We hear the stories of running into burning buildings while everyone else runs out, saving people from horrific crash scenes and dramatic rescues, but our first responders do so much more that goes unnoticed and underappreciated.
Wasatch County Fire is doing everything they can to protect and keep our community safe. They host wildland fire and emergency management meetings, run mock disaster drills, conduct safety inspections and speak to countless groups that visit the firehouse. Many of their daily activities don’t make the front page and whether you realize it or not, we’re safer because of them.
While the Heber Valley continues to grow, the fire department is trying to match pace. Wasatch County Fire Chief Ernie Giles says they’ve expanded a lot in the last 18 months. Originally created in 1921, the department’s response area covers 1175.5 square miles. In 2018, they responded to more than 2,300 calls and are on pace to add at least 200-plus to that number this year.
“Some days we may see fewer calls and other days are nonstop,” says Giles. “Daily duties, like cleaning and equipment and tool checks, are part of the routine — and we train so we can keep certifications up. We need 400 hours every two years to keep current.”
Wasatch County Fire has two full-time stations with three crews at each station that rotate on 48-hour shifts.
There are a lot of sacrifices beyond the danger and risk these heroes face every day. If you’ve ever dialed 911, you know every second feels like eternity, yet the response times are usually within minutes. And if you have called, you know the feeling of relief once they arrive on scene.
“One of the things I get the most satisfaction out of is when kids learn that we will be there to save them if they need us,” says Giles. “To see the expressions and genuine admiration is heartwarming. I’m a big gruff fireman, but being able to educate kids and see the sparkle in their eyes makes me smile from ear to ear.
“They tell us how they know to call 911 and someone will help rescue them, and I love to hear that. It may seem small, but that appreciation is truly gratifying. While explosions in Timber Lakes may get the most attention, I take great pride in teaching and hearing from the children of our community,” Giles says with a smile.
Simple Acts of Gratitude
We may not think of our first responders enough when we don’t need them, but every day their jobs take them into harm’s way. Luckily, there are easy ways to recognize our first responders — and the easiest and most simple way is to just say thanks.
“We appreciate everything this community does to support us,” says Giles. “I grew up here, fifth generation, so I may be partial, but we live in a great place.
“Our guys will be out grabbing a sandwich and someone will buy lunch. Businesses drop by with meals on holidays and we get letters in the mail — you may not think it’s much, but it is. We feel like the community values us and that’s everything. It about brings a tear to your eye to feel the level of appreciation here in the Heber Valley.”
So, when you see these everyday heroes out and about, say thanks. If you have a little extra time, think about dropping something by the fire station or sending a thank-you letter. Any sign of gratitude is appreciated.
Hopefully you’ll never need their services, but if you do, you can be confident dialing 911, knowing that you have some of the valley’s best on the other end of the line.