The posters had been up around town for a couple of weeks advertising “Blaulicht Tag” which even I know means Blue Light Day. This isn’t K-Mart; Sulzburg was getting a new fire truck and it was cause for celebration.
It was only after the fact my wife told me that the new truck wasn’t a big vehicle for putting out fires but a smaller communications van. I hadn’t talked to anyone when I dropped by the market square on my way to a football game; she went by while I was at the game and got the whole story.
When you live in a small town, things that wouldn’t cause a ripple in the city are a big deal. There was a six-hour festival celebrating the new acquisition, with all the fire department’s vehicles on display. There were activities for the children, coffee and cake, sausages and French fries and of course, this being Germany, lots of beer. Turns out one of the local breweries has a mobile truck that was once a firetruck.
If I hadn’t promised myself that I was finally going to see Sulzburg’s football (soccer) team in action I would have stayed longer and learned more. The department has a lot of vehicles for such a small town. I had always assumed the firefighters were volunteers (and I was right – the trucks have the word “freiwillige” – volunteer – on them) but hadn’t realized there is also a teenage auxiliary force. Or at least that is what it looked like.
In Ottawa (and other big cities) we take our fire service for granted. They are well-paid professionals and you hope to never need them. When you do you know they will respond quickly to the alarm.
When we lived in Pembroke (Ontario) there was a mixed force: there were some permanent firefighters on staff, but many were volunteers, which save the town some money and gave career opportunities to some locals. In the area around Pembroke the fire departments usually had a paid chief, with the rest of the force being volunteers. That made you wonder about response times, but from what I could see there wasn’t an appreciable difference between city and rural forces.
I have no idea what the response time is in Sulzburg – and I hope to never have to find out. Mind you, we live close to the market square, which is where the fire hall is located. I’m not sure how much pressure you can get from a fire hose. Perhaps if our place caught fire they could just aim the hose from the fire station and put it out. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea.
It was nice though to see the enthusiasm of the firefighters. They were obviously pleased to be able to show off their equipment and interact with the public. They seemed professional and competent. Their equipment seems modern enough.
Therefore, it seems I can treat the fire service here just like the one in Ottawa. I can take it for granted, while at the same time being thankful it is there – all the while hoping I never need it.