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Risking your life for someone you do not know

To me, there are only five real jobs in America:  Police Officers, Teachers, Firefighters, Doctors, and the Military Service. Those words were spoken by the great basketball player, commentator and philosopher, Charles Barkley.
This past week Donalsonville and Seminole County celebrated the opening of a brand new fire station. The building stands on a five acre site. The design is functional, not showy. It is like a beacon at night, with lights shining in every direction.   
Public buildings are more than just a structure. When properly done, they are a source of pride for the community.  Where a closed auto dealership once stood as a reminder of the past, a new fire station now points us toward the future.
The real beauty of the new station is not its exterior, but rather the interior of the building.  Offices, training rooms, day rooms and a kitchen line the hall on the way to the equipment bays.  Once inside the truck area, you have reached the heart of the station.  The latest technology is evident everywhere.
In one of those bays resides a new fire truck, Engine 18, the first in 23 years. The other engines stand nearby, as shiny as the day they were purchased.
Most people will never know the work that went into the construction of this facility.  It is the result of elected officials, city and county staff and fire chiefs who were around before I came on the scene.  It is the result of the city and the county working together to solve funding issues, allocating money from the past and even harder, money from the future.
It is the result of the council members making the firm commitment to build the finest facility they could afford without going over budget. The city manager, fire chief, architect and contractor all had a big role in making that happen.
The station is the result of the citizens of the city and the county voting not once, but twice to allocate a significant portion of the Sales Tax revenue to a new fire station.  
The station is what results when the city, county, and community work together over time to make something good happen.   The dream is the easy part.  Making it happen takes years of hard work and dedication.
The county now has its equipment for the volunteer station in Donalsonville housed in the same building, facilitating even better training and quicker response times. This cooperation is how government is supposed to work.
But the station itself is really a monument to the men and women that hold one of the five real jobs in America, as Barkley says, our firemen.  The city first hired and paid a fireman in 1961. The department has been led by three dedicated men during my 40 years in Donalsonville –  Tim Williams, Travis Brooks and Dean King.  
Take a ride by the new station at the corner of North Tennille and East Crawford. Take a little pride in what you as citizens and taxpayers have done for your community.  Take a moment to realize that you are fortunate to have one of the best small town fire departments anywhere protecting you day and night.
Above all, take the time to thank a firefighter, whether full-time or volunteer. They are some of the heroes of our community.   The facility honors those individuals past, present and future that choose to serve the public as a firefighter.   They risk their lives for people they do not even know.  Heroes, indeed.
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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