MERIDEN -- Volunteer firefighters are more than just a rescue service. They are teachers, farmers and mechanics; they are fathers, daughters and friends. The communities served by volunteer fire departments depend on these brave men and women to be their first line of defense in the case of an emergency.
Most small communities do not receive enough funding for fire protection services yet still experience the same emergencies found in a big city. Community support is vital for local departments, like the Meriden Fire Department, to help purchase necessary equipment necessary to protect volunteers and the public during fires and other emergencies.
Local farmer Michael Dunn knows the importance of volunteer fire protection and chose the Meriden Fire Department when given the opportunity to direct a $2,500 donation to a nonprofit organization through America's Farmers Grow Communities, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.
"With the dry harvest we have been have had a rash of field and equipment fires," Dunn said. "Our local departments have been out every day battling these fires. That underscores how much we owe the volunteers and how we should support them."
The department, which recently battled three open-field blazes in a single day, put its $2,500 donation in a fund toward the eventual purchase of a new fire engine.
"We are actively pursuing any financing we can find for our new engine because it will improve by 100 percent the efficiency of the service we can offer," said Meriden Fire Chief Gerald Kintigh. "We are also encouraging people to be aware of their surroundings and take fire safety precautions, like encouraging farmers to buy a leaf blower and use it to dust off their equipment each morning. It's a simple step that and a whole lot cheaper than buying a new combine."
As we observe Fire Prevention month this October, Kintigh reminds us to thank the local volunteers who strive to keep our community safe and to inspect our homes for possible fire hazards by following these safety tips:
1. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home if you haven't done so already, and test it monthly.
2. Prevent electrical fires by checking outlets and unplugging any unused appliances. Avoid overloading extension cords or circuits, and secure any loose electrical connections.
3. As we move into the winter months, provide sufficient space around portable heaters, and inspect chimneys and fireplaces.
4. Create an escape route with your family and practice it often. Make sure everyone knows what the safe meeting place will be outside the home in case of an emergency.
5. Blow out all burning candles when leaving a room and never leave a child alone in a room where a candle is burning. Also, remember to keep lighters and matches in a locked cabinet out of a child's reach.
For a rural community, $2,500 can go a long way to providing organizations such as the Meriden Fire Department with the tools they need to keep their communities safe. Visit www.growcommunities.com to learn more about America's Farmers Grow Communities. The program is part of a broad commitment by the Monsanto Fund to invest in farm communities in order to highlight the important contributions farmers make every day to our society, and sign-ups for this year's program are going on now. From now through Nov. 30, 2011, farmers can apply online at www.growcommunities.com or call 1.877.267.3332 to apply by phone.