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More to the job than fighting fires

Last Thursday I was reading through the Post and ran across Leah Fry’s letter to the editor about seeing Salisbury firemen “shopping” at Food Lion and leaving fire trucks idling.
Fry, a regular submitter of letters to the editor, got me thinking. Why would the firemen be at the grocery store? And like Fry asked, why leave the trucks running?
She said in her letter she didn’t have a stake in the outcome, but she brought up some good questions, so I decided to go straight to the source — the Salisbury Fire Department.
I called Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell who agreed to answer my questions and, in a way, Fry’s questions as well.
He’d read the letter and said he didn’t begrudge her for it but welcomed the opportunity to set right some possible misunderstandings.
Parnell said he remembers the day Fry referred to because it’s so rare to see two trucks at the grocery store at the same time.
Those particular trucks were from Station No. 4. One had just come back from a site review at Isenberg Elementary School and received permission to buy supplies before making a return to the station. The other truck Fry saw was there so firefighters could drop off a set of keys and collect information from a firefighter on the other truck.
“We try to be as economical and thrifty as we can. She caught us in a snapshot in time,” Parnell said of Fry.
He said the fire department does allow the firefighters to shop at Food Lion.
“They work 24-hour shifts; sometimes they need supplies,” he said.
Long gone are the days when firefighters spend their free time cooking in the firehouse, Parnell said.
In fact, the firefighters rarely have free time, much less time to cook a meal. Many of the firefighters grab a quick bite where they can. At Station No. 1 on East Innes Street, firemen are surrounded by dining establishments, Parnell said, but there aren’t that many food options on Statesville Boulevard that are within walking distance.
Each year, Salisbury firefighters respond to about 4,100 calls, perform between 1,200 to 1,500 inspections, as well as conduct 50 weeks of pre-plans or site reviews where the firefighters walk through various businesses and schools to re-familiarize themselves with the building. Firefighters also conduct countless training sessions and educational programs in a given year.
Fry also led me to ask Parnell why firefighters don’t take a personal vehicle to Food Lion or any other place. I figured I knew why, but I asked anyway. The answer Parnell gave me is as I thought. Driving a personal vehicle could come at the price of a life. If a firefighter is in his personal vehicle and receives an emergency call, he’d have to return to the station, get dressed, jump into the fire truck and roll out.
“Our firefighters are professionals. They want to be able to respond in a rapid manner. They keep themselves response-ready at all times,” Parnell said.
Well, why do they have to leave the trucks running?
“In short time frames, it’s more efficient to leave it running than to start it back,” Parnell said.
Large diesel engines like those in fire trucks and other emergency vehicles require more electricity to start than a standard diesel or gas engine.
Leah Fry, I hope I’ve addressed some of your concerns. But I believe last week won’t be the last time you spot a fire truck and firefighters at Food Lion or in other places throughout town.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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