BARNEY’S RIVER – At the end of a long dusty road, in the middle of a line of half-ton trucks, fire trucks and equipment, all overshadowed by a mountainous pile of garbage, sat Joe MacDonald.
It was Aug. 5, 2010, and he had just finished fighting a fire in a garbage mound in Broadway with the majority of other firefighters in the county and probably sat down for the first time in two days.
With his shoulders hunched and sweat dripping from his brow, he pointed his finger in the direction of another fire chief on the scene to respond to the press’s questions, obviously too tired to deal with anyone.
It was an understandable response considering the Barney's River fire chief personally logged in about 175 hours with the department in just a few months.
It was a summer of unbelievable mayhem for the small department of 12 members. It started with a multi-car train derailment in Avondale in June which saw the Barney's River department the first at the scene of a very long ordeal. Day after day members of local fire departments were required at the site while crews cleaned up the overturned cars and repaired the tracks.
Just when things looked like they were getting back to normal, two major highway accidents occurred in the Barney's River coverage area that involved fatalities. This was followed by the dump fire in August that had firefighters at the scene for two days trying to put out a blaze that started by spontaneous combustion.
"The fatalities are harder than anything else," he said. "The train derailment was real, but it was just stuff, there were no injuries."
Well, turn the clock ahead a few months and MacDonald looks like a rested man. Gone is the haggard frown from his face and now he is smiling as he heaps his plate with some food provided during a community dinner Saturday at the Barney's River Presbyterian Church.
All members of the department and their spouses were invited to the church hall as a thank you for the hard work they put in this past summer. It was a group effort that got a tremendous response from the community, said organizer Wendy Ross.
"We just wanted to show our appreciation to the Barney's River Fire Department," she said. "People were so enthusiastic that something was being done."
MacDonald said the members appreciate the support the community has given them this past summer, adding it has taken its toll financially, physically and emotionally on the department and its members. He said the department works closely with other fire departments in the area and it appreciates time and effort they have also put in during the summer months.
He said members were able to catch up on some rest during the past few months and spend some time with their families, but the memories of this summer are still very fresh in their minds.
This is evident when a pager rings through the church hall and a sigh of relief washes over everyone's face when they realize it was just a nightly pager test.
But silence was short lived since a call came in around 7:30 that night for a highway accident. With full stomachs, the men did what they know best, volunteered their time to help others in need during some of the worst moments of someone else’s life.
"The department has recuperated from the summer," MacDonald said. "We just want to thank the community and church for having this for us."