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Strange but true fire stories that happened to me

There is a lot written and created about the Fire Service that's pretty heavy, serious and dramatic - some times TOO dramatic. Not sure about you, but I've seen so much to laugh about while out "dueling the dragon", that I wanted to share some of the lighter moments of this highly esteemed and time honored profession.

Hopefully the following will cause you to chuckle once or twice.

No sir, I always drive like this . . .
The brakes on my rig had just been changed, when we get a call. It had just started raining minutes before, as I nosed old Engine 59 out the door. I turned north, accelerating up the street as fast as I could. As I approached a 90 degree turn to the left, I downshifted and began to apply the brake. Well, the brake pedal went straight to the floor with a gut wrenching "thud" and stayed there. I immediately looked at the speedometer - 50 m.p.h.! I quickly looked up for some place to crash land my now unstoppable engine - very solid obstacles and houses on both sides of the road, so there was only one way to go - around that corner. I look to my left to see if anyone is coming and yup! Wouldn't you know it? Big yellow school bus coming straight towards me! I had about a half a second to prepare, and then it seemed as if someone guided my hands, and I brought that big black steering wheel all the way around. Old Engine 59 shuddered and started to shake and groan loudly. I sucked in my breath and waited for her to roll, but I felt surprisingly calm despite the thought that I was probably 5 seconds away from that big fire station in the sky. But since the road was just beginning to get slick from the rain, instead of rolling, I put the engine into a sideways slide. Now I'm looking out the officer's window, and I have the most beautiful view of the school bus, still headed straight for me. I overcorrect to the right with all my might and main, and now we are sliding sideways the other way. I look out my window now and I wish I could say the view had improved. But no, the school bus is so close now I can see the face of the driver. Imagine seeing a fire engine, lights flashing, siren wailing sliding sideways down the road toward you. A thing of rare beauty, to be sure! So then I give the wheel one last mighty heave, and suddenly! Providence sends Engine 59 back into the correct lane, and we shoot past the yellow blur that is the school bus. The driver's eyes were as big as silver dollars as I flew by. I finally managed to stop the engine using the emergency brake and someone's front lawn. I think I shook for about three days after that one.
Oh look! It's the incredible human torch . . .
OK, my Uncle finally makes Chief in a new department. To celebrate, my father (also an artist and fireman) generously offers to decorate my Uncle's new white helmet with traditional classically styled Fire motifs. He spends hours, right? After all this work is done, Dad steps back and thinks, "First fire the Chief goes into and all this work is going to get scratched off." So what does he do? Why of course, he puts a coat of VARNISH on the entire surface of the helmet, to protect it! What really happened at the first fire my Uncle went inside on? You guessed it, and the boys said he looked like a giant roman candle as he came running out with his new helmet - fully involved.
My first "big one" . . .
It's Christmas Day, the call comes in, structure fire! My first one! I am so excited I can barely keep the engine on the road. Away we go, siren screaming, lights flashing, and as we arrive, a captain pulls up in a department vehicle. As he gets into his bunkers and dons his SCBA, he yells out to me to back him up. Righto, I stretch an inch and a half line and he's on the tip (where I want to be - oh well). The line is charged as we scramble to the front door of the house. Foul yellow black smoke is pouring out every crack and crevice, a dull orange glow is visible in the front room, as Cappy yells back at me "Get down!" I'm thinking, this is it, this is the mythical "big one" I've heard so much about. Yeah! My adrenaline is coursing through my veins, this is living! Then Cappy stands up, the door looks like it's locked and I just know he's going to kick it in like in the movies! I hold my breath as he stops, steps back, bracing himself in an awe inspiring and dramatic pose and . . . then . . . slowly reaches his hand out and turns the door knob, whereupon the unlocked door quietly swings open. My jaw drops, talk about anti-climactic!
Casper the friendly fireman . . .
Dear old Dad is going out on a call, when what breaks loose in the cab of the Engine? The 5 pound fire extinguisher. He tries to push it out of the way with his foot while he drives Code 3, (as it keeps rolling around and around - up and interfering with the brake and accelerator), but to no avail. So he determines to knock it out of the way (now remember, he's going Code 3). With one mighty Kimball Kick, he deftly disengages the safety clip and sends the unit flying, whereupon it hits the firewall and dispenses its entire contents. Visibility drops to about 2 inches within the cab in a matter of milliseconds, and everyone bails once the engine comes to a quick stop. Dad said he was completely white, head to toe, and, needless to say, drew some strange looks from folks driving by.
We put the "fire" in fireman . . .
I'm first in on a vehicle fire, it's a vintage Volkswagen Bus pulled over to the side of the road, next to a hay field. The interior is engulfed in flame, so I pull the booster line, open it up and poke it through a window. Engine 53 shows up a few seconds later, as I'm extinguishing the seats, but now the fire has extended to the engine compartment. Lt. on 53, "Pappy", the oldest fireman in the department, quickly sizes up the situation. Pop the hatch on the back, dump some water on it and we are all back at our stations sipping lemonade in a few minutes, right? WRONG! Pappy yells for a pike pole and one of the firemen holds the door open, and he takes the line from me. However, Pappy has forgotten a small but VERY important detail - all old Volkswagens have magnesium in their engine blocks, and if you hit their engines with water while hot, instead of extinguishing it, well . . . you will create sparks. Lots and lots of itty bitty little white hot pieces of molten metal! So in goes the water and WHAM!!! Our own miniature Independence Day! But wait, it gets better. Pappy is concentrating so much on extinguishing the fire, he doesn't even see the sparks. Not even one! The brother on the pike pole starts yelling at Pappy that the sparks have landed in the bone dry field next to the road... and started a field fire! We all start flapping our arms and screaming at Pappy to lay off the water, but the old fella thinks he is being cheered on, so instead of shutting his line down, he really opens it up and pours it on! So then we had to take matters in our own hands, and scrambled like mad to put the field fire out. It took some desperate maneuvering and a lot of work, but we doused it. When the VW fire finally sputtered out and died, Pappy turned around and said with a proud grin to the sweaty, dirty lot of us standing in the blackened field, "See, nothing to it!"
The Three Stooges join the Fire Department . . .
This one didn't happen to me, but at Fire Department up the road a bit, a call came out for a Motor Vehicle Accident. The fireman scheduled to drive the rescue rig normally drove the engine. So when he pulled out, he was thinking he was the last unit out of the bay, as he would have been . . . if he'd been driving the engine. As was his habit, he hit the button on the remote which closed the bay doors, forgetting the fire engine behind him was still coming out of the bay. OH NO! Thought he, best stop and get out and warn the engine of the descending door directly above them, which they couldn't see. So out he jumps and starts flapping his arms madly, but it's too late. I've been told the door settled on the hose bed of the engine with a particularly disconcerting "crunch". Oh the shame of it all, but, hey, anyone can make a mistake, right? So he turned around to get into the rescue rig to pull it over... only to discover it nose down 50 feet away in the ditch on the other side of the street, siren wailing, lights flashing, it's rear wheels spinning around up in the air with no place to go! He'd forgot to put it in "park" when he got out!
Animal Rescue, Clark County style . . .
You may not believe it, but the department I started out in was the very first to successfully attempt a totally unique EMS procedure, hitherto unknown in the annals of pre hospital emergency medicine. No, really. You've heard of the Heimlech Manuver, CPR, Rescue Breathing. Child's play, I tell you. All those are nothing compared to this technique. Here's how this wonderful technique came to be.

