GLORY DAYS VIGNETTES

JohnnyGage

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A FIREHOUSE CHRISTMAS STORY

Days leading up to the Annual Firehouse Family Christmas Party was exciting. “All hands” scrubbed down the firehouse from top to bottom, even going as far as power washing the old diesel exhaust crud from the walls and swabbing the grime off the apparatus floor. The parties were well planned and always turned out spectacular.

Inside the kitchen, hot pasta dishes, macaroni and potato salads, sandwich wraps, cakes, pies, cookies, pastries and every specialty dish imaginable was squeezed onto the huge table. One year we even had a filled, full sized fruit cart on wagon wheels. Inside the sitting room the television featured “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.

On the apparatus floor rows of decorated tables, each loaded with overflowing bowls of candy, chips and pretzels. Out of the way and perched on the coat rack a boombox belted out Johnny Mathis’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Holly-Jolly Christmas.”

Around noon, the apparatus floor began to electrify as kiddies dressed in dapper outfits, wives, parents and grandparents arrived. Everyone smiles and greets one another. It was also interesting to see how some of the kids grew from youngsters to teenagers between Christmas parties. Oh yes, even the teenagers came back for our parties.

While waiting for Santa to arrive, magicians performed while clowns made balloons for entertainment. I recall one special year we had a rousing Pee Wee Herman impersonator that kept the kiddies mesmerized with his antics and hopping about in tune with his music.

During my first years in the Bronx it was not uncommon to see a few off duty dads ride in the cab of the engine or truck with their kids on their laps when an alarm came in, and usually one of the wives riding the front seat between the officer and chauffeur. The rigs were kept outside under the watchful eye of the proby. The only strict rule that day was not permitting young children on the stairs leading to the upper floors and pole holes.

When families arrived it was understood that in order for the child to receive a “gift from Santa” they should bring an appropriate gift that didn’t exceed twenty five dollars, and had to be gift wrapped with the child's name in plain sight for Santa to see. The present was brought upstairs into the bunkroom and placed in large bags by Santa’s helpers. Usually, there were two or three large bags bulging with goodies.

Everyone eagerly waits for Saint Nick to appear. Now, as we all know, he arrives by reindeer, and when he does a CO dispatcher announces over the firehouse intercom that Santa has landed on the roof of the firehouse. That gets everyone's attention!

Getting Santa from the roof down was the trick. Usually he was taken down in the bucket of a near-by tower ladder company. The only glitch, since we were not a TL company, we had to relyon a nearby TL company who would stop by and “offer” to take Santa down from the roof.

Except sometimes the logistics didn’t pan out too well, if the weather was cold or raining it would be a bust. In addition the availability of the nearest TL might be unavailable or the company might be assigned a run just as they were preparing to set up. We kept our fingers crossed. Although, most times it worked out and the kids got a kick watching Santa being lifted off the roof waving to the crowd from inside the bucket while being lowered onto the sidewalk in front of the firehouse.

Then the kiddies would receive their special gift when Santa called their name, tear the wrapping paper open and the firehouse apparatus floor became a buzzing playground with little boys pushing trucks and little girls rocking their dolls.

I never missed a firehouse Christmas party, they were all very special and fun. But there is one in particular that I’ll never forget, nor anyone else that was there for that matter. That’s next.

PHOTO (this is what happens when you have a spare rig and one of the knucklehead brothers has a can of "instant snow."
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JohnnyGage

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TO REMEMBER: Senior lovable 'Dollar' Bill Gallagher. L 112 Irons Man. Bill was always impeccably dressed and classy coming into work, in uniform, and heading back home. Did not matter, working or off duty, he wore a gold Gucci necklace with a matching bracelet even while working. When we asked him what he wanted for lunch, he always requested "wagon wheels and fish cakes.” Of course, he never got them. Bill had a great sense of humor, he had a beautiful sailboat and loved to sail. He was well loved by us mavericks and highly respected. Bill passed away some years ago, but not forgotten.
BillGallagher2.png
 

JohnnyGage

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THE SENIOR MAN

Us young whippersnappers that came along after the arson war years benefited tremendously from the senior man, the most influential role model in the firehouse. Many of the senior firefighters we worked with were also veterans of the military, their discipline and demeanor is what differentiates these individuals from the rest. The senior man forged us into respectable and refined young firefighters, husbands and dads.
As young firefighters, we looked to them for guidance. The senior man leads by example, through his knowledge and experience, defines the path to motivate others, always striving for excellence. It is never about personal gain but instead about the betterment of the whole, his actions speak louder than words.

