Fire Yenta 12/13/02

By Diane Feldman, Managing Editor

The importance of size-up
From Mike Ciampo, lieutenant, FDNY: “Size-up is an important part of any fire or EMS call. Every now and then, though, it is easy to miss or overlook something because of the circumstances.

“A few years ago, I was in charge of patient care at a car accident with one person pinned behind the steering wheel. As I assessed the victim, who was conscious the whole time, I asked typical size-up questions and performed a physical assessment. The victim said twice that he had no feeling in his left leg, foot, or toes. As I palpated them, I ran through in my mind a list of possibilities of what could be wrong with him.

“My fellow firefighter used the hydraulic spreader/cutter to pry the car door off and expose the victim; however, we realized he was still pinned by the dashboard. So we continued to dismantle the car until the victim unstrapped his prosthetic left leg and assisted in his own removal. No wonder he didn’t have any feeling in his left leg, foot, or toes!”

Instructions for life
Thanks to John M. Buckman, chief, German Township (IN) Fire Department, and immediate past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, for these “Instructions for Life.” Use them at home and in the fire station:

  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three Rs–Respect for self; Respect for others, and Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

A letter to a fire department
The original author is unknown.

Dear Chief,

I am taking this opportunity to thank you for putting out the fire in my house at 366 Lincoln Street, although you will note from the address above that I do not live in the house any longer. I can see that a fire in the cellar is fairly easy to put out. You just fill it up with water. Too bad my fire wasn’t in the cellar.

I was quite worried when the fire engines arrived, with all that confusion and running around. My husband said, “It’s a good thing it was daylight or there might have been more accidents.” I hope the man who fell off the fire engine when it lurched in front of the house is all right. The other engine, the big one, just missed running him over.

They really got the hose off the engine fast and piled it up in the middle of the road and started looking for the ends. One man pulled out one end and put a big spray nozzle on and dashed into the house. Another man found the other end and put a big nozzle on it and ran to the side of the house. Then they both shouted, “Start the water.” How ingenious. I would have thought they would have had to screw the hoses onto a hydrant or truck to get water out of them!

I felt so sorry for the man with the cap on who was left with the engine. He was wringing his hands, pulling on knobs; one would have though that he almost looked like he didn’t know what else to do. He finally got into the engine and drove it down the street out of sight. I also felt sorry for the man in the white helmet who kept dropping his portable radio and waving his arms a lot. Lucky for him it was a mild day so when the water from the hose hit him, he probably didn’t catch a cold. After he found his helmet, hand light, and portable radio, he began waving his arms again but, since I was so far away, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He seemed a might upset and angry.

After awhile, the smoke was getting blacker and blacker, so I thought it best that I get some of my belongings out of the house. I was putting together some of my valued possessions when two men with tanks on their backs and masks on their faces rescued me. You men are so thoughtful. They were in an excitable state and talking incoherently through the masks. One pointed to a door; I tried to warn them, but it was too late. They opened the door to the closet and both charged in. I was able to get the bigger fellow out without too much trouble but the smaller man’s tank was caught in the wall. He certainly hit the wall hard, and the big man was right behind him.

I immediately went to the window to attract attention. I know there were a lot of men outside running around and yelling. Just then the man with “Captain” on his helmet and another man with “Battalion Chief” on his helmet who were running around the house at top speed collided head on. The “Battalion Chief” was furious; the “Captain” didn’t get up. It’s a good thing that they moved him because that’s where the big metal ladder landed when it fell over. In the excitement, someone had closed the closed door where the little man was trapped, and it wasn’t until a little bell started ringing on the man’s tank that anyone thought about him. You people certainly think of everything! Imagine a bell on you that rings when you get caught in a closet.

They got the poor man out, but he almost suffocated when they attempted to revive him with the breathing machine. Three other people were turning knobs on the bottles and the air hose while arguing about how to use it. Fortunately, the man had enough strength to keep pushing the face mask off or he might have smothered there and then. By this time, the smoke was blanketing the neighborhood. I was almost impressed when you new ladder truck pulled up and the men raised the big ladder and chopped a hole in the roof. My neighbor still wonders why they cut a hold in his roof instead of mine but I continue to tell him that he should shut up and leave the firefighting to the professionals.

