Easy way to thank our Lincoln firefighters is to attend their muster

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Norm Kent has an extremely difficult and dangerous job. He expects to sustain some burns and breath in toxic air at work. Plus Kent doesn’t have the option of knowing what’s in store any workday. He just has to be ready at all times to battle all types of fire and handle other emergency calls, often throughout the night and early morning. Kent, 32, has been a firefighter for 11 ½ years, the first 7 years in Penryn and the last 4 ½ years in Lincoln. And while the Lincoln resident never knows if the grass fire he’s fighting is going to develop into a monster or if victims are inside a burning house, Kent doesn’t want any other job. “I can’t think of anything in life I’d rather do,” Kent said. “I go to work and can make a difference in someone’s life, someone who is calling at their worst moment.” When approaching a fire, Kent focuses on who might be trapped in the fire or hazardous situation. “When we go in, our Number One concern is to save lives. Our Number 2 priority is saving property and saving personal items when the fire is still burning,” he said. Today’s firefighters don’t sit around the fire station waiting for calls about fires, Kent added. They also respond to medical-aid calls, vehicle accidents, hazardous materials and what Kent calls public-service aid. “If someone panics, we’re the community-service handyman,” Kent said. “We serve a lot of elderly people around the city with simple stuff, like turning off water pipes for someone whose house is flooding and they don’t know what to do.” But there’s always the possibility that the next call from dispatch is going to lead to a deadly fire. Kent recently spent six hours at a grass fire, less than a foot away from a burning barn. Kent didn’t have the option, once the radiant heart increased to 300-plus degrees, to walk away and expect someone else to make sure the fire was extinguished. “It’s especially hard during a structure fire, carrying heavy gear. It’s exhaustive work,” Kent admitted. Yet Kent and his peers receive little fanfare for their work. The firefighters will receive thanks from those residents they’re helping, but for the most part, the public doesn’t make a big fuss about their efforts. And that’s OK with Kent. “We don’t look for appreciation when we do our job,” Kent said. “We take an oath, when we get our badges, that we’ll protect the city we serve and we realize that there will be times we’ll lay down our lives for someone else’s life. One of the hardest parts of this job is having our wives understand that any day could be our last.” But firefighters deserve to know every day that the public holds them in high esteem. That’s why, to me, the inaugural Lincoln Fireman’s Muster on July 18 and July 19 is a big deal. Big enough, in fact, to warrant a front-page series for four weeks and a Fireman’s Muster section inserted in today’s paper. Lincoln’s inaugural Fireman’s Muster will feature traditional competitions between firefighters from all over Northern and Central California on both days as well as all-ages activities for Lincoln residents. Those activities include a pancake breakfast, an art show, children’s games, an antique car and hot rod display, beer garden and dinner dance. If representatives from cosponsoring organizations Lincoln Professional Firefighters Association and the Historic Downtown Lincoln Merchants’ Association are right, hundreds of visitors will visit downtown Lincoln during the two-day event. And Kent will be there, competing alongside his fellow 20 Lincoln firefighters. “I notice when the public is there at musters. The cheering by the crowd makes me compete better, I get energy from the crowd,” Kent said. Please mark your calendars to join our firefighters downtown on July 18 and July 19. They will definitely appreciate your support. It’s also an easy way to say thank you to firefighters, a group of selfless professionals who don’t usually hear our appreciation in the course of the workday. Unless, of course, we’re involved in an emergency. But why wait when we can easily say thank you to some of our brave neighbors under normal conditions?