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The funniest things to hit the fire service in 2014

Crazy animal stories, a zealous delivery driver and one very perplexing young tourist round out my top funniest stories from the year gone by


Firefighter Scott Hemmelsbach said that he reluctantly agreed to enter the two-story, smoke-filled house to retrieve the snake. He says he cradled the “weighty” snake before carrying it to safety. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Gordon Cole)

AP Photo/Courtesy of Gordon Cole

If you’re an avid follower of fire service news, you know that every so often a story comes a long that stops you in your tracks and sets off a spirited belly laugh. And by year’s end you’ve got a nice little collection of these gems.

Some of those stories are such doozeys that you almost wish you were on those calls — just to see it with your own eyes. So keeping with tradition, here’s my collection of the damnedest things I’ve seen happen this year.

Spiders from mars
Arachnophobia is a fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions. Fortunately, for all, there is treatment available.

A process of desensitizing by exposure can help. It basically involves showing people spiders and getting them gradually more comfortable with them. Medication can even be prescribed.

Not everyone who suffer from this condition seeks professional help. Whether driven by fear or overcome by the thrill of the hunt is unknown. But a Seattle man tried to kill a spider in his laundry room and the resulting fire did $60,000 in damage.

Our intrepid exterminator attempted to vanquish the eight-legged menace by creating a makeshift blowtorch with an aerosol can and a lighter. The first arriving fire units were prohibited from entry by ammunition being detonated by the fire.

My question is, since he obviously had firearms why didn’t he just try to shoot the spider? A ¼-inch bullet hole would have been a lot easier to fix.

A close second in the war on spiders comes from a little south east of Seattle, where a Hutchinson, Kan. woman was arrested for arson after lighting some towels on fire and throwing the burning bundle at a spider.

Animal arson
Speaking of the animal kingdom, in Lacey Township, N.J., a family dog started a fire by turning on a stove burner, which in turn ignited a laptop sitting on the burner. This was according to investigators.

I have heard of animals starting fires before, such as birds taking smoldering cigarette butts into a nest in a house, or mice and rats chewing electrical wires.

A number of years ago in a midsized southern town the local fire marshal called a fire being started by a bird. Enterprising firefighters visited a local ethnic food store and purchased a whole duck. The following morning when the fire marshal came to work he found the duck, complete with feathers and head, sitting at his desk with a cigarette in its bill.

The fire marshal was not amused.

Personally, I’m impressed with a dog that can turn on the stove. There is nothing like coming home and having dinner ready. Or perhaps the dog was trying to get to the laptop to look at some YouTube kitten videos.

Hard-core life saver
In Addison, Texas firefighters rescued a Chihuahua from a fire. The dog, unconscious and unresponsive, was given mouth to snout resuscitation by Capt. Scott Ledet, who gets my vote for hard-core life saver of the year. The dog, named Pony, was revived and returned to his grateful owner.

I resuscitated a cat once on live TV and to this day people call me The Cat Whisperer. Fortunately, I had a pet oxygen mask.

A close second to Capt. Ledet in the voting is a Muskegon, Mich. Firefighter Scott Hemmelsbach. He made entry to a fire and came across a 6-foot long Python snake, which he rescued.

It seems it was the snake’s lucky day. Firefighter Hemmelsbach had experience handling snakes in high school.

I’m not sure how you tell if a snake is friendly. I guess they could wag their tails, but if a rattlesnake does that, I think it’s a bad sign. I would have broken the glass and wished the snake good luck.

Stuck on you
Of course 2014 contains tons of stories of firefighters rescuing people in compromising positions. A lot of would be burglars who attempt break-ins get stuck in vents, ducts, walls and so on. There were people trapped in rooms and a lady trapped in a toilet.

However, the winner in this category has to be the American exchange student who got stuck in a giant vagina statue. Yes, I will pause and let you reread that sentence. I had to.

It seems the student got himself stuck in the aforementioned female part in Tubingen, Germany. Perhaps it was due to a lack of lubrication. Regardless, the local fire department rescued him.

First off, the question that immediately comes to my mind has to be why do they have a giant vagina statue in this town? Now I know the European standards and customs on nudity and sex are a little different than they are here.

Of course, it would make giving directions very easy. “If you come to the giant vagina you’ve gone too far.”

Emergency delivery
But for my money, the enterprising young man in South Carolina who was allegedly delivering pizzas with his emergency lights and sirens wins it all this year.

A volunteer rescue squad member in South Carolina was reported by witnesses as running emergency in his personal car in a neighborhood. When questioned by local police, the pizza guy denied it, but was charged nonetheless.

Now I get it that this was illegal and dangerous, however who hasn’t called in for a pizza delivery especially on a Sunday during the NFL playoffs and been told it will be an hour and a half for delivery?

Time is money. Who is going to tip for a cold pizza? Unless Peyton Manning is at the door with the pizza, I want it there in a timely manner.

Now before the cards and letters come in, I know you can’t run lights a sirens to deliver pizzas, or even those freaky fast sandwich deliveries.

We have made another year. Be safe and let’s do it again next year. Let me hear from you.

Will Wyatt, originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for about 30 years. Wyatt is a captain at a fire department near Houston. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments, including full-time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Wyatt holds a master firefighter certification in Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification and an associate degree from Houston Community College. He is author of the book, “And a Paycheck, Too!” Check out an excerpt here. Connect with Wyatt on LinkedIn.