The residents of Lake County can be proud of the individuals who serve as volunteer firefighters and first responders.

When an emergency arises, it is a small group of dedicated individuals who respond. Regardless of how many emergency calls there are, these individuals consistently train and keep their skills sharp. This is truly the best demonstration of the commitment of a volunteer firefighter: to spend countless hours training for an event that may or may not happen is a testament of the dedication these individuals have for our communities.

The families of the volunteers are often the “unsung heroes,” as they have embraced a life that can be interrupted at a moment’s notice by a little black box known as a pager. It can go off on a holiday, during a birthday party, at dinner with the in-laws, and of course in the middle of the night. It is amazing how the family of a volunteer firefighter becomes an integral and important part of the department. Without family support, a volunteer firefighter will have an uphill battle in an already difficult position.

Employers and business partners are also a big part of the effectiveness of a volunteer organization. Business is interrupted by the pager in the same ways as family life. A huge thank-you needs to go out to the employers and business partners who support the volunteers when they need to leave their job to serve the community.

Some volunteers are self-employed, meaning their own business is not being attended to as they offer their assistance to someone in need. The ripple effect of an emergency call reaches far into our community and on many levels.

Lake County is fortunate to have various volunteer organizations from the Lake County Rescue Squad to the volunteer fire departments. In addition, the area is served by an ambulance service based out of Two Harbors and Silver Bay. All of the organizations work together with the common goal of providing the best service possible with the resources available.

The most important resource available to these organizations are the dedicated personnel who not only respond to the emergency calls, but continually train for a wide variety of events.

The Two Harbors Fire Department is seeking individuals who are interested in serving on the volunteer fire department. Interviews and testing will take place on March 18 for a hiring pool that can be drawn upon as openings on the department occur. There will be an open house on Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.m. for people interested in learning more.

Current and retired firefighters will be at the fire hall to answer questions and share experiences. Families and significant others are encouraged to attend the open house to find out more, as well. Deciding to join the fire department should be a family decision and THFD encourages families to come and ask questions.

Aside from the objective requirements to be on the Two Harbors Fire Department, such as being 18 years old and residing within eight minutes of the fire hall, applicants need to assess the subjective requirements, such as family support and personal commitment. The latter is much more difficult to assess, but with good communication it will become apparent if the fire department is a viable option.

Being a volunteer firefighter is not for everyone. Those who are willing to serve in this capacity should be commended. Of equal importance to recognize are the people supporting our volunteers such as their families, friends and employers.

If you are interested in serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Two Harbors Fire Department, please fill out an application at City Hall, 522 1st Avenue, and stop by the open house.

Mark Schlangen is the chief of the Two Harbors Fire Department.