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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Privacy Kills

Kingsley at Christmas

My fire pager went off at 9:40 last night. “Possible structure fire at 19 ‘Pie-till-ah’ Road.” I know that road because it is the incorrect pronunciation that everyone uses for the road we live on. I was groggy, because dealing with our dog who thinks sunrise is a glorious time of day meant I had already fallen asleep, but I saw nothing unusual as I rushed by 19 to get to the fire station quickly.

Some Station 7 Members at a Parade
When I got to the station people were ready to go so I hopped in the truck and led the way. One of the Chiefs was in front in front of us in his pickup truck. When we got to the fork in the road we heard over the radio, “there’s no sign, which way do I go?” I told my Captain “tell him to take the left and it will be the second driveway on the right, which isn’t marked either.”

We got to the house with only a little delay and, fortunately, it wasn’t an active fire but a couple televisions had started smoking and light bulbs started popping because of a serious electrical problem. We spent quite a bit of time scanning the walls with our infrared camera looking for any hidden fire or hot spots.

When I started helping on the volunteer fire department I was surprised at how many times we were out there in the dark trying to find an address among the long unmarked driveways on many of our roads. Even worse are the roads and streets that are unmarked or, perhaps, marked with a hand-painted sign. We have map books and a GPS in every truck but the GPS doesn’t tolerate spelling errors, those take time and they only get us close.

And it’s not just the part-time volunteer firemen who get confused. I’ve twice been involved with ambulance calls on our road where I had to get on my cell-phone with the dispatch center to give directions to the ambulance that I could hear going the wrong way at the fork in the road.

I know it’s not my place, as someone who hasn’t been in Charlestown for 20+ years, to try to change “the unique rural character” of our town and I wouldn’t move away for the world. But, during those times searching for an address while driving a fire truck, I think about many (most?) other towns that ensure all streets are uniformly marked and require uniform house number markings at the ends of the driveways. Yes, those green signs with the white letters are ugly but they are there because they can save lives.