The Senior man will make an impression that will last a career and in some cases a lifetime.

FLASHBACK RECOLLECTION: L 38; 1986

When I was first assigned to L 38, well known as a senior truck, the roster had almost 20 senior men assigned at that time. One good thing about being a whippersnapper, I had young legs to scurry up six stories a couple of times a tour and was assigned to the Roof position sooner than later.
On the backstep was thirty year veteran Jim Marino, who looked like a double for a middle aged Tony Bennett. Jimmy, a bachelor, had perfected a dry, wry sense of humor, loved his crossword puzzles with coffee and lovingly called us young guns “punks’. Jimmy always had the forcible entry position and was instrumental sharing various forcible entry tricks of the trade to us regularly. He also did not hesitate to render fatherly advice.

One morning leaving the firehouse after my night tour, I stopped by the kitchen to say so-long to the handful of guys working. Jimmy, sitting at the end of the table near the coffee pot doing the daily crossword puzzle peered over his half rim glasses, a smirk appeared and at the same time called me over; “Hey punk, come here”. It’s Jimmy’s favorite name for us young mavericks. It is not a request. I approach him knowing something is up, the guys gathered in the kitchen now become interested in what Jimmy has to say. He points to a small split across the knee of my dungarees. Laying the paper aside, and removing his glasses for effect he tells me in a fatherly, teasing way; ”Look at you, do you not have any pride in yourself, Son?”. Jimmy, himself a snappy dresser, looks me over and states; “You are a fireman now! Don’t be wearing tattered jeans when you come to this firehouse, now get out of here."

Of course he was playfully wisecracking in front of the troops who then piled on, but as the saying goes, there is a “lot of truth said in jest”. I ditched those jeans when I got home, and to this day have never owned another pair that were ripped or tattered.

PHOTO: (L-R) Bob Gaynor, a barrel of laughs, he demands attention and amuses everyone with his scathing schtick. Bob gave me advice the first time assigned to the roof; “Get your ass up there and open the roof, if you need a mask, we’ll bring you one.” Al Misk, senior LCC, he was the straw that stirred the drink, and affectionately called you “junior”. He wouldn’t let you wash the rig, but you could wash the wheels. One look from him and you just stopped whatever you were doing. (Covering Lt). Tom Sidecar, the mad Russian. He was an outstanding chef specializing in fish dishes and wore deck shoes. He had a unique flair, I liked his style. Kneeling (L) Joe Cody; calm, cool, graceful. Went on to become Commissioner Spinato's right hand man. Sammy, I loved working with him, he was youthful, smart and always smiling. Sammy was a voice of reason and unselfishly shared his insightful studious knowledge with me combined with practical know-how many times. I was grateful for his wisdom and appreciated his savviness throughout my career.

Working alongside and living with these senior men, sometimes felt as if I had a dozen fathers working with me, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
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JohnnyGage

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A CHRISTMAS STORY, P 2

Many firehouses have added a unique touch to their gathering. I know of one joint that likes to hang the Christmas Tree upside down much to the amusement of the kiddies. But at L 38 we wanted to do something really special unlike previous years. Plus, we didn’t want to rely on the Brothers with the Tower Ladder. We were enthusiastic and excited planning the event. This would be a spectacular celebration, a day to remember. And, if I go to the next one thousand firehouse Christmas parties, I don’t think any one of them could ever compare to this one.

