ROXBURY, NJ – Landing resident Jennifer Schriever Skomail had been thinking for a while about writing something about the sacrifices made by volunteer first responders and their families. The 34-year-old mother of three, whose husband Christopher is a member of Roxbury Fire Co. 2, just never found the time.
But the Jan. 20 fire in Succasunna, one that displaced a young family on a bitterly cold day, prompted Skomial to finally do it, she said. Her letter, titled "Will You Answer the Call? A Proud Family's Plea for Fire Service Volunteers," appeared in TAPinto Roxbury and on Skomial's Facebook page.
“I definitely think it was because it was young family with children close in age to our kids,” Skomial explained. “It was everything about it; the conditions outside, the length of time he was gone.”
She said that being the wife of a firefighter was easier before the couple, now married for seven years, had children. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier.
These days, when her 34-year-old spouse rushes out the door (sometimes several times in a day or a night) Skomial worries not only about his safety but also about the impact an accident would have on the couple’s daughters, she said.
Skomial - who happens to be New Jersey Educator of the Year for 2018 – said she felt a need to explain that feeling. She stressed she wasn’t complaining. In fact, she wrote her letter hoping it would encourage others to sign-up for the unpaid, and often otherwise unrewarded, life.
“I think everything rolled into one that night,” she said. “I’d been wanting to write something. That night I said, ‘This is really the time to do it.’”
Skovial said there seem to be many in the area who moved here from urban places that have paid fire and emergency medical crews. Some have little understanding about the volunteer thing. One of them was a colleague, she said.
“I had to explain it to her because she thought it was just once or twice a month that he (Christopher) went and did something,” Skomial said.
The truth is, volunteer first responders often endure days involving multiple calls. “One day we had storms and there were six calls that day,” Skomial said. She noted Fire Co. 2 often finds itself responding to incidents on Route 80, a very risky place.
“I worry all the time,” she said. “I was always concerned with him being on the actual fire scenes, but in recent times - this past year - I keep thinking of all the things that could go wrong on the way to the fire call, let alone the worry about him being in an actual fire.”