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There's still a great need for firefighters

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By Optic Editorial Board

Newspapers receive reader feedback all the time in debates over numbers in education and law enforcement, and whether having more personnel really solves a problem or just adds to taxpayer costs.

We don’t get any complaints that there are too many firefighters in the world.

Watching what’s happening in California this month, and thinking to our own recent fire seasons and 2018 blazes in Colfax and eastern Mora counties, it’s a perfect time to let young people know there is still a great need in this field, especially among volunteer fire departments.

While some professions bemoan the lack of people going through years of medical school or other expensive, time-consuming training, firefighters have relatively short educations — much of what they learn is, quite literally, trial by fire. 

A portion of a film released about one year ago, “Only the Brave,” was shot mostly near Los Alamos, but parts were shot in Las Vegas. It’s the most tragic historical movie one could imagine involving firefighters, but it’s a telling reminder of the risks and need involved — grown adults wouldn’t rush into burning structures or risk their lives creating containment lines if it weren’t absolutely necessary.

Our staff and the Optic Editorial Board have met many former “smoke jumpers” and urban firefighters who have gone into other lines of work later in life, and the experience they had as younger adults prepared them immeasurably for all types of vocations and business.

We implore any young people who enjoy working outdoors, or who might be interested in any sort of engineering fields, but aren’t interested in traditional classroom educations, to look into firefighting and see if it’s right for them. 

As we look all across the west, even states that get considerable annual rainfall still need the protection of fire departments. Automation and self-driving vehicles aren’t going to replace humans with robots in this field any time soon; if anything, the big changes will come from how well each firefighter can be moved to the best locations.

There are certainly many other ways to both serve one’s community and, hopefully, make a living in a noble profession. We hope young people are looking ahead and thinking about what their lives will be like in five or 10 years.

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