At the end of a house fire one day, a distraught but now safe home owner begged one of the lads to go back into her extinguished but still smoldering house to rescue her beloved dog. Every fireman nearby looked at each other with "that look". You know the look, the one that says - "he's a dead dog, ain't no way he survived, but this is somebody's mother, so we'd better make a valiant effort to at least retrieve the body of man's best friend" look - you gotta at least try, right? Sure enough, the faithful hound was found, and yes, he had most definitely expired. But the fireman who found him was not to be deterred. Walking slowly and as solemn as a pall bearer, out the front door he comes with the canine in his arms. All was going well until . . . he failed to negotiate the tangle of hose lines underfoot. He quickly began what looked like a Western Line Dance gone bad, and in his effort to keep from falling he accidentally tossed the dog into the air, up, up, up . . . and right toward the waiting woman. Down went the fireman, up and then down went the dearly departed dog. But what was this?! As the dog hit the ground, the shock forced air into his lungs, and pumped his heart back to life! The dog sprang to his feet with a yelp, ALIVE! and jumped into his owners loving arms! Yes, it was all planned to happen this way, of course, the first ever witnessed attempt at... Brief Airborne
Resuscitation for Canines, or B.A.R.C., for short. True story.
Duh . . . I get it . . . now . . .
Well, it's Independence Day. I and another fireman are out doing our patriotic duty, driving the Fire Department's antique fire engine in the City Parade. In typical 4th of July style, the firemen draped the old rig with appropriate red, white and blue bunting, and tied streamers everywhere, decorating it well. Yankee Doodle all the way.

