If you work in emergency services long enough, you have days and particularly nights that become memorable. Not just bad fires or horrific medical calls but silly and quirky stuff also. These are usually the nights that become that of kitchen table lore. Remember the time…
One of my favorite days to work every year is that of New Year's Eve. The first working fire I attended as a career firefighter was in the middle of the afternoon on a New Year's Eve. I look upon it as an adventure. If I am doing the EMS thing especially, I don't even make my bed, I plan on being up all night.
One such night occurred on December 31 a few years ago. My associate for the evening and I had gone out for a quick bite of dinner and returned with two cigars, which we would smoke in honor of people making resolutions to stop smoking.
As we returned I noticed the house on the opposite corner was going to have an outdoor New Year's Eve dinner party. You can do that when you have two climates: fall and hot. There were strings of lanterns hung, tables with table clothes, candles, a barbeque pit belching smoke … all the makings of a fun evening.
As we sat down on the front bumper of the pumper and lit our convenience store's finest imported cigars, our neighbors started shooting off fireworks. Fireworks in the unincorporated areas around my part of the world are legal. There have been several movements to ban them but they are still legal in the county.
After a moment or two, something caught my eye. I could see a small fire in the top of a palm tree in the partier's back yard. Some of the party goers were waving at us now. In the time it took us to drive 80 ft., the palm tree had turned into a runaway refinery flare.
Orange embers the size of 50 cent pieces rained down. A couple of tables were on fire, there was a fire on the roof and the grass was even burning. I made a feeble attempt with the 1 inch booster line, but sounded a retreat quickly.
My associate swung the pre-piped deck gun around and opened it up on the menacing flames. He opened the flow of water and came across the yard with the stream, knocking over tables and chairs. He hit the roof and after knocking off a string or two of Christmas lights, came back to the tree.
Naturally he managed to hit the barbeque pit also. After about 20 seconds, the fire was out. I surveyed the damage. The once elegant party was now a mass of knocked over smoking tables and chairs and broken lights.
The hostess peered around the corner of the house to view our progress. She was an attractive, middle aged woman with black hair. The spray of the water had given her hair a sheen. Black mascara stains ran down her cheeks.
She threw out her arms and hugged me, all the while thanking me profusely. She turned to the other partiers who had ventured back and yelled, "Viva Bomberos!" To which they all hoisted their beverages and repeated. I think that means you destroyed our party but saved our house.
Next up, a house fire
After refilling the water tank, we were of to a town southwest of us for a house fire. As we roared down the streets, groups of partiers raised their drinks and waved at us as we passed. There is just something about a fire truck. We arrived and found a one-story house chugging smoke. I never did finish the cigar.
Back at the station now, and somewhat dirty, I foolishly attempted to lie down. Not for long. Midnight 30 and we are up for an apartment fire in our first in. We arrived and found smoke coming from a small building near the main apartment building. It turned out to be the laundry building.
We quickly determined there was a fire inside the rear wall. A large group of apartment dwellers have assembled to watch the festivities, most having come from celebratory parties and dressed to the nines.
As we pried off the back wall covering, allowing an inrush of oxygen, the fire flared up causing an "ooooooooo" and the click of camera phones from the crowd. As we prepare to leave, a group of ladies ask if I will take a picture with them. Sure, why not.
They crowded around me in their sequined dresses and high heels shoes. After the click of the shutter, one kissed me on the cheek and giggled, "Happy New Year!" as they ran away. I made a note to wipe my cheek before going home.
Two a.m. now and we are summoned for an electrical fire. We are met by a pleasant middle aged woman who describes popping, flashing, arcing and near death in her kitchen.
After some investigating, we trace the problem to an unlit light bulb. My co-worker for the evening who, by the way, is blessed with an abundance of common sense asks the lady if it is possible her light bulb blew. She replied that she didn't know as she had never seen that before.
Wow! I am astounded. A 50 something woman has never experienced a blown light bulb. Can you imagine if she passed gas? That would really throw her for a loop.
911: What is your emergency?
Caller: Oh my! I need an ambulance
911: What is the problem?
Caller: I heard a horrible noise and I think I am deflating. Hurry!
The last outing of the evening was for a shopping cart of fireworks being on fire in a parking lot of a shopping center. Almost 5:30 a.m. now. The streets are deserted. I even took a picture of it because I knew nobody would ever believe me.
As I finished the report, my morning's relief strolled through the door and told me to go home. As I wandered out to the parking lot I gazed around the neighborhood. In all this madness a new year had come. A clean slate, a fresh start for everybody filled with promises and resolutions. I paused and looked around and it all looked the same to me.
Well, except for the blackened palm tree across the street.