I went upstairs where it was very hot and smoky. I opened the windows and it wasn’t too bad. Outside, men were struggling with a ladder, which was caught up in some electrical wires and branches. Someone had moved it and stranded a guy on the roof; they now were trying to get it back to him because he couldn’t get down. They certainly were excited dancing around with that ladder! Then I heard a lot of noise coming from the stairway-hacking, coughing, and swearing. The language was awful! A man exhorting the other, “Get up there, you @*#%@*, get up there!” Through the smoke, I could see a man lying near the top step of the stairs. He shouted, “Hey Cap, there’s a lady up here!” It must have been “Cap” who yelled back, “Give her the line, maybe she can get a shot at it, and watch your language, you @#$&x$!”

Because of the difficulty I had getting that big hose around, I would suggest that the bigger men hold the hoses while the little guys run around with the tools. If you remember, after the fire was out, there was a rash of accidents. A man wearing a white hat and, with more bugles than the others on his collar came upstairs and berate the man with “Captain” on his hat for throwing debris out the window without checking to see if someone was below. Shortly thereafter, there were shouts to stop. The man with all the bugles had just been hit by a falling sofa while walking along the side of the building.

The officer with “Safety” on his helmet was injured and almost drowned when he fell through a hole in the floor and ended up in the flooded cellar. A chair had been placed over the hole but the man in the white hat who had gotten wet earlier made them move it because someone might have tripped over it. He then told the man with “Safety” on his helmet that he was a dopey bastard anyway! Such language! A “Capt” was making a close examination of a wall when someone struck it with a heavy tool from the other side. The “Capt” seemed okay but his helmet was wedged on his head; they couldn’t get it off. He also seemed somewhat shorter.

The man with the white helmet became very pleasant, although he was still quite wet. He told me how lucky I was and pointed out to my neighbors and myself the importance of calling the fire department in case of a fire. Most big fires are the result of delayed alarms. Imagine what would have happened had I waited to call. In closing, I would like to say that we haven’t had so much excitement and commotion around here since the little boy rang the false alarm and the big ladder truck rolled backward down the hill into the car with “Chief” painted on it and the bell in front. Thank you again for your efforts on my behalf and, I will try not to leave the iron on the ironing board again.

Respectfully yours,

Mildred Farquas

Never trust the cops!
The volunteer chief of a suburban New Jersey department was responding to a call; when he arrived at the street, he was greeted by a police officer at the entrance to the block. The chief looked down the block and saw what appeared to be smoke coming off the roof of a house. The police officer said, “Chief, I think everyone is out of he house, but you have a job on the second floor.”

It was a weekday, which meant limited staffing, so the chief called an automatic second alarm, which would bring three out-of-town trucks, including a FAST.

The police officer tapped the chief on the shoulder and said, “Oops. Steam.”

The chief said, “Steam? What do you mean, steam?”

It had just rained, and when the sun came out, it caused steam to rise off the roof of the house!

The chief said, “That’ll teach me to trust the first-due cop!”

Check the date!
A platoon of firefighters were in a “pool” for weekly “Pick 6” lottery tickets. One morning, one firefighter bought a ticket using the previous night’s winning numbers. He put it in their pile of tickets to be checked against the numbers published in the local newspaper. To the disbelief of the unsuspecting firefighter who was checking the tickets, he saw one of the tickets had the winning number! He had no reason to double check the date on the ticket. The guy started screaming and yelling, telling everyone he was quitting his job. Finally, the others told him that the joke was on him!

Diane Feldman is a 13-year veteran of Fire Engineering; she has spent the past 12 years as managing editor. She has a B.A. in English/communications. Previously she was an editor at the American Management Association in New York City.

If you have a tidbit for the Fire Yenta, email


No posts to display