Mendon volunteer firefighters: ‘Somebody’s gotta do it; little communities can’t afford fire protection’

MENDON –The chief of the Mendon Fire and Rescue has seen it all, from the odd to the gruesome. For example, the incident where he unbolted a toilet seat with an adolescent boy stuck on it because his friends put super glue on it. Fire Chief Ray Olsen had to carefully transport the boy on the seat to the hospital so it could be surgically removed, an awkward task at best.Olsen made 2.5 cents for the hour it took to accomplish the incident response, but money isn’t why he does what he does. The reward is in the thank you, Olsen said.The station houses a bulletin board covered in thank-you notes from preschoolers to fire victims. One letter reads: “The fire could have been much worse if it was not for the quick response of the Mendon volunteer fire department. You guys are a lifeline for the people who live here. Our gratitude seems to grow each day.”Olsen said, “That is why we do what we do. That is the pay. I get $120 a year. When you break that down with the hours we put in, it is 2.5 cents per hour. But we don’t do it for the money. We do it because it is a sense of self, of community. Somebody’s gotta do it; these little communities can’t afford fire protection.”Olsen, like 72 percent of the 1.15 million firefighters in the U.S., is a volunteer fireman and EMT, all while he works his full-time job as a general contractor.In Cache Valley alone, ten of the 11 fire departments are volunteer. Logan is the only career-based department in the valley. In the state of Utah, there are 232 fire departments, of which about 200 are volunteer, Olsen said. According to a July 5, 2009 Parade article titled, “Why they serve,” 20,000 of the nation’s 30,200 fire departments are volunteer.

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