What does the phrase "mutual aid" mean to you? On one level, it's exactly what it sounds like. People helping people and getting help in return. This sounds like a very good idea for a community in general. It's one of the reasons, for example, that I love living here in a rural small town rather than in a city. Here neighbors help neighbors, and they know that, when the chips are down, they can call on their neighbors for help, as well.
But the neighbor thing also works on a larger scale. In addition to being a good idea in general, "mutual aid" is a technical term that refers to the agreements that emergency responders in one community have with their counterparts in neighboring communities. Last week I wrote about the recent structure fire at Marks Road, where Westport-Wadhams firefighters were joined by our brothers and sisters from Willsboro, Whallonsburg, Elizabethtown, Port Henry, and Moriah. I was amazed at the sheer number of men and women battling the blaze in concert as a single team. Ambulance crews from Willsboro-Essex and Elizabethtown-Lewis also stood by in case they were needed, and helped with routine coverage at the Fair at the same time.
Sometimes a fire or other emergency is bigger than any one community can handle on its own. It's good to know that our neighbors are standing by to help, just as it's good to know that we're ready to help them if the need arises. A few days later, a mutual aid call came over the pager for a structure fire in Port Henry. We would, of course, have done our best anyway. But, speaking for myself, knowing that Port Henry firefighters had just been there for us made me glad that our department could be there for them. It felt good to help, and perhaps I was just that extra little bit motivated.
So here's a big thank you from us in Westport to all of our fine neighbors. We are proud to have you stand with us, and we're proud to stand with you, too.