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When I knew I wanted to be a Detroit firefighter

My friend’s father had no idea what an impact he was about to have on my life


My friend’s father had no idea what an impact he was about to have on my life.


By Scott Ziegler

Growing up, my best friend’s father was a Detroit firefighter. One day when we were about 16 years old, he invited us down to the firehouse for lunch. At the time I was really into drafting and architecture. My friend’s father, from Squad 6, Engine 58, had no idea what an impact he was about to have on my life.

To this day, I will never forget the smell of that firehouse. It was a mixture of diesel fumes, stale smoke lingering on their gear from a recent fire, and food. The food is a story all its own.

As his father gave us a tour of the firehouse, they received a box alarm. He invited us to follow and I was hooked. I watched as that fire truck screamed down the road. When we arrived at the fire, the firefighters jumped off ready to work, without an ounce of hesitation, and ran into the burning structure.

Once the fire was out, they emerged with soot-covered, smiling faces. They had possibly just defied death. They probably exerted more energy in 30 minutes than most people exert in a 24-hour period. But they were smiling. One of them lit up a cigar. They laughed and threw shots at each other as they cleaned up and got ready for the next one.

The fire was in some apartments above a store front. I don’t remember if they were vacant or occupied. Or even what street we were on. But I do remember how it made me feel. I wanted to be just like those guys. At that moment I had completely forgotten about drafting, architecture, or any other plans I had for my future. From then on when people asked me what my plans were, I always said “I’m going to be a Detroit firefighter.”

How I got here is another story. But for now I will tell you that the firehouses still smell the same. And being here still makes me feel the same way I did when I was 16.

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