In the wake of the widespread California fires, we as a country need to address the shortage of first responders currently plaguing our nation. An article by Pacific Standard explains how lack of federal government funding has affected fire companies and fire training programs across the country. “The 35-day government shutdown in December and January was another contributing factor to the shortage. The longest shutdown in government history brought firefighter training programs to a halt. Training workshops that had been in the works for months were canceled, slowing the hiring process and reducing the number of firefighters with the qualifications to step into leadership roles.” And while the Pacific Standard’s article explained that even though fire companies are hiring, they are struggling to fill so many positions. Out in California, inmates are fighting the flames alongside firefighters, but for the rest of the U.S., fire companies face shortages themselves. New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maine and so many more are struggling to fill firefighter positions.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX NEWS
On top of lacking firefighters, states are also lacking first responders in general. The number of EMTs are plummeting, according to a CBS article from last spring, which states that “according to the U.S. Department of Labor, since 2016 there has been an average base of about 8,600 EMT and paramedic jobs in Georgia, but in the next six to seven years that number could increase nearly 24 percent to almost 11,000 jobs. However, there would still be an average of nearly 800 unfilled positions.”
So why are we lacking firefighters? Why are we lacking first responders in general? The answer is we aren’t thinking about saving the little people. Everyone wants to go into careers to help others: to cure widespread diseases, to create new vaccines, to be that person who ends global poverty—but we have neglected the importance of local heroism. We have a shortage of firefighters, not just because of lack of federal funding, but because my generation and other generations are being taught that local engagement is not as important as it is on the global level. Firefighters are not as important as doctors, EMTs are not as important as lawyers, and so on and so forth until we stare at our televisions during a widespread natural disaster and wonder why we feel so helpless. We need to regain the importance in our society towards local heroes. We need to break the stigma that volunteer firefighters or volunteer EMTs are unimportant to functioning as a society. Beyond that, we need to teach our children, our friends, our loved ones that anyone can be a first responder. If you really want to change the world, be a local hero.
Sydney is a junior English major.