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Sunday, January 31, 2016

More on Fire Buffing and My Career as a Fire Buff

  1. My first experience with Fire Engines and Firefighters came when I was three years old, when in the middle of the night there was a fire in the small apartment building across Jarvis Street in the Rogers Park section of Chicago..

    I could not believe what I was seeing. Who were these creatures, who looked like aliens from Outer Space, and their strange rigs in the street, the smoke, the NOISE, the chaos and the excitement when they came into our building to make sure WE were all all right...

    My older brother, who knew more, could have told me, but he was too busy jumping up and down in his pajamas and out of his mind with excitement about it all..

    My parents shrugged it off the next day. They had seen a lot of fires...and known a lot of firefighters. They didn't think too much about it.--That is part of the problem of our Society, we take Firefighters so much for GRANTED, and then it is an incredible struggle to get something like the Zadroga Bill passed and then extended.

    But I still think of that and how later in life I was to have so many damn run ins with fires and firefighters as well as seeing them set off the Fireworks every year at Fourth of July celebrations. And how many times I kept wondering if I had made a terrible mistake letting other people and circumstances push me out of a path that would lead to fighting fires... 

    Oh, I am not a pyromaniac although I am excited and fascinated by fire. You don't have to grow up in a firefighting family to maybe have some gene or something that makes you identify with firefighters all the time...but I am SO aware of the risks now that I am older I also can see that maybe so what we all have to do  is do what we can in Life as it is dealt to us and that's that.

    Our cub scout group ( my mom was den mother) visited the local firehouse in the town of Wilmette when I was older. All I wanted to do was to get behind the wheel of a fire truck..

    How can kids grow up without fire trucks? I noticed the Hess Truck this last Christmas was a fire truck...

    My heart still races and I light up every time a fire engine goes by on the street even if the horn and siren and lights are not there.

    Typical Car Fire Scene on Upper West Side-- L 22 Above Right

    If you have ever been around a fire when it starts, you know fast they can spread and how that smoke ( light at first such as above) quickly becomes--with today's synthetic materials-- this choking black horror--

    Perfect setting for an Upper West Side Fire-- Trash Build Up such as after the  Last Blizzard...

    My galaxy of childhood heroes of course included other figures, cowboys and later astronauts and especially Commando fighters such as I saw in war movies..

    My sister's best friend in high school was the daughter of a fireman.
    He was extremely pleasant and worked in Cos Cob, CT,-- my family was living in Greenwich then while I lived and studied at NYU. We talked a little about his work but he didn't seem all that eager to talk about it ( a lot of heroes aren't).

    Some of my relatives are firemen too, especally by marriage ( my cousin's wife's brothers were Chicago firemen and also Loyal Sons of Mayo....amazing how many firefighters in America are Irish-American, and also Italian-American,, of course, there is a push for more diversity which has brought all kinds of disputes and lawsuits and a lot of raised hackles...I am sure it will all be ironed out in the long run, as will the issue of women in the Fire Service ( I taped a fascinating interview at the Fire Museum with Harriet Duren, the first female member of the FDNY, which, however, she has asked not be posted on the internet ( damn! It is SO good). Likewise the interviews with other NYC Fire Museum docents John Kenny and Gary Howard ( both John and Gary are veterans of The War Years and wow do they have tales to tell. Gary is also a member of  the NYC Fire Bell Club and has a son who is now a FDNY firefighter in Manhattan.-- one last remark-- I have avoided the whole topic of  September 11 here ( it is just too much to get into)

    But am going to the Fire Museum on Feb 20 to see their presentation of the Anne Nelson play "The Guys," which deals with the aftermath of Sept 11 and particularly one FDNY Fire Captain who has to give eulohgies to men who worked under him who died at the World Trade Center).

    As retirement came upon me and I was living in Kips Bay/Murray Hill in New York, I discovered how friendly the local firemen were at Eng 16 L 7 and wrote about them for my blog ( reprinted here).

    Since then I have visited and taped the NYC Fire Museum of which I am now a member and find that the local firehouse up here on West 100th Street near where I live is also a great place to visit. ( They are an extremely busy company, and I hear them late at night all the time, as well as see them pulling in or out so many times when I pass their Firehouse next to the 24 th Precinct Police Station on West 100 Street.

