Personal experience fuels ‘firebox’ outreach project

POTTERY ADDITION – Close friends of Mike Achhammer lost their home a few years ago. He could see the fire from his place of employment – and knew what it was like to experience that kind of tragedy. After all, Achhammer’s own family’s home had burned in 1984, which prompted him to become a volunteer firefighter.

“I thought, ‘What can we do besides just come and put out the flames and write up a report?’ Achhammer said.

The idea of a “firebox” was born when he began thinking of emergency items he would need. But Achhammer needed help to fill the boxes and to provide one for each of the 26 fire departments in Jefferson County.

The idea was brought to the attention of 4-H members and advisers attending the Jefferson County 4-H Winter Carnival in February, and the Friends & Neighbors 4-H Club of Wintersville chose to fill a firebox as one of their community service projects.

Club adviser Donna Corder asked her 4-H members to bring in soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, combs, shampoo and other necessities. She also encouraged them to do a few chores at home to earn money to buy a Tracfone and phone card for the box.

Club members recently presented a firebox to the Pottery Addition Volunteer Fire Department, the first box to be given to a Jefferson County fire department, according to Achhammer. As a thank you, firefighters gave the members a ride in a fire truck.

Pottery Addition Fire Chief Don Bell is on board with the idea of fireboxes. “We’ll carry the box right on the truck – it’s something of comfort (fire victims) can hang on to,” he said.

Friends & Neighbors 4-H members supplied enough items to fill two fireboxes. The second box will go to the Belvedere Volunteer Fire Department where Achhammer serves.

Achhammer, who also is a volunteer firefighter with Holiday Camplands in Andover, hopes the idea will catch on and encourages those interested in helping to visit “The Firebox Project” on Facebook.