Yakking it up in the kitchen a couple of weeks before the Christmas Party one of the Brothers came up with this great idea to frame out and transform one of the sliding poles in the back of the firehouse into a chimney. In short order, we acquired the wood and supplies and began framing out around the pole from the top of the apparatus floor pole hole down to the apparatus floor with two by fours. After the wood frame work was completed we stapled red brick corrugated paper to the columns that created a red brick chimney suitable for Jolly O’ St. Nick. In the front we left an opening just large enough for Santa to duck out after he came off the roof and slid the pole. It was a brilliant idea!. What could go wrong?

The Brother playing Santa was one of our charismatic senior members, he played Santa for many years and everyone got a charge out of him. He was amusing, entertaining and jovial, a little cross between Dom Deluise and Jonathan Winters rolled into one and most importantly no fake padding required. You couldn’t ask for a better jolly ol’ elf. Santa lived in Queens, oh yeah, I almost forgot, and he was a bachelor.

T’was the day of the party, Santa was expected to arrive at 2 PM right in the middle of the frolic. Santa called in stating he was leaving his home a little early and on his way in. Since he had time, he decided to stop by a couple of watering holes for a pinch of eggnog and ho ho ho’s. Well, Santa arrived in plenty of time and was also a little punchy from making merry. Santa was doing fine otherwise, he gargled, brushed his teeth, gargled some more and insisted he was ready for primetime. The announcement over the firehouse intercom alerted one and all that Santa had landed on the roof and was about to “come down the chimney!”

With great anticipation the families, guests and kiddies surrounded the chimney pole hole, all eyes fixated on the one spot Santa will come ducking out any minute, the excitement builds, the children start to chant “WE WANT SANTA, WE WANT SANTA!” over and over again, it is “SHOWTIME” for the big fella to make his grand appearance…

Up on the second floor, Santa grabs the pole, gives us a quick thumbs up wrapping his arms and legs around the pole and slides down, but, unexpectedly, Santas foot awkwardly strikes the rubber cushion at the base that surrounds the pole twisting his ankle. Santa stumbles, losing his balance, and falls through the right side of the brick paper chimney tearing a large gaping gash into the side, the chimney shakes frightfully. Smiles and excitement from the crowd have turned into jaw-dropping amazement, little kids are frozen in place, startled and shocked at this unexpected twist. Poor Santa, but he quickly rebounds and pulls himself together and grabs the pole while straightening out his beard and red cap that has fallen over his eyes.

However, the “Elf” helpers above in the bunkroom, noting that Santa has cleared the pole hole, it’s their queue to drop down the bags of toys. Except, they haven’t noticed that Santa is slowly steadying himself back upright in the chimney when all of a sudden the toy bags fall with a crash onto Santa's coconut, this time driving him forward through the remaining brick paper wall, the kids have had enough and scatter for cover! The planned “graceful entrance” has turned into a Benny Hill comic skit. The makeshift chimney is half destroyed, torn and tattered. But a hasty retrieval of a staple gun and quick repair has brought order back from mayhem.

Santa recovered from the blows and collected himself, the children cautiously reappeared and Santa was gingerly escorted by a couple of Brother Santa helpers to his elaborate chair to present the goodies to the shell-shocked, but understanding children. The kiddies ripped open their gifts, forgot what they saw and played with their new prize, as all of the wives and guests received a wrapped bottle of bubbly and a remarkable Christmas memory.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! Merry Christmas to all my friends here on thei wonderful site!

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JohnnyGage

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TINNED UP WINDOWS AT VACANTS

The program to stick decals of curtains, venetian blinds, house plants and other amenities onto the boarded-up windows and doors of vacant eyesores was begun in 1980.

At the height of the decal program, decals were placed in the windows of more than 500 abandoned buildings around the city. But because of their high visibility, those along the Cross-Bronx Expressway received by far the most attention.

Mayor Edward I. Koch is to remove one of the few decal plates that remain; 'Decals Didn't Fool Anyone.'

Removing these tinned up windows was very difficult. They were secured into the wooden window frame every few inches with roofing nails. Prying them from the frame was very tedious and the tin edges were sharp. Not a fun task for the OVM.
28-Known+artists,+Homey+decals+covering+boarded+up+windows,+(Koch+windows)+Berger+Court+apartm...jpg
 

nfd2004

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Thank you Mr Gage.

