Volunteering – Everyone can help others

Published 9:02 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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Volunteer fireman Dennis Blair understands something about being a first responder – it’s all about helping others. And whether that takes the form of running into a burning building, praying with survivors, cleaning equipment or passing volunteers a cool bottle of water, Blair said there is something everyone can do to help their neighbors in life’s most difficult moments.

“There’s a place for everybody in the volunteer fire department,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t have to go into a house fire. Everybody doesn’t have to cut someone out of a car. But they can set up the lights for us.

“Sometimes we fight fires when it’s 100 degrees outside. For someone to just bring us water, that’s a part anybody can play. You don’t have to go into a burning house.”

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Once Lowndes County’s only certified emergency medical technician (EMT), Blair joined the Lowndesboro Volunteer Fire Department in 2011. At the time, he served as the Alabama Department of Health Emergency Management Services (EMS) director and used his knowledge and connections to help rejuvenate the local department and aid them in serving the Lowndesboro community.

As state EMS director, Blair obtained EMT certification of his own volition, to better understand the needs of those he worked alongside. Now, as a retired volunteer, he serves in a behind-the-scenes role, to support and build up the local department.

Dennis and his wife Connie live in Lowndesboro. She is also retired from her work teaching at Lowndes Academy. When not fighting fires, the couple keep their grandchildren. She also attends garden club meetings, and he dabbles in beekeeping.

But Blair considers his role as a volunteer one of the most important duties he has.

“We respond when people are panicking,” Blair said. “They need somebody to help them. We may not be able to save the house, but we can protect the houses on either side and protect other things.”

He reflects on one particular situation, when a victim needed CPR. When the ambulance took that man away, he had a heartbeat, and although Blair was uncertain of the man’s chances for survival, he felt good about playing a part in giving the man a shot at life.

“We give people an opportunity to have some hope,” Blair said. “When we arrive on a scene and someone is hurt real bad, we do everything we can to stabilize them, to give them hope until they get to the hospital. And to me, that’s what people need.”

Blair urges local citizens to get involved with their neighborhood fire department. Everyone has a skill fire departments can use to aid their community.

“If you don’t feel comfortable going into a burning building, just let us know what you’re comfortable doing,” he said. “Then we’ll know what parts you can play on any response.

“Giving people hope feels good. Whether it’s at a house fire or car wreck, we do what we can to help. If you’re not volunteering, you don’t get to experience that feeling.”