It was a terrible fire in Lehighton. Flames were devouring the rear of a double home. Volunteers from three fire departments responded with manpower and apparatus.

The effort by the firefighters was impressive. In a short time, the flames were virtually extinguished. The fire never spread to other buildings and although extensive damage occurred to the dwellings in which the blaze began, the structure remains standing.

Also responding were literally hundreds of spectators. Fire police did their best to keep the onlookers in check, but their efforts proved to be inadequate. It wasn't their fault. They can do only so much.

People pressed right up against fire trucks. A fire official tells us that some youngsters were riding their skateboards over the hoses, using them as types of ramps.

The skateboard action is especially dangerous. While the hoses on fire trucks are periodically inspected, there is still potential for them to break and cause serious injury.

Several years ago, some Lehighton firefighters were hurt when a hose burst and began swinging like a frenzied psychopath.

Fire police are volunteers. They don't have arrest powers and it is probably better they don't because that would mean more training. More training means more time required, which translates into even fewer volunteers.

The police were busy at the scene doing other duties.

Obviously some people lack not only common sense but respect. There's no reason people should have been allowed so close to the fire scene. It's ridiculous to think people would use fire hoses for skateboard jump ramps.

Fire hoses are also very expensive. It would be unfortunate if a skateboard damaged a hose. Firefighters work hard to buy as much of their own equipment as they can. They don't need stupidity as a reason to replace anything.

It's not the first time we saw such disrespect for fire police or authority in general. Until someone gets seriously injured or worse, nothing is likely to be done about it.

We don't blame the fire police. They're limited in what they can do. However, at more scenes people are being forced to stay further from emergency scenes.

Besides what we saw at this fire scene, we've been to accidents and saw people with celular phones taking photos with the victims still in the vehicles.

Where is respect today?

At the Lehighton fire scene, what if there had been an explosion? Who knows how many people would have been hurt.

If individuals are so intent on getting close to fire scenes, let them volunteer with their local fire department.

It means training, but that's what safety entails.

Volunteer fire departments are always looking for members. Just contact your fire chief or any present fire company officer.

Even if you can't tug hoses, you can help with other duties.

Don't get in the way of the firefighters at the scene.

Had a hose broken at the Lehighton fire, it could have not only caused injury, it might have thwarted the efforts of the firefighters in battling the blaze.

Again, they did a remarkable job, as do virtually all volunteer firefighters when they respond to scenes. They're well trained. They're dedicated.

They don't need human impediments.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]