The stories and photos are GREAT.

The members and visitors of this site wish you, "johnnygage", a very Merry Christmas as well

I remember those windows viewed from the Cross Bronx Expressway as well
 

mack

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TINNED UP WINDOWS AT VACANTS

The program to stick decals of curtains, venetian blinds, house plants and other amenities onto the boarded-up windows and doors of vacant eyesores was begun in 1980.

At the height of the decal program, decals were placed in the windows of more than 500 abandoned buildings around the city. But because of their high visibility, those along the Cross-Bronx Expressway received by far the most attention.

Mayor Edward I. Koch is to remove one of the few decal plates that remain; 'Decals Didn't Fool Anyone.'

Removing these tinned up windows was very difficult. They were secured into the wooden window frame every few inches with roofing nails. Prying them from the frame was very tedious and the tin edges were sharp. Not a fun task for the OVM.
View attachment 27651

024649_360W.png
The New York Times Archives

See the article in its original context from
November 7, 1983, Section A, Page 1


Scores of crumbling, abandoned tenements in the Bronx - part of a swath of blight that has become a national symbol of urban decay - will soon sport vinyl decals over their gaping windows depicting a lived-in look of curtains, shades, shutters and flowerpots.

The decals will be placed on derelict, city-owned buildings along the Cross Bronx Expressway between the Harlem River and the Bronx River Parkway. The funds for the effort will come from a $300,000 Federal grant to expand a three-year-old city program to improve the images of rundown neighborhoods.

City officials acknowledge that the decorative decals, along with some demolition and repair work, are cosmetic brushstrokes on an area that resembles a bombed-out city. Tens of millions of dollars would be needed to rehabilitate the area.

But the idea, they say, is to spruce up the neighborhood, lift the morale of residents, discourage vandals and addicts who haunt abandoned buildings and make a better impression on the thousands of motorists, some presumably investors, who pass the area daily.

''We want to brighten up the face of the neighborhood while waiting for new Federal programs to rebuild the neighborhood,'' Anthony B. Gliedman, the Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, said yesterday in an interview.

''I recognize that this is superficial,'' he added. ''We don't want anybody to think we're doing this instead of rebuilding. But that will take years and require tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. And while we're waiting, we want people to know that we still care.''

Using the $300,000 community development block grant solely for rehabilitation work would be almost futile, the Commissioner said, because it would cover the refurbishing of only about a half dozen apartments. Instead, he said, about a third of the money will go for decals and the rest for demolition jobs, masonry repairs and other minor work aimed at improving the neighborhood's image and morale.

''Morale is very real,'' Mr. Gliedman said. ''Perception is reality.''

The program to stick decals of curtains, venetian blinds, house plants and other amenities onto the boarded-up windows and doors of vacant eyesores was begun by Mr. Gliedman's department in October 1980 at two decrepit buildings on Eagle Street in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.

Public reaction to the fancied-up facades ranged from skeptical to let's wait and see. Residents gawked at the images with smiles, smirks and some guffaws.

Since then, about $100,000 has been spent on the program, and decals have been placed on about 325 vacant city- owned buildings in dozens of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. Yesterday Mr. Gliedman and other city officals said the program had been quite successful.

''It makes a difference in terms of how people feel about their neighborhood,'' said Bruce J. Gould, a city housing official who was one of those responsible for starting the program in 1980.

Martin Gallent, vice chairman of the City Planning Commission, said, ''It's been very successful, for limited purposes, to prevent that yawning, vacant look, to give a semblance of life around a building and to prevent vandalism.''

Commissioner Gliedman noted that the decals, each costing about $6, had been put up in buildings primarily at the request of community boards, block associations or other neighborhood groups. As a result, he said, ''the neighbors have a sense of pride and participation.''

''We want them to know,'' he said, ''that we know about them, that we're interested and that we care. We want people to feel good about their neighborhood.'' Drop in Vandalism Reported

Moreover, Mr. Gliedman said, vandalism and break-ins at buildings with the decals have been only ''a small fraction'' of such trouble at other vacant city tenements. Asked why that might be, he said: ''The decals are a little off-putting to the person breaking in. They show that the neighbors care.''

