AMBOY — The 4th of July, Independence Day, brings to mind fireworks and fun for many of us. What may not be at the forefront of our minds is who is working to keep the community safe during the holiday celebrations.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 280 people have to go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.

The National Fire Protection Association Research (NFPR) Data and Analytics Division states, “Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year.”

Who is there to provide emergency medical treatment before heading to an emergency room, and prevent an individual’s error from becoming a community tragedy? It’s your local fire department.

The NFPR statistics show that of the estimated 29,819 fire departments in the U.S., only 17 percent are career or mostly career. The other 83 percent are volunteer or mostly volunteer. So just who are these volunteers and why do they do what they do?

Local emergency responders are our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. They are men and women who recognize the need and feel the pull of community responsibility. What may not be known to us is that the fire work is being done by a very small percentage of us.

“We currently have no shortage in our EMS department since many women have stepped-up, but they aren’t volunteering for firefighter duties,” Amboy Fire Chief Jeff Bryant said.

Bryant says that the number of volunteers is down in many areas throughout the state. He contributes the decline in Amboy to a number of reasons. Some of the reasons he mentioned: many residents work outside the area and are too far away to return during their work hours, employer reluctance to let employees leave work for calls, the reduction in the number of young adults living in the area, and parents with young children at home that are unable to respond due to childcare responsibilities.

“The doubling of the training hours required for firefighter certification is a hurdle for those wanting to volunteer,” Bryant said, “and the rules for career firefighters working in larger departments regarding work in their hometown volunteer departments are problematic.

“It is more important now than ever before that our local departments provide mutual aid to the surrounding departments. We are all in need of more help when providing emergency services to our communities,” said Bryant, “and all of us need larger numbers to best serve the need that currently exists.”

As we contemplate using fireworks this week, let’s keep in mind those that are doing fire work for us. Use precautions and follow all safety procedures when using any fireworks. Consider what you can do to help provide a safer community for all of us.

To be part of the staffing shortage solution, call the fire station at 815-857-2325 to set-up an appointment to speak to someone about volunteer opportunities.