The heart of Blair, Nebraska is the steady pulse of its Volunteer Fire Department. More than just a service; it is a testament to dedication, resilience, and community spirit. As Joe Leonard, the Chief of the Blair Volunteer Fire Department, shared his hopes and experiences, he gave us a compelling glimpse into this vital force of the town.
“I’m hoping [the film] portrays the reality of how we as volunteer firefighters live our daily lives at home and in the volunteer service,” Leonard stated, referring to the upcoming movie, “Odd Hours, No Pay, Cool Hat.” Though a Hollywood depiction, Leonard hopes it accurately mirrors the life of his team, underscoring the commitment that defines them. (The Blair Volunteer Fire Department will host a showing of “Odd Hours, No Pay, Cool Hat,” Sunday, July 23, at Blair 3 Theater at 12:30pm. They will host equipment tours after.)
His team, he explained, isn’t just diverse in their backgrounds but in their dedication. “Even though this is a volunteer position, it’s also a job you have to be committed to on a daily basis when the tones drop,” he said. His pride in his crew was palpable as he spoke of members who, with 20, 30, or even 40 years of service, “still show up for calls, meetings, and drills.”
Blair’s fire service has been transformative for the locals. “We’ve actually had several instances of impacts on locals ranging from motor vehicle accidents, cardiac arrest, strokes, and back several years ago, people saved in fires,” Leonard shared. These moments of intervention, often a matter of life and death, etch deep marks on the lives they touch.
The rural setting presents its own challenges and rewards. Leonard noted the difficulties of weather, distance, manpower, and water supply that they must surmount. On the flip side, the rewards come in the form of “local farmers helping in certain events and our great mutual aid support.”
A film like “Odd Hours, No Pay, Cool Hat” (Sunday, July 23, 2023, Blair 3 Theater) could inspire unity and resilience in Blair, believes Leonard. “If the general public come watch, they’ll have a better understanding of what we do and go through. They’ll also get an idea of what it costs to outfit a volunteer.” It’s an invitation to the community to see their trials, triumphs, and the dedication they carry.
Leonard elaborates that the department tries to support its members’ diverse needs and obligations. “In the fire service, you have to work together on common ground. Sometimes the older generation likes doing things one way and the new generation likes a different approach,” he said, highlighting the challenge of intergenerational cooperation in the team.
Regardless of whether the community gets their understanding from a film or direct interaction, the message from the Blair Volunteer Fire Department is clear. “We strive to do our best for the citizens and surrounding communities to provide top-notch service,” Leonard asserted, underlining their commitment to the community. He also stressed the importance of volunteering and giving back, a sentiment that resonates with the spirit of Blair.
As Chief Leonard put it, “One of the biggest interactions is to support your volunteers through donations or attending their events.” His call to action is a reminder of the symbiotic relationship between the community and its volunteers, a relationship founded on mutual support and shared commitment.
The Chief thinks this movie is important. We plan to be there Sunday at 12:30 PM. If you can make it, please come out to the Blair 3 movie theater, and support the Blair Volunteer Fire Department. And, share this article with everyone you know to help get the word out about this important event!