gave the whirlwind life and now that life is vanished. A straight wind is whipping regular
flames out of the openings in the wall.
First, let me tell you I am a retired firefighter. Next, let me tell you while firefighters are
busting their behinds to get INTO a burning building, cockroaches and crickets have the
brains to be going the other way. So, this is a story of intelligence and tenacity. Fires
rarely happen to our finest homes in the best neighborhoods. They tend to work the
lower rent districts of our little town. Many times, the front porch of a fiery building is
crunchy from the little insect bodies that are scurrying to get out of the burning building.
That is the ”intelligence’ part of the story.
Senior firefighters get to take the prime vacation time because vacation time is drawn by
seniority, also. When the senior guys are on vacation, junior types get to drive the
machines. It was July 1st and July 4th and I was driving Engine 5. Fourth of July means
many fires from Roman candles and pop-bottle rockets. There are field fires, house fires
and building fires. We really like July 4th.
You should also know that fire folk like being the first on the scene of a fire. There is
nothing better than fighting a roaring virgin fire. Sexual innuendo IS intended. First
water is a baptism by both fire and water È for both the fire and the firefighter. Religious
innuendo is purely accidental.
“Fire in a house - - twenty-sixteen south Washington,“ the dispatcher droned. That
section of town is not usually our answering district. ÐEngine 5, respond for Engine 12,“
I love this run. When we turn north on Broadway, we have a long hill to climb over
railroad tracks that are almost parallel to the street. The hill is 100 feet tall and one half
a mile to the top. I leave the engine in second gear till the hill flattens at the crest. I shift
to third for the rest of climb. The RPMs are high and the noise is great. The Captain
hates the noise and I lean on the siren and wish I had control of the air horn. He hardly
ever pulls the chain except when I come to an intersection too fast for his liking.
At the top of the hill, I push it into fifth gear, bypassing fourth altogether. I use the hill to
accelerate to the governed speed of 78 miles per hour. This is the tricky part; there is a
stoplight at the bottom of the hill where 31st street dead-ends into Broadway. There is
this rule that a fire truck can't bust a red light going faster than 10 miles per hour.
This time, I time the light perfectly. It just clicks to yellow as I enter the intersection.
There are no more side streets entering Broadway for another mile and nothing to slow
us from 78 miles per hour. We are a big red steel bird flying low over the city. Then
"Engine 2 gives a code one (no fire showing) Engine 2 will investigate."