How Much Is a Firefighter's Life Worth?

Sat, 04 Jul 2015Bihor, Romania
Author: Ioana Anamaria Ungur

Ioana Ungur At the beginning of the year, when, following an unfortunate event, a new column called „Rescuers among angels” started within our magazine, I have wished that this should remain blank as long as possible. Unfortunately, the painful events are not exactly rare in the battlefield. On Thursday, July 11th 2013, a worthy comrade, a brave and courageous firefighter lost his life whilst saving others.

He died rescuing the lives of others. Without knowing them, or having an obligation towards them other than being a firefighter. Gabriel Boitan could have been anyone among the Romanian firefighters. Any of those who had sworn their lives to his country which, except for a low salary, does not give anything else in return. Gabriel Boitan is the firefighter always on the first line of the incandescent front and whose sacrifice remains anonimously most of the time. He is the firefighter who, leaving for work early in the morning, does not have the certainty that he is going to see his family, children again.

They are people, souls, destinies. Nobody knows who is going to fall next. It could be anyone and that is because these people always fight with the unforeseen, time and the unknown. When the fire alarm starts, the military firefighters rush to come to the people's help. These can be their last moments but all they think is how to rescue others. They cannot even afford to think that, by risking themselves, they could lose everything. The sharp emotion – like in tandem with the alarm – which squeezes their heart when facing the unknown is muffled in their soul whilst courage and abnegation give them strength.

However, any intervention can be their last one. How many of us, those who need them daily, would have the courage and generosity, for a low salary compared to the sacrifice, to be willing to sacrifice our lives when needed ? How many of us think, when seconds seem like hours while waiting for rescuers, that, in fact, for them these could be their last moments. How many of us think that these men, beyond their uniforms and duty, have their own stories: a parent whose only support in life they are, or children who wait and have the right to be caressed and protected by their father, or a girlfriend, or wife who wait for them to continue their walk on the path of life they have chosen together.

The tragic event in Fetești inevitably brings to memory other difficult moments in the life of Romanian firefighters: Mihăilești, Dragonul Roșu… Battlefields of fight for life against all odds which claimed their dues. Men who died while saving others. And what did they get in return ? Regrets, medals, distinctions, aggrandizements, all....post-mortem.

A firefighter's death inevitably brings out painful truths. Though they are daily expected to be ready to sacrifice themselves and even die while doing their duty, the Romanian firefighters have no life insurance. And this given the fact that everytime they fight to rescue a life, they risk their own. It is true that no amount of money could ever replace them in the souls of their families. Still, on hard times, a life insurance could be a real help for their families. Nevertheless, the Romanian firefighters have no life insurance.

In Romania, the family of a firefighter dead in the line of duty, only get several salaries in compensation, maybe some money raised through the charity of their comrades. In other countries, the firefighters benefit from real life and health insurance packages, with special packages for firefighters offered by insurance companies.

The issue of lacking a life insurance for Romanian firefighters, although ignored, is well known by the authorities. Unfortunately, no authorised institution in this country affords the „luxury” to direct funds in order to cover those whom are expected by everyone to sacrifice themselves. The few funds that are assigned for the rescuers are directed to the purchase of special equipment – another delicate matter in the life of Romanian firefighters.

Rarely is the situation when insurance companies offer the Fire Departments as „bonus” for the insurance of fire trucks, free life insurance for all the operative personnel. The money is very little and not more than 400-500 lei. Under these circumstances, the painful question keeps coming back: How much is a firefighter's life worth ?