They have full-time jobs, families and obligations of their own, like this very dinner. As the heat builds elsewhere in rural Oklahoma, it is a grateful real-


ization this is not the fi rst—or last—meal that will grow cold in order to serve someone else.


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