28 August, 1987
Begin to plan for paying for fighting fires
As much as we all may hate to admit it, the time may soon come when Princeton will not b0 able to provide its emergency services on a.volunteer basis. The time to start planning for that day is already upon us.
Already it has been necessary to hire professionals to fill the rescue squad function during the day shift on weekdays. There simply are not enough qualified volunteers to handle the job. The picture is only slightly better at night, when a thin crew of dedicated citizens is getting by only because of devotion above and beyond the call.
The search is on for firefighters to support the volunteer ranks. A major community drive is planned for September to attract new members to the fire department. While we wish the effort well, reality may not be on its side.
Lifestyles change, people’s expectations change, the community changes in its need for services and in its talent pool — the demographic mix doesn’t always yield the people willing and able to take on demand-ing volunteer tasks.
Emergency volunteer services are particularly vulnerable. The jobs can be dirty, inconvenient, even dangerous. They require considerable training. To be done properly, they require a commitment to a kind foreign to many of us. Perhaps most difficult of all, they require a willingness to take responsibility for lives.
It’s not a job to be confused with willingness to volunteer to serve on a committee for the betterment of ducks. It is not a matter of being willing to attend a few meetings or otherwise give up known blocks of scheduled time to lend expertise to town or cause.
Lives are on the line.
The volunteer tradition in Princeton is very strong. It will continue to be so in many 414 areas vital to the quality of life here. Many fine people will continue to serve charities and government commissions.
There will even be some people willing and able to serve as firefighters and rescue squad members. Their talents should always’ be used and highly valued.
But we must prepare now to recognize that I volunteer emergency services — even if the September membership drive is highly successful — won’t be the answer forever. Princeton needs a plan to begin integrating professionals into its fire department, as it bas with its rescue squad, and it must accept the notion that a professional department say be necessary in the not too distant future.