The Fire Yenta: The Case of the Lefthanded Fire Extinguisher

By Diane Feldman

The case of the lefthanded fire extinguisher
A chemistry lab supervisor/chemical safety officer at a midwestern chiropractic college arranged to have the local fire department conduct annual fire extinguisher training for the college staff. On the assigned day, a crowd of administrative assistants, secretaries, and other college staff members gathered around fire department members as they demonstrated the how-to’s of using a portable fire extinguisher. Each staffer was given a chance to actually extinguish a small fire in a pan. One secretary came bouncing up to one of the firefighters, high heels clicking, long red fingernails flashing, and tight skirt hobbling her walk. “Do you have a lefthanded fire extinguisher?” she asked him. Without missing a beat, he looked at her and replied, “Yes Ma’am!” and deftly removed the pin from the right side of the fire extinguisher handle and reinserted it on the left side of the handle!

Cool pooch
An engine company was returning to quarters when it was flagged down by the police in the parking lot of a supermarket. The police had discovered a dog left in a locked car, and the dog was visibly distressed in the hot weather. The fire department was concerned for the dog’s welfare but knew that forcing entry to the car would have serious repercussions. One smart engine company member decided to use water from the 500-gallon pumper to cool down the roof of the car, which in turn lowered the temperature inside the car. Sure enough, the dog began to look more comfortable. When the owner came out of the store, he was surprised to find the police, the fire department, and a summons waiting for him at his car. 

Two California firefighters were searching a very smoky garage during an adjacent kitchen fire. Apparently, the homeowners told the incident commander that there were some birds in the garage, and the two firefighters were assigned the search. One heard the bird squawking and shortly thereafter found the cage. Just as they got to the cage, the bird squawked one last time and keeled over.  He was lying, looking pitiful, in the corner of his cage with his wings spread out. The firefighters moved the cage out to the driveway. One reached in, grabbed the bird, and did a few birdie chest compressions. Another firefighter brought out the medical bag, and the first held a high-flow oxygen mask over the bird’s beak and did more compressions. A few minutes passed, and the bird didn’t move. The other firefighters began to tease the first one, asking how he planned to intubate the bird and so forth.  Much to everyone’s surprise, the bird started moving around. He gradually regained birdie consciousness to the point where he was struggling to get free. He then expressed his thanks by biting his rescuer’s finger. The firefighter put the bird back into his cage and there he sat, a little wobbly but alive and breathing on his own. The firefighters found out later that the bird was doing fine and was expected to make a full recovery. For the effort, the rescuer was rewarded with a new but thankfully temporary nickname: Parrot-medic!

Naked … again!
A fire department pulled up to a burning house. An elderly woman had just evacuated and ran down the path toward the street completely naked. When she came eye to eye with the firefighters, she screamed and ran back in the house. Much to their surprise (and probably dismay), she came back out naked again. They covered her with a blanket but couldn’t resist asking her why she ran back in the house. She replied, “I didn’t want anyone to see me without my false teeth!”

Radio days
Members of a New York fire district were conducting their weekly drill. The night’s topic was radio communications. The captain was going over examples of “good” and “bad” radio communications. As an example of “bad,” he related the following: One member of the department was nicknamed “Screamer” because his voice level would go up when he talked on the radio during a fire. One day, Screamer was conducting a routine radio check and said, “This is XYZ at XYZ Fire Department. Any members not hearing this test should call Headquarters.”

The Yenta
Diane Feldman, a 21-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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