Appreciation for what firefighters do

The Salina Fire Department in 1932. My grandfather, William Eckley, is pictured in the top row, second from right.

The Salina Fire Department in 1932. My grandfather, William Eckley, is pictured in the top row, second from right.

One of the many things we take for granted is the extraordinary service of those responsible for our public safety.

A reminder of this is the impending 50th anniversary of the Eden Prairie Fire Department, whose members routinely put their lives on the line to protect from harm the thousands of people who live and work in my community.

The department begins observances of its golden anniversary on March 16, and to its 95 paid, on-call members we can only say, with gratitude that falls short with these two words: Thank you!

Many thanks to you on a personal level, from this resident of Eden Prairie the past 33 years. Many thanks on a professional level, for the access and eyewitness view you allowed me as a local newspaper reporter from 1979 well into the 1990s.

Perhaps I have a greater-than-normal attachment to the work of firefighters because my maternal grandfather, William Eckley, was one.

On display in my house is a framed photograph showing members of the 1932 fire department in Salina, Kan., where my grandfather lived for many years and supported his family both through firefighting and carpentry.

Of course, my grandfather would have been familiar with the dangers of firefighting. That year, 1932, would have concluded with the Dec. 31 death of firefighter Ray Craig, who was age 44 at the time, married with two children. The 16-year veteran of the Salina Fire Department died of an apparent heart attack while working at a house fire on that date, according to records of the Kansas State Firefighters Association.

This would have also been a difficult time for my grandfather because Kansas was about one year into the Dust Bowl era, when severe drought and erosion would create a seemingly endless series of “black blizzards” in the U.S. and Canadian prairie areas.

On top of it all, the U.S. in 1932 would still have been mired in The Great Depression, the deepest and longest lasting economic downturn in U.S. history. Unemployment would reach 25 percent, and recovery would not begin until 1933.

All of this, I suppose, adds to my appreciation of the firefighting men and women who are not conscripted into life-threatening and life-saving public service but choose in difficult times to do so, often for many, many years.

I hope you know that what you do is valued and appreciated.

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