Trending Topics

Be careful what you wish for

Unheeded motherly advice can lead to some uncomfortable situations when the child grows up to be a firefighter

Little boy pretending to be a fireman

Be careful what you wish for: You may get what you wanted but in a totally different form.

kaz_c/Getty Images

When I was much younger, my mother often told me to be careful what you wish for because you might get it. I have seen that in the fire service a few times.

I was part of an organization years ago and they couldn’t wait to get a new chief. Then within a couple of months, each to a man wished just as hard for the old chief back.

I like attending fires. I’ve often said it’s a double-edged sword. I don’t want to see people lose all their worldly possessions, or even worse, get hurt. But being in the thick of it is why many of us do this.

I attended a house fire several years ago that would not go out. Multiple remodels, add-ons galore, multiple attics, multiple roofs including a layer of corrugated tin — this place burned for all of 45 minutes.

I remember looking up at the stars and pleading for divine intervention and for this place to go out. I haven’t been that tired but for a few times in my life. I could almost hear my mother’s voice coming back from my childhood.

But it was an EMS call that cemented in my mind the lesson of getting what you wished for.

Once upon a midnight dreary Working with a colleague of many years, we pulled out after midnight on the ever-popular unknown illness. And what to my sleep-deprived eyes should appear in the night sky, but a giant black column of smoke. About a third of the way up was a flickering orange glow.

I immediately pointed out our good fortune to my associate for the night who sternly instructed me to go to the EMS call. I protested and vowed to just drive by.

He once again reminded that we were dispatched to an EMS call and we had to go there. Further, he said that I would likely do something stupid like try to put it out with a garden hose or enter without gear to search.

Well, I knew he was right. Besides a tax-paying resident was experiencing a medical crisis and needed our intervention.

We arrived to find a dark corner house. No signs of life from the street, which is odd since after all there is a medical emergency in progress. Even stranger was the 10-foot chain link fence topped with a string of barbed wire around the property.

My cohort immediately opened the gate and strode across the yard. I mentioned my concerns, rattled the gate and whistled for the pack of EMT-eating dogs I assumed was there. As my partner banged on the front door, I made my way across the yard.

Thumbs up The yard held a collection of junk cars, trailers, boats, furniture and other assorted debris. As my eyes focused in the dark, I noticed movement between me and the house.

A shadowy figure was emerging off a couch in the front yard. When I approached the figure, he held out his right arm and gave me the thumbs up.

Being the friendly type, I naturally returned the thumbs up and asked if he had called 911. He said nothing. He came more into focus, and I noticed he was wet.

I then smelled gasoline, and no, he wasn’t giving me the thumbs up — he was holding a lighter. To quote a classic cartoon character, “This was certainly a revolting turn of events.”

My associate, having been alerted to our conversation, now arrived on the scene. I motioned for him to stop as I donned my Captain Obvious hat said something intelligent like, “Hey, why don’t we put down the lighter?”

It was about that time my partner, being the consummate game show host never at a loss for words, announced, “Well, you wanted a fire.”

May you live in interesting times

It was at that moment I realized how powerful the wish for things a can be. You really have to be careful. It was kind of like the guy on the commercial who wished for a million bucks. You may get what you wanted but in a totally different form.

I, of course, pointed out this is not what I had in mind. We invited our rapidly vapor-encased friend to sit down and take life easy.

I gazed at the ambulance some 30 yards away and thought of the fire extinguisher just inside the patient compartment door and how nice it would be to have it. He sat down but refused to talk.

Soon local law enforcement arrived and began questioning him. He took a swing at them and the whole thing turned into a rugby scrum. I stood back and watched the sea of uniforms wrestle the man to the ground.

At this point, I was attacked by the man’s wife who somehow blamed me for this whole debacle. The police took her into custody also. Soon thereafter our petroleum-soaked friend kicked out the glass in the back seat of the patrol car.

The police really take a dim view of that sort of thing.

Our friend never burst into flames and maybe he got an adjoining cell with his wife. I re-learned a valuable lesson: Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

Thanks, mom. I’m now eating all of my vegetables and washing behind my ears.

Let me hear from you.

This article, originally published in August 2015, has been updated.

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.