If you ever find yourself in a fire or medical emergency 13.1 miles away from the nearest road, never fear: Several firefighters around here can run that distance with a helmet, an air tank and other gear weighing 40 or 50 pounds.
About half a dozen of them proved it Sunday in Fayetteville’s Hero Half Marathon, a fundraiser for the Fayetteville Firefighters Scholarship Fund and other charities and a commemoration of the many firefighters who’ve died doing their jobs. One or two hundred other participants joined them on a route around Lake Fayetteville and south to the heart of town.
I expected to find people a couple hours later lying totally exhausted at the finish line, but most of these weirdos were talking and walking around as if it were just a normal day. The firefighters, including the first woman firefighter to complete the race, showed a little more fatigue after it all, but even they were soon joking around — after ripping off the gear.
Well done, everybody. Thanks for looking.
My project on rural and volunteer fire departments, which I first mentioned here, came to an end this weekend after three and a half months of work. It’s behind a paywall, but you can read the finished story here, if you like.
I focused more on reporting than photography during the second half of the project, but I still have a few to share. The first few are from an August fire south of Fayetteville; five departments squeezed their tanker trucks down a narrow country lane to fight it, but one man, Dale Cheatham, died inside, likely before crews arrived.
It was so hot around the house the fighters took 15-minute shifts before retreating to this area, where medics checked their vitals and passed out bottles of water.
This photo is from a training meeting up in Goshen. Going through a half-built home is a good way to see and discuss how a home is built, how to approach fires in different parts of the structure, where there’s lots of air to feed a fire, how the floors are constructed. Firefighters, even volunteers, have to keep probably three dozen things in mind as they fight.
Finally, just a few images from a fundraising breakfast for the Northeast Benton County, or NEBCO, department. Many departments are struggling with recruitment and resources, but hundreds of people turned out to support them earlier this month.
As with many long projects, I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I’m done. I owe so much to all the volunteers, chiefs and supporters who talked with me and let me intrude into their lives for a little while. It’s an amazingly tight-knit and friendly group.
Thanks for looking,