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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: In wake of near tragedy, gratitude for those dedicated to safety

THE ISSUE: Residents rescued from Streator fire
OUR VIEW: Responders demonstrate a daily life of service above self

Just before 8 a.m. Saturday an emergency call came in to the Streator Fire Department. Five people were inside a burning apartment complex on Richards Street about two miles away up Route 23.

“The alarm sounded at shift change,” the department said in a press release, which meant seven firefighters could rush to the scene while all off-duty firefighters were summoned. In full, 13 Streator firefighters responded, as did four from the Grand Ridge Fire Protection District along with the Streator Police Department, Advanced Medical Transport, Vermilion Valley Dispatch, Nicor, ComEd, Streator Animal Control and the American Red Cross.

Following the fire, neighbors spoke to The Times describing a harrowing scene in which a mother passed a baby from a second-story window to first responders waiting below before the adults jumped to safety. Also rescued were two dogs and 13 newborn puppies. No first responders were physically injured as firefighters controlled the blaze within 10 minutes of arriving on scene.

We’re not mindreaders over here, but it seems safe to guess those responding to the scene weren’t thinking about anything other than keeping a bad situation from becoming tragic. Relying on training and instinct they sprang into action, saying lives and trying to preserve property. In those moments, no one is concerned about their hourly wage or their retirement package.

Emergency responders to such situations likely aren’t even focused on their own personal safety, aside from having been taught the least dangerous way to risk their life in service of others. It had not even been a week since a volunteer firefighter in Franklin County died responding to a commercial building fire in Christopher.

Even though everyone who responded to that call safely returned to their average duties, and eventually their homes and families, there may yet be lasting mental health implications, which is to be expected when the brain and body are called instantly into action to be put through such trauma.

We’re grateful to these types of public servants every day. Though the majority of their working hours are spent apart from direct danger, waiting and planning for crisis, we realize they live in a constant state of vigilance and have committed themselves to a lifestyle few outsiders can fully appreciate or understand.

Sometimes it takes an event like Saturday’s fire to put that commitment into stark relief, so we encourage our readers to hold these moments in their memories and consider what it really means to dedicate a life and career to service. They are jobs, yes, funded by our tax dollars. But few are called into these roles, so we thank those who answer, time and again. Our communities are better for your contributions.

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