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Sunday, June 18, 2017




Sunday, 9:00 AM.  61 degrees F at the ferry dock, 58 on the back porch.  Wind NNE, breezy with stronger gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity 91%.  It is raining again after better than a half inch fell last night, and it looks like it will be a drippy day.  The barometer is beginning to rise, but the week ahead is predicted to have mixed skies with chances of rain, and high temperatures in the mid-60's.  A cool and damp spring is turning into a cool and damp early summer, which has pretty much guaranteed the success of the big rock garden job we planted a month ago.
   Yesterday we attended the annual Bafield Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Service open house. We took a close look at all the equipment, which was polished to perfection, talked with volunteer firemen and EMTs, and ate gourmet firehouse food prepared by, who else, the firemen.
   Bayfield's firemen and EMTs are an all volunteer force, highly trained and on call 24/7.
They raise money to supplement the city equipment budget with an annual raffle and other events.  Area fire departments and ambulance services cooperate in combating major fires and in other emergencies, and and a helicopter service is on call for emergency flights to Duluth hospitals.
   We have lived in communities with both paid and volunteer emergency services, and find them about equal in effectiveness.  It is becoming more and more difficult to maintain volunteer services  because of declining rural and small town populations, and one way to compensate for that factor is for communities to pay a standby and per-emergency stipend, which helps young people with seasonal or low income regular jobs to stay in the community, and is still far less of a tax burden than hiring full time personnel.
   The city of Ashland has a large enough population to support full time emergency services, but surrounding communities and the Indian reservations must rely on volunteers.
  A not-so-subtle threat to volunteerism in general is over-the-top licensing and education requirements by state and federal agencies that can make it nearly impossible to recruit and train volunteers.  I am told that volunteer or deputized citizen help is no longer possible for small police departments for exactly that reason.
   The perfect should never become the enemy of the good.

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