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Top 8 firefighting head-scratcher stories from 2016

This past year was filled with stories of tragedy and heroics — and some really unusual stuff; this is the best of that stuff


With all the talk of fake news stories circulating social media, I really hoped this year’s crop of bizarre firefighting stories were made up by some imaginative babushka in a small Moscow apartment. No such luck. These gems are on the up and up.

Picking from this year’s pool was like judging a pig beauty contest — none were pretty, but someone had to win. Without further ado, here’s my top eight stories that left us scratching our heads in 2016.

Dateline Throop, N.Y.

Here’s one for global warming. The weather in New York was so hot this past summer (everybody now: “How hot was it?”) that piles of horse manure were bursting into flames.

Local officials confirmed that three piles of future fertilizer had self-combusted due the high heat and dry conditions. The moral of the story might be that you have to keep your s--- cool, man.

Dateline Jenkins, Ky.

A 21-year-old man was arrested and charged with arson for starting a wildland blaze. However, there is an odd twist to the story.

The local man is being described as a want-to-be meteorologist who started the fire so he could cover the story on social media. I guess he got tired of waiting for the next severe weather watch box or frost warning.

However, in a bright spot in the story, local Chief of Police James Stephens said, “It’s really too bad, he’s not a bad kid, just misguided.” OK then, I wouldn’t have forecasted that one.

Dateline Knoxville, Tenn.

Every year a cooking mishap always makes it in here and this year is no exception. The Knoxville Fire Department responded to a reported fire and arrived to find a woman cooking a brisket in her bathtub.

Apparently, the fiberglass chef had built a fire in the bottom of the tub and somehow fashioned a wire rack at the top of the tub to hold the brisket. Things were going along great until the tub melted.

Having seen a few boats burn, I imagine there was a lot of smoke involved in this. What caught my eye on this was the title of the article: ”Tennessee firefighters warn public after brisket in tub incident.”

What were they warning them about? Is bathtub cooking in Tennessee a common practice? Do a lot of people do this? I will say clean up will be a breeze and you can wash your meat thermometer right there.

Dateline McKees Rocks, Pa.

A harmless workshop on fire eating went horribly wrong when some well-meaning nervous Nelly called the fire department. First of all, I had no idea there were workshops on fire eating.

Is there a high demand for fire eaters? There aren’t too many circuses anymore, so I guess good fire eaters are hard to find.

The local fire chief complained the workshop goers didn’t have a fire extinguisher. I might have rather had a glass of water and some antacids.

Dateline Dallas

Not keen on eating fire you say, how about a little stroll? More than 30 people were treated for burns after trying to walk on hot coals at a motivational speaking event.

The exercise was designed to help people overcome their fears. Hmmm, how about that? Facing one’s fear is one thing, but common sense is another.

If I was afraid of heights, jumping off a 30-story building isn’t going to cure it. Well, it might alleviate the problem, but I won’t be around to enjoy it.

And my wife says I’m a pessimist. I don’t care how powerful positive thought is, it’s no match for 450 degrees.

Dateline Carroll, Iowa

A naked 29-year-old man was rescued from the chimney he was stuck in. He told rescue people on scene he was playing hide and seek with his cousin.

No commentary needed.

Dateline Tweeds Head, Australia

In our only overseas entry, the local life savers were called to a hospital to help remove a penis that was stuck in a box wrench. Yes, I’ll wait while you re-read that.

The last sentence of the article says there was no word on why the man did this in the first place. That would have been my first question. Not that it played into treatment or size up, I just have to know.

Was this self-pleasure, a dare or a contest, or was he trying to estimate the size of a nut and bold. Well, let’s see, it’s about what size? Oh, dang it.

This is the guy down the street who borrows your tools and then brings the wrenches back with one side missing.

Local firefighter Peter Sutherland was quoted as saying, “When blood goes to the appendage it swells up.” OK, as Editor Rick Markley’s finger hovers over the delete button, so I’m to assume the victim here felt some excitement? That’s as far as I’m going.

I’ll never look at a wrench the same way again.

Dateline Belllingham, Wash.

A man who gets the award for the ultimate green thumb from the Gardeners of America set fire to his 120-year-old house after he weeded his flower bed with a blow torch.

The owner was using a blow torch to remove weeds near the northeast corner of the house. Shortly thereafter, he smelled smoke and called 911.

You know nobody likes to pull weeds. There’s the bending over, the trying to pull dandelions that have roots to China, the exposed butt crack, the list goes on and on. However, this might not have been the best of ideas.

Perhaps he could attack the rouge plants with a commercially available weed killer or even put down rocks.

Honorable mention this year goes to the man who set his apartment on fire to drown out the sounds of loud sex coming from a neighboring apartment. It just goes to show you that you never know what is going happen when the bell rings.

Have a safe holiday, best of luck in the New Year 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.