This is how our strange addiction works, we hate fire, but we need fire. For us to go weeks without a fire is awful, you can’t always feel the tension as it builds around the station. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t building.
It creeps through us that desire for a fix. That craving. The evidence comes when the fix is at hand.
Envision a casual day around the firehouse. You’ve had a few calls, a medical here a car crash there. The station has been cleaned, the smell of lunch seeps out of the kitchen. All the gear has been gone over, some training on a random piece of equipment filled the morning.
A good officer keeps you busy, they know. They know the cravings are running high in their crew. So to help release some tension and burn some energy they’ll run simulations, drills, practice.
It keeps the skills sharp, but it’s dancing in a studio with other guys, it’s not a ballroom and there are defiantly no dates to be had. We practice the steps; we do the mambo, the salsa, the tango, but no waltz.
It seems a good practice, to practice. But for me it only made me more desirous of the real thing, it created frustration. Like being a bartender and not being allowed to drink. It sucks.
And then the horn would go off, and that is when you knew how bad the cravings were in your coworkers. The rush for just a moment was expressed by a complete absence of sanity.
Giddy is what comes to mind. Christmas morning maybe. It was like a huge bomb had gone off and was followed by controlled chaos.
Think about it, we can’t go as we are; we have to get dressed for the ball. All our stuff is laid out and waiting. Every fireman stores his gear almost in the same way. But we all have our own little improvements, twists in the way we do it.
Me, my bunkers (that’s the big boots, pants and coat) were always beside my door on the truck. My boots, with the pants pulled down over them waited. The suspenders I had arranged laid out behind the pants.
There was nothing worse than pulling up your pants and finding a suspender trapped in between your legs. That one is learned only in the hard way.
The hard way is when everyone else is Jonesing to get going and there you are undressing while the driver honks the air horn. There you are holding up the whole damn thing because you got it wrong.
As if there wasn’t enough pressure on you to get to the fire, now, as you scramble to get that damn suspender out of your crotch, all the other junkies are yelling at you to get your shit together.
See other companies are going with you to that fire. And being second in on a fire can suck. If another sister company beats you to a fire in your own district, hang on because later there will be grief given and shame spread think as peanut butter by a four year old.
As well as second in companies, for the most part, get assigned tasks like securing a water supply, hooking up hoses, stretching lines. When you come right down to it, it’s doing really unglamorous work.
No firefighting, no saving lives, and most awful, you tend to be that much closer to the wavers and pointers. It’s like being too close to the fans at a Raiders game in the fourth quarter. Not a happy place.
So get your shit straight when the horn goes off.
My coat was always hung on the left rear door of the BRT. This may sound simple, but it is possible in the excitement to get the pants pulled up and the coat on and have the suspenders still hanging out from under the coat. Back to square one.
So you got the pants and suspenders right, cool, now the coat, cool again. The gloves go last, they are huge cumbersome and don’t lend themselves to anything that requires dexterity like hooking up your air pack.
What else is left? The hood, the hood is like an over sized ski mask, it’s made of a fire resistance material and basically keeps your ears and exposed face skin from cooking.
If you ever run into some old retired fireman someday look closely at the sides of their face where the side burns are. You most likely will see little white patches of skin that look like he shaved off his sideburns after days in the sun.
He didn’t, that is what happened before hoods. The gap between your air mask and the helmet allowed exposed skin to burn. It was also the way you knew you were in too deep. When your ears began to burn you got out. Now those little clues are gone, ultimately it’s easier to get into trouble faster today.
Getting your air pack on before the hood makes it hard to get the hood tucked in. Do the hood first it’s way easier.
Remember all this takes place, or should take place in less than sixty seconds. We train for under sixty, a minute and a half or two minutes can put you square in second place. Rookie mistake.
Just imagine a crack house with all the junkies sitting around, scratching themselves, dry mouthed waiting for the stuff to arrive. Maybe not quite that bad, but you get the point. No one wants to wait or be the source of the delay.
We are powerless over fire, and know it to be uncontrollable. Yet we continue to go to the dance.