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Firefighting’s best laughs and gaffs of 2015

The funny, absurd and plain unfathomable are ordinary days in the fire service; here’s a look at some of the better doozies


Yes, it’s that time of year again where we look back at the strange and humorous happenings that result in fire apparatus being dispatched.

Every year there are fires that are a result of people’s uncontrollable fear of insects. Naturally, this year is no different.

Dateline Detroit: A lady who admittedly had a fear of bedbugs took direct action against the microscopic varmints. However, things didn’t go as planned.

After leaving her apartment with the stove and oven on, she returned home. As a safety precaution in case the heat didn’t kill the bugs, she rubbed herself down with alcohol began pouring it on the floor.

The resulting ignition and fire destroyed the 48-unit apartment building, which was declared a total loss. Presumably the bedbugs were exterminated in the fire.

I’m still trying to figure out the stove and oven tactic. Did she think the bedbugs would wander into the kitchen for a snack and be overcome by the heat?

Big and scary
Dateline Centerline, Mich.: After pulling into a gas station to top off his van, a man noticed a spider on the fuel door. The quick-thinking man retrieved a lighter and tried to burn the arachnid.

After the fire was extinguished that destroyed the gas pump, the man was found to be unharmed. No word on the spider.

You have to imagine he had one of life’s oh-crap moment — that moment when the realization hits that this might not have been a good idea. A touch more bad luck and he might not have had the time to hear the boom in the kaboom.

Dateline Pauls Valley, Okla.: For this insect emergency fire was used to remedy the situation. A truck carrying bees on an interstate crashed and the bees escaped and began to swarm. The swarm was so massive it could be seen up to one half mile away.

Local beekeepers responded and captured many of the bees but the rest were euthanized in an intentionally set fire after they became aggressive. Proof that bees have less patients in traffic jams than humans.

The straight poop
A strange trend this year was the emergence of human waste-related emergencies.

Dateline Boise, Idaho: A cyclist felt the call of nature and stopped to relive colon pressure in a ravine. After performing proper hygiene with toilet paper, our environmentally conscious cycler decided to set fire to the toilet paper.

I commend him for his efforts; you know stepping in that is less than desirable. However, embers from the burning paper started a wildland blaze that consumed 73 acres. Officials indicated he would be fined for the inferno.

Dateline Portland, Ore.: The Portland Fire/Rescue folks were called into action to rescue a homeless man from an overturned port-a-can.

The portable restroom was overturned by some hostile onlookers after the man refused to stop publicly masturbating. You can’t make this stuff up. The man was seated in the facility with the door open, his pants down around his ankles engaging in self-pleasing activities.

He was asked to stop by several homeless onlookers who finally took matter into their own hands. The man was OK and the whole nasty affair was summed up best by Portland Police Officer Willie Haliburton who said, “He had a crappy day.”

I once responded to a portable restroom on fire after some misguided youths stuffed trash inside and set it ablaze. It went out as a small plastic building with smoke showing. Later, I got into an argument on the phone with an arson investigator who didn’t want to come out at 2 a.m. claiming the contents had no value.

Dateline Dover, Pa.: On a related note, the Dover Township Volunteer Fire Department received 1,000 rolls of toilet paper after winning a contest. I’m sure the Dover Township VFD does a jam up job and are the ultimate professionals, but what kind of contest awards toilet paper?

Honorable mention this year goes to the lady in Seattle who got stuck in the clothing donation drop box and to the man who tried to put out a trash fire by driving his ammunition-laden van over the fire multiple times.

The dynamic duo
Dateline Greensburg, Ind.: For my money the most bizarre story has to be the tale of two department heads in Greensburg. The fire chief and the police chief both resigned over missing money from the property room.

The female police chief stole $73,000 in cash from the police property room and burned it up feeding her gambling habit. The police chief confided in the male fire chief what she had done.

The two chiefs raised $70,000 to replace the missing money, but the police chief gambled the replacement money away too.

Now as sad and odd as this is, it gets stranger yet. The police and fire chiefs are married — to each other. I can’t begin to fathom that. Just the dinner conversation and pillow talk would be priceless.

“Did you guys go to the store on the fire truck before your naps or after?”

“Yes, and we passed all the police cars at the donut shops.”

I hope it works out for them. They must have a very good marriage just to endure the city budget workshops.

Another year has come and gone, stay safe and 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.