One of the things that happened at the station from time to time was school field trips. The captain always led the group of kids around and showed them everything. We’d do a hose lay and let the kids spray water around. We’d let them try on a Scott air mask and turnouts and let them climb on the trucks and honk the air horns and sound the sirens. We’d even show them our spare firefighter. Well, to be truthful, we didn’t really have a spare firefighter.
We were each assigned a tall gray locker in the garage where our heavy turnout coats and pants were kept. We rarely used those because turnouts were only used on structure fires. To set this ruse up, one of us would put on turnouts, boots and a Scott air mask and get inside a locker and close the door. As the kids were led around the station and through the garage the captain would say, “… and this is where we keep our spare firefighter,” and then quickly open the door revealing the guy inside. When the door opened the guy inside took a loud breath with the Scott air mask and then the captain would close the door and walk on as if this was as normal as showing them the racks of hose. It was quite amusing to watch the various reactions of the kids which varied from frozen in a state of stunned bewilderment to cool, what’s next?
Pyromaniacs are strange and ingenious people. I won’t go into what I saw about their craft while firefighting. It would be irresponsible to spread that knowledge on the Internet. Suffice it to say that ingenuity is wasted on them, they should be putting their brainpower to better uses.
When the lookout would spot a smoke and plot its coordinates we’d all gather around the map in the captain’s office to see where the fire was starting. Sometimes, the lookout would call out a second smoke minutes later and when the coordinates were plotted it was in a line with the first smoke and usually along a road. There would sometimes be a third and a fourth smoke and we’d all say, “There a match!” which is what we called the pyros.
For a period of weeks in one of my two years we were called to a local state park repeatedly. Small fires kept erupting and each time we’d make the trip up to the park and put out the fire and each time there were some state crew workers there. One in particular was always staring at us when we came up to put out a fire. I noticed this but did not report it to anyone, I just thought the guy wanted to be a firefighter and not a state maintenance worker. Well, it turned out he was starting the fires. Our captain told us who was caught doing it and I revealed what I had seen My captain wasn’t happy at all to find out that I had spotted the pyro and hadn’t told him.
One of the least favorite chores each year was to work with a grouchy old captain who operated a grader along the old logging roads in the forest. Everyone complained about him because he was so crotchety and nobody could please him. I got picked that year. I’m not sure why, perhaps I was being punished for the Amityville incident. Anyway, the old guy picked me up one day in his pickup and we rode for miles into the forest. He explained that I was to follow him on foot as he graded the road. I was to carry a shovel and pitch dislodged rocks off the road and backfill holes with a shovel of dirt. Seemed simple enough. He went on to explain that he didn’t want me too close or too far back so I had to pay attention. I never figured out why he cared where I was but he did and that was that. We worked through the day without incident and I came to wonder how bright the other guys were who had failed at this job in the years before. Perhaps they simply didn’t like the job and were willing to trade some wrath for never having to go out again. One drawback of the job was obvious, if you were out filling holes, you weren’t on an engine going to a fire. Maybe that was my answer.
to be continued…