Just a few short weeks ago I enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July with family and friends. We shared good food and good conversation, coming together to celebrate the birth of our nation. As dusk approached the many kids began the long-held tradition of lighting sparklers. They ran around our large yard with their arms waving in circles to watch the sparkling and glowing patterns. I observed with dread, knowing the dangers that could happen. I'd insist shoes be worn by all. Elli got a bad burn on her foot a few years ago from stepping on a recently dead sparkler. I restrained my words of "be careful, don't run too fast," allowing them the fun that I enjoyed in my youth, watching the enchanting sparkles.

Living in the country, we have our very own personal fireworks display in our yard. My husband Craig, provides a half-hour of entertainment. With glittering jets reaching hundreds of feet into the air, the fireworks would sizzle then burst with a sharp bang, into kaleidoscopes of gold, green, red, and blue. Accompanying the fireworks was a selection of patriotic songs. We watched in wonder and awe at the mesmerizing beauty, only occasionally being hit on the head by falling debris.

As a disaster volunteer in both Milwaukee and Washington counties, I responded to hundreds of house fires to make sure the families would have food, shelter, and clothing. One 4th of July afternoon years ago, my pager began beeping. I had recently arrived home from marching in our local parade with other volunteers on my disaster team. Another team member and I responded to the fire as quick as we were able, to see how we could assist the family.

The homeowners had left for a romantic get-away, for just a couple of days. Their almost teenage sons were safely staying with neighbors.

Readily available fireworks are alluring, especially for young boys. It's exciting, with the pops, hisses, and loud bangs created after the lighting of a short fuse. Like many kids, these boys were not allowed to have or use firecrackers.

After obtaining their contraband, they left the safety of the neighbor's house to light off fireworks inside their home. No one would ever find out since the parents were away, right? Hiding indoors and playing with fireworks is never a good thing. One small firecracker found its way into the sofa. Oh my, what a tragedy it turned out to be. Fortunately for the boys, they escaped the house unharmed after trying to extinguish the growing flames by beating at them with rugs.

The fire department arrived and extinguished the flames from the now blazing house. The parents were contacted and ended their get-away to return home. My volunteer partner and I waited for the parents return. Once they arrived we provided them with a hotel room for a couple nights, a voucher for some groceries, and a few comfort kits filled with items like shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. We left the parents, police, and firefighters to deal with the boys, while we returned to our own 4th of July celebrations.

In addition to my national disaster responses of 9/11, hurricanes, and flooding, local volunteering will find its way into a chapter of my book. I will share what it was like for me to serve on a Disaster Action Team and the many types of fires and emergencies I was able to assist with.