Community fire protection is a local government function that citizens support through taxes. It is a service so basic that citizens often overlook it until it is needed, and then it can be a matter of life or death. This Georgia Story follows men in one of the busiest fire stations in Atlanta. Capt. Billy Shoemaker explains why he became a fireman. As a child he admired a family friend and dreamed of riding in a fire truck, climbing ladders, and helping people in need. Captain Shoemaker describes some of the challenges and dangers of the job. Firefighter Steven Woodworth demonstrates a helmet mounted with an infrared camera that helps firemen see through smoke. The $23,000 price tag means there is not one on every truck. When the alarm sounds, Atlanta firemen have four minutes to dress and get to the scene. Veteran fireman Roderick Smith and a young student race to see if they can put on turnout gear–steel-plated boots, a jacket, gloves, and a helmet–in one minute. As local government public safety providers, firemen do more than fight fires. They rescue drowning victims, respond to car wrecks, and handle train derailments and gas leaks. They are trained professionals who depend on one another to get the job done right. As the work winds down at the scene of a fire, a fireman sums it up: “nobody hurt, house still standing, job well done.”
Teacher tip: Ask students to scan the news using newspapers, radio or television broadcasts, or the Internet for one week and record all the incidences where the fire department is called to do a job. At the end of the week, ask students to write a paragraph summarizing the work of the fire department, concluding with their opinion of its value to the community.