Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Welcome to My Blog!


I went to my first fire when I was four years old. (Yes, there's a story there...) My great-great grandfather, father, and stepfather were firefighters. It only seemed natural to follow in their footsteps, and I did so proudly for more than 15 years.

Once I pulled on my first pair of bunker boots, I started to realize just how wrong portrayals are of fire behavior, firefighting tactics, fire equipment, and firefighters in works of fiction (whether in written stories or on the big/little screen). Hollywood has its reasons for chronic inaccuracy (usually having to do with getting good camera shots or playing up a dramatic storyline), but even knowing that fact, I still get annoyed by these inaccuracies on a regular basis. Why is it so hard for writers and producers to get the basics right?

One day I was discussing my frustrations with a fellow writer who happens to be a law enforcement officer, so he well understood where I was coming from. Cop shows have been playing loose with that profession for years.

He looked at me and simply said, “So why don’t you write a book about it?”

Well. Why didn’t I think of that?

The book, which is a guide to firefighting aimed specifically at writers, is underway, and I created this blog to support that work. My hope is that fiction and non-fiction writers alike will learn a little something about firefighting and use this knowledge in their stories. We’ll discuss how fire behaves in real life, what it takes to be a firefighter, the purposes behind the numerous pieces of equipment firefighters use on a daily basis, and more. It’s all in the interest of improving the portrayals of fire, firefighting, and firefighters in fiction. Maybe a few journalists will take note as well.

Today I’ll start with a brief nod to a historic event: the Great Chicago Fire.

Chicago in Flames
A Kellogg & Buckeley Co. lithograph illustrating
the burning of the Tremont House Hotel on Dearborn Street
On a dry and windy night 142 years ago, a Chicago barn fire grew into a conflagration that destroyed more than 17,000 buildings, killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 more without homes. While popular legend blames Mrs. O’Leary’s cow for kicking over a lantern and starting the fire, in truth the exact cause is unknown. Research by Chicago author Richard F. Bales indicates the fire did begin in or near the O’Leary barn, however.

What many people don’t realize is that the Great Chicago Fire wasn’t the only major fire to start on October 8, 1871. The Peshtigo fire in northeastern Wisconsin burned 1.2 million acres, destroyed 16 towns, and killed more than 1100 people.

This blog is a work in progress, so please be patient as I work out the new-blog-startup glitches. And be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back. See you soon!

Robin

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