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It's time for all of us to start ignoring the hotheads, whether career or volunteer. This isn't to say there aren't some serious differences between the two branches; there are, and some are very difficult to resolve. But we should follow the example being set by the leaders of the national fire organizations, who have come to realize that they can sharply disagree on some major issues and still work together to solve most other problems. No one has given up any power or independence, but a genuine effort has been made to find the common ground that enables them to cooperate for the benefit of all. The end result has been a series of achievements that wouldn't have been possible without teamwork.
There was an example of that spirit at last April's dinner for the Congressional Fire Services Institute. The International Association of Fire Fighters put up $10,000 to start a relief fund to assist firefighters in the Grand Forks, ND, region whose homes had been damaged by floods while they were out protecting their citizens. The International Association of Fire Chiefs immediately matched the union's money and the Rev. Pierce Damewood, chaplain of the Maryland State Fireman's Association, challenged the 1,700 people attending the dinner to add to their contributions. A fire helmet quickly filled with $7,500 in cash and that amount was matched by VFIS Inc., which insures volunteer fire departments.
Within minutes, $35,000 was raised for the firefighters of the Grand Forks region and no one seemed to care if it came from the career or volunteer ranks. All they knew was that fellow firefighters needed help and everyone responded which is exactly as it should be.