Tagged: fire department

May randomness (P366)


5/8 – In the checkout line, wondering why Nostradamus looks like an angry Sean Connery.


5/9 – Charter Hose No. 1

5/10 – Beth learning to handle a manual TLR, in this case a Super Ricohflex.


5/10 – The Vegetable Garden @ Castle Hill


5/12 – Requiem for a picnic table. This one came into the family around 1975. It had finally rotted to the point of being dangerous. With company due this weekend it was time for it to go. Bring on the chainsaw.


5/14 – cool thrift store find: a Minolta Uniomat. More about this later.


The fog of life

Slightly less than a year ago, I departed for my first shift of 2011 through thick fog. It broke dramatically that morning, signifying hope and promise.  
If I try to be objective it was a decent year. 362 days later I’m still working a good job with a good employer, my family and I are healthy, and our finances are in better shape than they were a year ago. Second grade is going fabulously!  

Emotionally it’s been rough though. Mrs. Mack505 suffered the loss of two family members. My Public Safety family has been rocked with multiple losses, both on duty and off.  
I was not there personally, but I was on duty and listened live as a firefighter lost his life. I’ve held my breath with each subsequent radio transmission and felt the ice in my gut as it became apparent what was happening. I’ve looked into the eyes of the crew who worked to save him, and of the good friend he relieved at shift change that morning. I can happily go the rest of my life without ever repeating that experience, thank you. 
The fog returned this morning, bookending the year in gray. Goodbye, 2011. It’s a new day tomorrow, and I’m on duty at the best job in the world. 
Stay tuned.

Worcester, again

A little over a week ago it began as just another day at work.  
Yesterday it ended with thousands of firefighters, a hundred bagpipes, and the obligatory television cameras.  

(turn your speakers all the way up)

Career or volunteer, big city or small town, FDNY or Oquossoc, ME; when the tones drop we all accept the same risks. We all feel the same pain when one of us doesn’t make it home. 
I met a few old friends and missed meeting a lot more. I rubbed shoulders with the Chief of Fire from Syracuse, NY and with jakes from the ‘hood in DC. We were the proverbial Sea of Blue in support of our brothers and their families in Worcester. I hope we did them proud.  
Rest in peace, FF Davies.

Frankenstein’s Engine

Long standing readers of NfMH will know that I commonly use the designation Engine 68 in my writings. Engine 68 is entirely a creation of my imagination, using experiences and impressions from my days on the engine as well as my interactions with other fire units. The 68 is simply a random number from my past, taken from a favorite ambulance once ridden with a good friend.

Imagine how tickled I was today to read the story of Baltimore City Engine 68 in Fire Apparatus Journal:

Baltimore City has rebuilt the 1993 Pierce . . .that was the first Pierce to go into service in Baltimore. . . Reserve Engine 68 was wrecked in an accident, so the department rebuilt Engine 60 using parts from several dead-lined pumpers and put it back into reserve service [as] Engine 68.

I’m not much of a Pierce fan nor am I interested in the Baltimore FD, but the notion of a real Engine 68 constructed of parts of other engines fits right in here.  Life imitating art and all that stuff. . .

Code Red

I found myself engaged in a bit of reflection today, for various reasons. Then I stumbled across this:

Code Red

I haven’t seen that video in a long time. It looks so old now. I was in Providence attending college and buffing the PFD when it was filmed. In my heart the PFD will always run a fleet of classic Macks and Maxims. They purchased their last Mack, a 1991 CF with body by Ranger, when I was a sophomore. It’s retired now. The modern rigs may be better/faster/safer, but they don’t have the same class.

My local firehouse had a matched pair with custom Fox Point crests on their noses.

Its a calm night on the porch. In the back of my mind I can still hear Ladder 8’s old Maxim diesel roaring up Brook Street.

A tip of the hat to Michael Morse. I knew I’d seen that link somewhere recently.

Blue Wool

Jasmine lifts her head to look as I enter the room. Most of our cats have been with us long enough to know the familiar rustle of the plastic bag, but this is only the second time she’s seen it.

Blue wool.

It’s kept wrapped in plastic from the cleaners and  locked away in an unused closet. The urge to power-shed begins the moment they spot my dress uniform. It has a companion light blue shirt, which isn’t nearly as fun but still shows the fur better than my white ambulance shirts.

And tonight I’m wearing it again.

He was a retired chief from a neighboring department. He died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday morning, Father’s Day. The crew from my engine company worked him to no avail.

It’s raining lightly this evening, and it’s supposed to pour later. I briefly consider polishing up my duty boots and wearing them below my Class A, but I dismiss the idea. A retired chief gets the full patent leather treatment even if it means risking my shoes in a puddle.

One of my collar pins breaks as I attach it to the shirt; I substitute a smaller one from my EMS uniform and hope no one will notice. The black elastic band goes over my badge. Some days I wonder why I ever take it off. We only wear the badges on our dress uniforms, and it seems we only wear our dress uniforms for somber occasions. My new belltop seems too big, which is odd. It’s only six months old, and I doubt my head has shrunk. I must’ve needed a haircut when I bought it.