The parade starts, and were off! Down the street I drive, passing throngs of happy fellow Americans. It's sunny and warm, a breeze blows through my hair, hey - I'm smiling and having a great time. But then the comedic scene begins, with yours truly as the unwiting lead actor (you can just see something coming, can't you?). Off to my left I see some soldiers in uniform, and as we roll by them, our boys all snap to attention at the same split second, and give us a sharp salute! I'm dumbfounded, I don't know what to do, this takes me totally by surprise, so I give them a weak lopsided smile back. Why are they saluting me? I haven't done anything special. The Chief never taught us what to do in this situation. Then I pass some more soldiers in uniform, and the same thing happens. I'm now thoroughly embarrassed, these fellas must have me confused with someone else, someone really important. Either that or I really missed something last drill - I knew I shouldn't have fallen asleep!  About now I just want to slide down in my seat and disappear, but I manage a weak bumbling wave of the hand back at them. Hello! Oh! What I must have looked like! But it's not over - again, more soldiers and the same thing happens all over again. At this point, I figure I've missed the official briefing at the beginning of the parade, so I figure, "Better salute back, you yahoo, or you'll ruin everything and make the department look stupid". And so I do. Mustering all my style and fire department finesse, I manage a snappy salute to each of our boys in uniform. It went great, so now I'm feeling fine, I am one of the boys! Semper Fi! Apple Pie! GOD BLESS AMERICA!!! But just as a tear starts in the corner of my eye, the next group of soldiers starts to pass, and as I proudly sit up and raise my hand to salute once more, I feel a painful jab in my ribs from the fireman next to me. "What the heck are you doing?" he hisses at me. "Returning a salute from the soldiers, of course" was my smug reply, with a proud grin. "You idiot" he said, pointing over my side of the engine, to the door I am resting my arm on. Just 2 inches below it someone has taped a huge American flag, one I can't possibly see from the driver's seat, but all the world can see as we pass by. "Oh, man", says my rider as he rolls his eyes, "they're saluting the flag, not YOU!" 
Engine 52 respond to a structure fire at . . . Station 52 . . .
Many years ago at Station 52 there resided a fine young fireman (no, not me) who was particularly fond of fishing, and even more fond of smoking fish. Many a smelt was smoked on the back deck of the fire station, to be consumed eagerly with smiles and thanks by the other fireman nearby, all thanks to this fireman. But what to do with all those messy ashes, he wondered? The idea came to him in a flash - there was a bucket just around the corner, that would do very nicely. What he had forgotten from Firefighting 101 is . . . just because a fire looks like it is out, doesn't mean it really is. So, into the PLASTIC bucket went those ashes, right after a very good smoke job was finished. But now, what to do with the bucket, he wondered? Oh, problems, problems. Can't put it into the engine bay, the Chief might stop by for a suprise inspection. But this was his lucky day, inspiration was coming hot and heavy to him. Of course! Put the bucket of ashes right on the side of the building where no one would look, on top of . . . the bark chips. Why didn't he think of that before? Pleased beyond words with satisfaction at another job well done, he went off to some other interesting chore. A few hours later, he went outside to take in the air. But instead of clean fresh ozone, he smelled the fireman's worst enemy...SMOKE! And where there is smoke, there's fire, right? This was it, the Big Chance he'd been dreaming about, waiting for years for. He would extinguish this fire before it was even reported on the radio, and wouldn't the Chief be proud? With thoughts of medals on his chest and a citation from the Commisioners (why not a promotion, too? Indeed, why not?) he set off in search of the origin of the smoke. Imagine his shock and awe as he rounded the corner of the station to find... FIRE!!! The station, HIS STATION, was on fire, the side of the building was in flames! He ran into the engine bay and fired up old Engine 52, started the pump and stretched a line outside. The fire was quickly extinquished along with his enthusiasm for smoked fish. Needless to say, after a bit of sanding and a fast paint job, this fire went unreported to anyone. But to this day, folks say when the wind is just right from the south, if you're near Station 52, there comes to your nostrils a faint smoky fishy smell.


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