Editorial: Appreciating our firefighters & sending love to UWAC


As towns prepare for Town Meeting, the Addison Independent recently put a spotlight on the pay of our mostly volunteer fire departments. The story looked at wages and compensation in just three fire departments — Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes — and reported the pay was about $12 to $12.55 per hour. And that was just when firemen were responding to blazes and other public safety calls (in Middlebury and Bristol, respectively), and $8 per hour for Vergennes firefighters when on a call or during active training. 

Not surprisingly, in today’s tight labor market the challenge of recruiting volunteer firefighters is significant. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ team has also focused the spotlight on firefighters and Sanders just introduced the Firefighter Staffing and Support Act that would put $12 billion over five years toward recruitment.  

Towns are also coming up with their own answers. In Middlebury, the department is increasing the pay to $15 an hour when on active calls. In Bristol, pay has been extended to time members spend on training and other duties, netting an additional $750 for lieutenants and $4,000 for the chief. Total additional cost to Bristol’s budget this year would be $15,500, which is not a number that busts any town’s budget or stresses individual taxpayers. 

Such modest amounts are the least county residents should do. We recognize that being a member of any town fire department is truly a labor of love for all who volunteer, but it’s also smart business for towns to demonstrate their appreciation for the services provided. 

If such provisions are on the ballot in your town at Town Meeting, or tucked within the budget, vote yes. If the item isn’t in the budget this year, discuss adding it next year.


In year two of the worldwide pandemic, Addison County donors have upped their donations to area nonprofits at an accelerated rate. Just last week, the United Way of Addison County hit its $665,000 annual goal with five months left in the campaign. That’s a turn-around from a few years ago when the numbers were falling just shy of the organization’s annual fundraising goal — a testament, perhaps, to a surprising upside of the pandemic: more people became aware of those in need.

Whatever the reason, it’s an accomplishment that should be trumpeted from the mountain tops (hence the front page story), lest we miss its significance and fail to pause long enough to appreciate what it says about where we live.

Angelo Lynn

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