ALPENA - Each year firefighters from the Alpena Fire Department do more for the community than just respond to emergencies and help those who are injured or sick. They also give back to the Alpena community in other ways, such as the annual free skate at Northern Lights Arena.
On Wednesday the firefighters invited residents to the ice rink to enjoy some time skating with them and to chat with those they serve, and in some instances risk their lives for.
Mike Sanders, a firefighter/paramedic at the city department, said the free skate has been taking place for several years and the public seems to enjoy it, especially the children.
"We have been doing this for about five years and we did it really just to give something to the kids that they can enjoy during the Christmas break and home from school," Sanders said. "There is information sent with them from school in the Friday folders and we normally have a great turnout and the ice rink is packed."
Sanders said it is not only the kids who lace up the skates and do laps, parents and even grandparents often accompany the children on the ice for some fun. Sanders said the free skate is also a chance for the firefighters to visit with the people they serve.
"It is all about connecting with the public," Sanders said. "Typically we see these people around shopping and we just don't have time to stop and talk, so this gives us the perfect opportunity to talk to the adults and the kids and maybe answer any questions they may have or just help them learn to skate."
Besides the free skate, the firefighters also take part in other public and charity causes. They take part in the public safety days and also the "Fill the Boot" fundraising campaign that raises money for Muscular Dystrophy. Sanders said fighting fires and helping to save lives is their job, but finding other ways to make a difference in the community is also part of their obligation.
"Helping people in any way is really part of the core or what we do, it really is," Sander said. "We are so community based and so community oriented that things like this are just a natural evolution of the service. I really think each of us enjoys coming out here and being with the kids skating, because a lot of us do skate and it is a lot of fun for us."
Firefighter/paramedic Doug Krueger said the people also make sure the local first responders are taken care of while they are doing their job. He said many times when there is an emergency local people rally to help them.
"There is a lot to say about what they do when we have a fire or somethings going on," Krueger said. "There are times when they provide us food or water when we're at a fire and we're hungry. They come and donate stuff to help us, so this is just a thank you for the things they do for us also."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.