Be Careful Where You Step

By Diane Feldman

A working fire in a large eastern city apartment building had spread to the floor above. The ladder company moved in on the floor above the fire, climbing through the window on the sixth floor. The last person through the window was the lieutenant, a rather large person, who, because he was so tall, got caught in the venetian blind cords. No matter how he turned, or what cord he pulled, he only became more entangled. Eventually, he just bullied himself free and the blinds fell from their bracket onto some debris on the floor.

The company completed the search, and on their way out of the apartment, the members found a victim beneath the window, unconscious and bleeding. They began CPR; resuscitated the victim; and got him down the ladder, into an ambulance, and to the emergency room. He survived.

When the lieutenant learned that the victim survived, he went to the hospital to visit him. After exchanging pleasantries, the lieutenant asked the victim how he felt. “Great,” the victim said, “but I feel like some big gorilla was walking all over me and then hit me with a brick. Look at this cut.”

He showed the lieutenant a head laceration that looked suspiciously like the side of a venetian blind. Come to think of it, the lieutenant thought that there was something under his feet when he was trying to free himself from the venetian blind cords.

In his most professional voice, the lieutenant replied, “Yeah, most people who are saved from a fire in the nick of time say the same thing. You’ll feel better in a couple of days!”     

Why a truckie shouldn’t “cross over” to “the other side”

From a truckie who wishes to remain anonymous: As a firefighter assigned to a truck company for 26 years, there were only two times I was ever allowed on a nozzle. The first time was during overhaul of an attic fire. Another firefighter shined a light into the attic space, and a red glow appeared. I figured, now was my chance to experience that feeling that engine companies have during extinguishment. Once, twice, three times I hit it, but the glow wouldn’t go out. Then I realized I was trying to extinguish red Christmas balls!

The second time I was riding as the fourth member on an engine crew. There was a report of smoke showing and flames visible through the front window. I thought, OK, now is my chance. We make the door. Look left, look ahead, look right, and there it was: ceiling to floor flames. I selected my nozzle pattern, then short bursts, then longer flow, then I shut down. The fire was still there and not going out! All of a sudden, just like a switch had been turned off, the fire went out–the second due had taken it from the rear! I had been trying to do a bank shot into the kitchen off of a ceiling-to-floor wall mirror! Now I know to stick with the only water a truckie should use—a can! 

The “tail” of the dueling mice

From Glenn Corbett, professor of fire science, John Jay College; and technical editor, Fire Engineering: The use of new technology has been the hallmark of modern fire service training. At the FDIC, the use of laptop computers has virtually erased the use of slide projectors and easels. At this year’s H.O.T. classroom sessions, instructors in two adjacent rooms battled for possession of their own programs: As the two instructors taught, their PowerPoint slides mysteriously progressed, without the instructors signaling on their remote control mouse units. On investigation, it was determined that the instructors were using the same mouse with the same settings. A call to a technician resulted in reprogramming each mouse.

Lesson: Just like the ax, an overhead projector slide always starts!

The “Brannigan Joke”

Thanks to Raul A. Angulo, captain, Engine Company 33, Seattle (WA) Fire Department, who invented this joke: Three firefighters die, go to heaven, and meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter finds their names written in the Book of Life but apologizes profusely for not being able to let them into heaven at this time.

St. Peter: “ I’m really sorry, guys, but due to some major remodeling in heaven, we can’t accommodate you for a couple of weeks. There simply isn’t room. You kind of caught us off guard. But to compensate you for the major inconvenience, we’ve decided to let you go back to earth for two weeks as anything or anybody you want to be–no questions asked and no consequences.”

Firefighter 1: “Really? No consequences? And we’re guaranteed to get back in?”

St. Peter: “Yup. And no questions asked.”

Firefighter 1: “Hmmm … well actually, I’ve always wanted to be an eagle. To be the king of the skies and soar anywhere I want to go would be pretty neat.” Poof! Down to earth he went as an eagle.

Firefighter 2: “Well, I’d actually like to be a great white shark. To experience the undersea world as king of the ocean and top of the food chain would be great! Nobody messes with sharks!” And down he went as a great white shark.

Firefighter 3 (a truckie with more carnal ambitions): “No consequences? Hmmm … well I think I’d like to be a “stud.” No, “The King Stud.” I want to be so famous, everyone will read about me.”

St. Peter: “Are you sure a really big stud is what you want to be?”

Firefighter 3: “Da … yeah!”

Poof! St. Peter sent him back to earth and stuck him in Chapter 3 of Frank Brannigan’s book Building Construction for the Fire Service.


 Photo found on Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Oden.

 The Yenta
Diane Feldman, a 22-year veteran of PennWell Corp., is executive editor of Fire Engineering and conference director of FDIC. She has a B.A. in English communications. She has been a yenta (look it up) for most of her life. If you have a story for the Yenta, e-mail

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