Are You Kidding Me?
In the case of Firefighters, the answer is frequently “well…yeah…”
Firefighting is tough, physical, dangerous work. I can remember those days very well, as I mentioned in my previous posts – ‘What it Takes’, and ‘The Brother/Sisterhood’.
But let’s not make the mistake of thinking they are a bunch of guys/gals that are dead serious, no nonsense folks all the time. Spend any time whatsoever in or around a fire house, and sooner than later you’ll see it. Firefighters are some of the bravest, most dedicated life-savers on the planet. But they’re also some of the funniest, prank-pulling, jokesters you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting (or of being the butt of the prank/jokes for).
When I worked for the Boise City Fire Department, one of my Captains was Harold (I’ll leave out his last name…). He was a hard-working serious guy, which made it even more fun. Sometimes it was simple. In most fire houses, everyone takes turns cooking the meal, cleaning up, washing dishes, etc. It was Capt. Harold’s turn to do dishes, so while he was washing, someone else was clearing the table and scraping the dishes, then handing them to him to wash. Someone else would rinse and dry, and someone else would put them away – an assembly line. What Capt. Harold didn’t know was that we had actually formed a circle, and were passing the clean dishes back around to the start, and back into the washing line. He washed every single dish in that fire house at least 5 or 6 times before he spotted us, and went stomping off to his office trailing colorful language at us.
Sometimes it was a bit more complex. At night, everyone would go up to the bunkroom and go to bed, and many nights an alarm would go off. Everyone would jump out of bed, slide down the brass pole, hurry over to their “turn-out gear”, and slip into it. What that means is that before going to bed, you’d put all your gear on. Nomex® (fire resistant) firefighter’s trousers with suspenders, boots (trousers on the outside of the boots), Nomex® firefighter’s coat, and air tank over the coat. You would then back up to the wall, clipping the air tank into the holder on the wall, and slip out of your coat, leaving it hanging inside the straps of the air tank. Then, without moving, take the suspenders off your shoulders, and slide your trousers down around the boots, then step out of the boots, leaving everything there against the wall. This allowed you to hurry over to your gear, turn with your back to the wall, step into the boots, pull the suspenders up over your shoulders (which pulled your trousers up), slip your arms into the coat (which was inside the air tank straps), and walk away from the wall, fully clothed in about two to three seconds. You would then fasten the clips on the front of your coat as you hurried to the truck, put on your helmet (which you had left in your spot on the truck), and pull out of the station in thirty seconds to a minute after the alarms had gone off.
I know that’s a long explanation, but you need to be able to visualize the process, and the speed of the process to be able to understand what happened to Capt. Harold next…
Two of the Captain’s boys also worked as firefighters in that same station, and were instrumental in setting this one up. While they sat around the TV in the breakroom, just before bed time, another firefighter and I slipped out to the “engine room” where the trucks were, and all the turn-out gear was set up. We poured lime jello, ice, and sardines into his boots, about to the top of the “foot” area in the boots – then got the heck out of there before we were spotted. The ice helped the jello set up (harden), with the sardines imbedded in the jello.
Sure as clockwork, we got an alarm that night – and it was a big one. As we were stepping into our boots, so was Capt. Harold. As his feet slid into the boots, the expression on his face was priceless…but he couldn’t stop. As soon as he was suited up, he ran over to the Fire Engine, and we were off. We ended up out there fighting a structure fire for almost four hours, and then returned to the station just before shift change.
When he pulled off the boots, his feet were dyed green, and smelled like sardines. Since no one in the house would admit to anything, we all ended up getting extra hose drills (very physical workout) for a week.
If you have the pleasure of knowing a firefighter, they can be some of the most caring individuals on earth…just don’t spend too much time in the firehouse…