    I am past the age when i want to go chasing fires like classic Fire Buffs do, but if you read this blog you know how much I like to know what is going on in the Fire World, and not just in the United States either.

    Following article covers more on exactly what a classic Fire Buff is..

    Post Do you know what a "Fire Buff" is?

    Do you know what a "Fire Buff" is?

    Frank the Fireman
    By Frank C. Schaper,
    Deputy Fire Chief -
    St. Louis Fire Department.
    March 27, 1991

    A Fire Buff is a person who has a love for the fire department. Fire buffs love fire engines, fire houses and firefighters. They love to go to fires and watch the action. They buy scanners (special radios that pick up fire calls) so as not to miss any fires. They collect antique fire nozzles, alarm boxes, toys, helmets and other fire memorabilia. They buy books on fire departments and fire apparatus. They study fire department history. These guys and gals are really into fire departments. It is great having a group of people so interested in my job - a job I truly love. Whenever I am around the Fire buffs, I feel special. Not every occupation is blessed with this type of citizen support. And support they do give. Most buffs belong to clubs. These are an organized bunch. Clubs such as the Phoenix Society, Box 52 Association, Boston Sparks, The Bell and Siren Club, Gong Club and the Box 8 Club (my personal favorite) hold club meetings and go to conventions. They also have service projects like operating refreshment canteens at large fires and disasters. You haven't lived until you fought a large multi-alarm fire and then go on break to the canteen for coffee, a bowl of chili, and donuts. It's a special kind of heartburn - but much appreciated on a cold night.

    "When the bell goes ding-ding, its time to get on the woo-woo."
    "Dusting desire - starting to learn. Walking through fire with out a burn..."
    Youngstown Fire Department
  2. #2
    ENG 6511 Guest


    Daysleeper, What you posted certainly is one definition. Another are those thousands of us that belong to The Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Appartus in America. We own, house,restore,preserve and get together to operate old and older apparatus after you folks are though with them. It's a costly but fun hobby. We think these trucks are history and should be preserved as such.

    Bob Compton
  3. #3
    daysleeper47 Guest


    You're right Bob....anyone who sees a fire, a fire truck, or a fireman and thier eyes grow wide and thier jaws drop is a fire buff at heart.
  4. #4
    bke Guest


    I'm a FireBuff, 100%!.
  5. #5
    bke Guest


    Everytime I go to a new city or town, the first thing I always look for is the firehouse!

    As Donald Sutherland said on Backdraft:

    "The funny thing about firemen, night and day they're always firemen."

    I think the same is true about FireBuffs!
  6. #6
    daysleeper47 Guest


    I'm just curious, but how many buffs hope to join a department some day? I persoanlly want to join the Youngstown Fire Department after college, so in the mean time, I will just do the buff stuff for the next three years...
  7. #7
    RookieFireFighter Guest


    Originally posted by bke:
    Everytime I go to a new city or town, the first thing I always look for is the firehouse!
    I'm the same, but even if you're not looking for them, they just seem to jump out at you, even when you least expect it.

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    Visit to Our Local Firehouse-- Engine 16 , Ladder 7-- Murray Hill /Kips Bay

    Station house on East 29th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. built back in the 1960's

     Coming in from a run...

     Wall of remembrance for our fallen many places, this station suffered losses 
    on September 11
    ..and at other times too of course..we owe so much to all these heroes who are out in all kinds
     of weather,
     responding to nuisance calls as well as  serious ones...everytime they go out though, they
     have to be ready
     to face and be ready to deal with anything. 

    (Above that, engine rig backing in...this station, officially I think "Gramercy Area" covers all
     sorts of houses 

    and big high rises (imagine having to lug stuff up 50 flights of stairs in some of these buildings)
    landmarks like the Empire State Building...earning their motto of "The Bravest"

     Getting a warm welcome from firefighter Mike (left) and his co-worker..

    Mike told me the station has about 50 firefighters assigned to it, on in shifts of eleven. Open 24
     hours a day, 
    seven days a week of course..

    Unfortunately, they don't allow photos upstairs but you can see some and learn more about 
    place from 
    their website (link at end of this)..

    Unlike most politicians and Wall Street speculators and con artists of all kind, Firefighters are
     us all...and we pray they stay safe, --while risking life, limb and lungs all the time..

    Here is website, where you can see a lot more, learn history of the house, and see T shirts etc.
     you can buy
     directly from here 

    They are also on Facebook