For years, funerals were an obligation I felt to brother firefighters. We buried retired members and a few old-timers. As time passes we bury colleagues, men I’ve actually worked with. It’s an odd feeling. It’s more personal now.

There’s a good showing from the local fire departments. Approximately 50 of us march the short distance from the firehouse to the funeral home in the rain, following the newest engine. The chaplains say a prayer and read the 23rd Psalm, and then each of us takes a turn in front of the casket individually. We come to attention, hold a salute for about 5 seconds, and then turn to leave. I’ve never learned to do it with military precision, but it’s the gesture that counts.

As we leave, the heavens open up.

And now I sit on the darkened screen porch savoring the rush of the rain outside and the cool night air. The cats have gone inside (in search of my uniform, perhaps?) but Cricket remains. She sniffs the darkness as I hoist a beer in memory of Chief Will, Bobby Bear, Smokey, Captain Ray, Arthur, and a few more men whose names will come to me later. Rest in peace, gentlemen, we’ve got the city covered for you.

10 minutes

My fire department has been trying for years to get a second station built.  Between funding and politics, it just hasn’t happened.  The Town is again studying the issue, with a committee slated to report back this fall.

In support of the committee’s efforts, another firefighter and I have been asked to muster our vast Social Media Skillz to educate the public and help sell the idea.  Step one was to mount a camera in one of the engines and show the public how far it really is from our one poorly-placed station to the edges of our district.  After a few false starts and equipment problems, we finally have something to show.


All of the video footage is from an actual response.  The audio dispatch was recreated using a slightly different address for the sake of privacy.  Comments and suggestions are welcome, as I’m sure this is only the beginning.

More on sleep

Or perhaps it’s moron sleep?

A recent post over at Life Under the Lights triggered a memory. CK, I would say you were nuts, but I’ve been there.

I have sleep apnea. I suffered with it for years before finally getting diagnosis and treatment. It would probably be more accurate to say that Mrs. Mack505 suffered with it; I do strange things in my sleep-induced hypoxia. When we were newly married I once dreamt that the house was on fire, but the smoke alarms were not sounding. I jumped out of bed, stuffed the sleepy cat under my arm like a football, and made it halfway down the stairs before I awoke.

Wife and cat never let me forget that one, or the weekend I watched a COPS marathon and spent most of Saturday night searching for my Maglite. **sigh**

One night the phone rang at 1AM. It was a police officer friend of mine, on duty at our communications center. “Did you get the fire tones?” he asked.

Umm, what John? You woke me up.

“We’ve been struck by lightning. There’s smoke in the buildng. I toned out the fire department ten minutes ago, but no one has signed on. I think the radio is fried. Did you get the fire tones?”


“Can you drive down to the station and use the backup radio to dispatch everyone? We kind of need you guys up here.”

Umm, hang on. Talk to my wife. Tell her. I shoved the phone at Mrs. Mack505, who listend for a few seconds, then looked at me and said, “Yup, you’re awake. Go do it.”

I will never make an overnight dispatcher.

Operator, what’s the number for 911?

“Hometown Fire Department, this line is recorded. What is the nature of your emergency?”

(Yes, our Red Line still goes BRRIIIIIING. It’s also still red and was built by Ma Bell. It’s a wonderful throwback to another era.)

Elderly Voice: “I burned some popcorn in the microwave, and I don’t want the fire alarm to go off.”

Confused Fire Lieutenant: “OK, sir, what is your address?”

EV: “Westville Elderly Complex, apartment 24.”

More Confused Fire Lieutenant: “Sir, you called the Hometown Fire Department. Is there a fire there? We can call the Westville FD for you.”

Annoyed Elderly Voice: “NO! I just burned some popcorn, and I don’t want the fire alarm to go off. I don’t want the fire department. I already opened the windows to let the smoke out, but it’s getting cold in here.”

Really Confused Fire Lieutenant: “Sir, if you’re in Westville, why did you call the Hometown FD?”

Very Annoyed Elderly Voice: “‘Well I couldn’t call 911 could I? I looked in the phone book, and this was the number listed under Fire Department.”

RCFL: “. . .”

VAEV: “So what about this popcorn? Will the fire alarm go off if I open the microwave?”

Formerly Confused, Now Amused Fire Lieutenant: “Sir, if it hasn’t sounded by now, it probably won’t. If it makes you feel better, you can leave the windows open until after you open the microwave. ”

Now Satisfied Elderly Voice: “OK, thank you.”

Amused Fire Lieutenant: “You’re welcome. Have a nice day, sir.”


Blue LEDs (P365)

Still Life in Blue, 12/21/10


The first snowfall of the year means the DPW is a bit slow on the draw, and everyone has forgotten how to drive in winter.  We’ve been luckier than many local communities thus far.