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Firefighter Friday: A Column by Jessica Locke

Posted December 19, 2008 07:30 AM

In honor of the season, I’d like to bring up some of the wonderful things
the Newton Firefighters do for their community.

Last week they made their annual holiday stop-over at the Newton Wellesley Hospital Pediatric Unit. They entertained the children by dressing-up as beloved characters: Elmo, Cookie Monster, Pooh, the Grinch, Santa Claus, and of course, as firefighters in full gear. The volunteers of this day-long effort bestowed gifts to the children and took photos with the staff, then proceeded to visit other ill and disabled children throughout the community.

They also visited Ray McNamara, a retired fire lieutenant who suffered serious injuries during an explosion at the 1993 Stark Fire.

Through a generous donation from Best Buy, the firefighters held a raffle and were able to raise over $1,000 for their annual Toys for Tots drive. To donate, stop in at any firehouse with an unwrapped toy.

This week, the Newton firefighters wanted this column to remind residents about the dangers of thin ice:

"Every winter, somewhere, a child or adult drowns going out on the thin ice of a river or lake. Please ask all parents to warn their children about the dangers of thin ice." They also warned that if a dog or other animal has fallen through ice, never attempt a rescue; call 911 instead.

Here are the facts regarding the Newton Fire Department’s ability to perform such a rescue. The department owns just one boat, constructed of aluminum. It is so heavy, six men must carry it. Whenever 911 is alerted to a possible drowning, the boat is transported and deployed to the location, but due to the time it takes to transport the boat, it may just be too late to manifest a rescue. In most of the surrounding communities, fire departments use air-inflated boats. They are lightweight, reliable and – most importantly – quickly and easily transported.

Should we wait until someone drowns before the Newton Fire Department gets the proper equipment to do the job of saving lives?

A few safety tips from the firefighters: Water your tree, unplug your lights when leaving the house, check those smoke detector batteries, make sure your chimney is clean, and install carbon monoxide detectors for the safety of all. Happy Holidays!

(Jessica Locke is Executive Director of the Firefighters Fund (www.firefightersfund.org) and author of Rescue at Engine 32, a memoir about her work with New York City firefighters after 9/11.)

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