Saturday, June 27, 2015

Natural Born Storytellers

Whether they are active or retired, firefighters all have tales to tell. Considering the extraordinary things an “average firefighter” witnesses over the course of a career, this should come as no surprise.

“Do you remember the fire at the old strip mall when the captain fell on his a** on the ice right in front of the TV camera?”

“One day we were called to a man on the roof of a house, and he was stoned and wouldn’t come down…”

“How about the time that woman came to the door wearing only a g-string and a smile?”

Recently I spent some time with my dad, who has his own catalog of stories covering several decades in the fire service. I’d share some of his more entertaining experiences, but I know much of the flavor would dissipate in the retelling. There’s simply nothing like hearing about the “good old days” of the fire service from someone who lived it. The calls they ran (the good, the bad, and the strange), training (which is sometimes reminiscent of our grandparents talking about walking uphill each way to school barefoot in four feet of snow…), equipment and apparatus (technology advancements only go so far and occasionally regress), and, of course the people involved – it always comes back to the crews you work with.

I have my own stable of stories, and while they may be interesting to people unfamiliar with firefighting, in my opinion they pale in comparison to the anecdotes of the older firefighters. They fought a lot more fire and had to do it without the advantages of today’s personal protective equipment, radio systems, and other advancements in technology.

If you ever have the chance to listen to firefighters of any generation sharing “war stories,” take advantage of the opportunity. It is well worth the time spent. But in lieu of stories told in person, there are plenty of books written by firefighters. Go to the Firefighters Bookstore ( and check out the memoirs, or do a search on Amazon for “firefighting books” (but read the descriptions carefully!). You can also uncover firefighting treasures in used bookstores, but it can take some determination (and luck) to find them.