This past week’s tragedy in Mineral Point, Wis., is a sobering example of the risks that firefighters face every day.

Mineral Point firefighters Captain Brian C. Busch, 43, and James M. Ludlum, 69, were killed in a wreck early Thursday when their firetruck was hit by a semi-tractor trailer as they were responding to a crash on U.S. 151.

To lose two firefighters in the line of duty is a tragedy of crushing proportions, particularly in a small town where the loss will devastate the community’s firefighting team. Everyday events — like vehicle crashes on highways — can turn catastrophic for the people who make their living by responding to emergencies.

No doubt, this loss of life sent shudders through the families of firefighters all across the tri-state area. It also comes at a time when firefighters are busier than ever.

A Telegraph Herald report from late December showed that area fire department officials responded to an increasing number of calls in 2021. Dubuque Fire Department officials anticipated responding to 7,885 by the end of 2021 — more than 21 calls per day. That compares to a call volume of 6,525 calls (17.9 calls per day) in 2020. The 2021 numbers also were higher than call volumes five and 10 years ago, with 6,039 calls in 2016 and 5,074 calls in 2011. Other area fire departments reported similar increases.

Firefighters have little idea when they begin each workday what the hours ahead will hold. But for each call they attend to, firefighters must be focused, agile, calm, decisive and ready to put their training to use.

Dubuque firefighters had a monumental test last month when fire broke out Dec. 8 at the Canfield Hotel in downtown Dubuque. Flames leapt from fourth-floor windows in a structure that housed at least 40 people. Yet it was just 12 minutes from the time the alarm went off to the time the flames were knocked down. Firefighters also assisted a person suffering from smoke inhalation and rescued another person from a window with a ladder.

In a city with very few buildings the size of the Canfield, Dubuque firefighters were able to use their training, preparation and coordinated response to keep a significant fire from being a major one.

In our corner of the world, many rural residents fight fires on a voluntary basis. When citizens call 911 to report an emergency, they expect and deserve rapid response. Whether the person responding to that call is a volunteer or a professional, citizens owe that individual a debt of gratitude.

Today, we hold in our thoughts the community of Mineral Point and the families of the firefighters who lost their lives. We honor their memory with respect for all those who choose this lifestyle of putting themselves in harm’s way for the safety of others.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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