Edward Nelson Jr. has been around the Lakewood Volunteer Fire Department since roughly 1940, when the 10-year-old Nelson remembers watching his father barrel to emergency calls in a Model T fire truck.
Nelson joined the department in 1948 when he turned 18 and has been there ever since - other than four years of service to his country during the Korean War. Nelson, 84, is retired and can't be expected to go running into burning buildings anymore. He stays involved as an appointed fire police captain and is a regular fixture around the fire hall.
"I can't quit," Nelson told The Post-Journal recently. "This is part of me."
Unfortunately, there are too few Edward Nelson Jr.'s in our area these days. People are busier now than ever before and the number of able-bodied volunteer firefighters is dropping by the decade. On April 26-27, your local volunteer fire department will participate in a statewide efforts called RecruitNY. Your local fire hall will be open with fire department members giving tours of buildings and equipment and with information about how to become a member.
Volunteer firefighters are special people who leave their dinner sitting on the table to respond to a fire or who ignore travel advisories during the worst winter storms to help those who have had an accident on an icy road. They give up their free time to train so they have the knowledge they need to help you when an emergency arises. They leave their family when needed to help yours.
Once you start, much like Nelson, you will probably find it hard to stop.