Editorial: Don’t target our volunteer firefighters

PAUL SQUIRE  PHOTO | Riverhead authorities investigate the latest dumpster fire in Riverhead Sunday evening.
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead authorities investigate the latest dumpster fire in Riverhead Sunday evening.

“Lives are at risk.”

That’s what Riverhead Town fire marshal David Andruszkiewicz said this week when questioned about the string of dumpster fires — clear acts of arson — that occurred in Riverhead and Southampton towns. Riverhead alone had eight fires in four days.

It’s ridiculous that some need reminding of those grave childhood warnings about the danger of misdirecting emergency resources. Most remember the fire officials who would visit schools to warn that “it could be your house that burns down while firefighters are headed to a false alarm.”

Yet it seems neither the threat to life nor the risk of prison time for an arson conviction is a deterrent. So let’s try a different approach.

Give the guys a break.

The Riverhead Fire Department is coming off its busiest year on record, with volunteers responding to 1,159 alarms, for a total of 14,228 hours out in the field. And that’s OK; these selfless men and women know what they’ve signed up for, and it’s in their nature to want to help their friends and neighbors during a fire, accident or some other calamity.

But that’s also 14,228 hours they spent away from their homes, families and workplaces in 2012, affecting their personal lives and maybe their finances. They don’t deserve to have more hours piled on.

For every idiotic early morning dumpster fire set in recent days, some small child somewhere in town might have had to wait by himself for the school bus during an unusually cold morning, because dad wasn’t there to sit with him in the car. Another youngster might have missed practice or karate lessons because she couldn’t get a ride after mom was called out of the house at 6 p.m. to douse garbage. No one in our communities needs a little more quiet time with their families more than our busy volunteer firefighters right now, and whoever’s behind these little blazes — be it some sicko or immature kids — is taking that away from these dedicated volunteers. Not to mention putting lives at risk.

Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to call the Riverhead Town fire marshal’s office at 727-3200, ext. 601.