Already this young summer season there was a rescue from Glen Onoko Falls, which is not uncommon for the area.

Actually, it doesn't matter what season is upon us, rescues are needed. Even in winter, individuals with improper attire or poor judgement climb the falls, slip, and need rescuing. Often the rescue workers put themselves at risk trying to save lives.

Glen Onoko is a remarkable place. When safety is put on the forefront, then it's an enjoyable thrill to climb the path leading past the falls.

On the other hand, too many people climb without proper shoes. Too many individuals get brave and get too close to the falls, slipping on wet rocks.

Whatever the reason for their fall, the result is always a call for help from local firefighters, rescue squads, and ambulance crews.

Ambulance associations who respond are reimbursed through fees. Fire departments and rescue squads aren't.

Municipalities should adopt ordinances placing a charge on such rescues. It is costing money to utilize equiment and manpower to save lives.

Certainly we're glad we have so many great volunteers who respond to such calls. The main reason fire departments were formed was for fighting fires. Rescue has become a vital segment of fire departments. It's understandable that rescue calls such as a traffic accident be expected of these volunteers.

The number of rescue calls is increasing and placing a burden on already worked volunteers who fight fires, do rescue, maintain their equipment and headquarters, and conduct fundraising.

There should be signs placed at the entrance to Glen Onoko warning of the dangers of climbing the falls. The signs should mention that climbers will be at their own risk, and that costs of rescue operations will be borne by the victims.

In no way should Glen Onoko be a forbidden zone. It's time, though, that individuals who risk climbing at hazardous times, or who climb despite not having the right equipment, or climb even though they can't stand heights, are held responsible for their own actions.

We can virtually guarantee that within weeks, there will be one or more rescues at Glen Onoko. And, we're not implying that accidents don't sometimes happen.

We're just saying that often accidents are avoided with common sense. Sometimes common sense isn't applied until individuals are made financially responsible for their actions.

Fortunately, no firefighter or rescue worker has been seriously injured in these rescues even though the rescues are often very dangerous operations.

Fire departments and rescue squads shouldn't be asked to respond to such calls without proper reimbursement for the use of their very expensive equipment.

In many states, rescue costs are levied on individuals needing the services of fire departments and other emergency squads. Hopefully local municipalities and squads will consider it.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com