Until now, the decal program has focused on neighborhoods where the residents have requested them. But under the $300,000 block grant made by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city plans to extend it to buildings along heavily traveled corridors, such as the Cross Bronx Expressway.

''The image that the Bronx projects - and projects to potential investors - is the image you see from that expressway, and our goal is to soften that image so people will be willing to invest,'' said Robert Jacobson, director of the Bronx office of the City Planning Commission. ''Business people make decisions based on perception.''
 

Rich M

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Great read Dan. Thanks for sharing your stories with us. Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Healthy Happy New Year.
 

JohnnyGage

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"BREAK OUT THE BANJOS"; Announced over the firehouse PA system was a call for all hands to shovel snow in front of the firehouse. The BANJO referred to the old, extra large snow shovels. Leading the pack is Lt. Leo Fracassi (L38), WWII veteran that served with Gen. Patton.
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fdce54

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Dec 26, 2007
Messages
1,001
TINNED UP WINDOWS AT VACANTS

The program to stick decals of curtains, venetian blinds, house plants and other amenities onto the boarded-up windows and doors of vacant eyesores was begun in 1980.

At the height of the decal program, decals were placed in the windows of more than 500 abandoned buildings around the city. But because of their high visibility, those along the Cross-Bronx Expressway received by far the most attention.

Mayor Edward I. Koch is to remove one of the few decal plates that remain; 'Decals Didn't Fool Anyone.'

Removing these tinned up windows was very difficult. They were secured into the wooden window frame every few inches with roofing nails. Prying them from the frame was very tedious and the tin edges were sharp. Not a fun task for the OVM.
View attachment 27651
The vacants on the south side of Bronx Park South between Crotona Pkwy and Boston Rd were done up with the fake windows so as not to scare the crap out of the out of towners visiting the Bronx Zoo.
 

entropychaser

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Jun 27, 2017
Messages
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View attachment 27668
The New York Times Archives

See the article in its original context from
November 7, 1983, Section A, Page 1


Scores of crumbling, abandoned tenements in the Bronx - part of a swath of blight that has become a national symbol of urban decay - will soon sport vinyl decals over their gaping windows depicting a lived-in look of curtains, shades, shutters and flowerpots.

The decals will be placed on derelict, city-owned buildings along the Cross Bronx Expressway between the Harlem River and the Bronx River Parkway. The funds for the effort will come from a $300,000 Federal grant to expand a three-year-old city program to improve the images of rundown neighborhoods.

City officials acknowledge that the decorative decals, along with some demolition and repair work, are cosmetic brushstrokes on an area that resembles a bombed-out city. Tens of millions of dollars would be needed to rehabilitate the area.

But the idea, they say, is to spruce up the neighborhood, lift the morale of residents, discourage vandals and addicts who haunt abandoned buildings and make a better impression on the thousands of motorists, some presumably investors, who pass the area daily.

''We want to brighten up the face of the neighborhood while waiting for new Federal programs to rebuild the neighborhood,'' Anthony B. Gliedman, the Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, said yesterday in an interview.

''I recognize that this is superficial,'' he added. ''We don't want anybody to think we're doing this instead of rebuilding. But that will take years and require tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. And while we're waiting, we want people to know that we still care.''

Using the $300,000 community development block grant solely for rehabilitation work would be almost futile, the Commissioner said, because it would cover the refurbishing of only about a half dozen apartments. Instead, he said, about a third of the money will go for decals and the rest for demolition jobs, masonry repairs and other minor work aimed at improving the neighborhood's image and morale.

''Morale is very real,'' Mr. Gliedman said. ''Perception is reality.''

The program to stick decals of curtains, venetian blinds, house plants and other amenities onto the boarded-up windows and doors of vacant eyesores was begun by Mr. Gliedman's department in October 1980 at two decrepit buildings on Eagle Street in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.

Public reaction to the fancied-up facades ranged from skeptical to let's wait and see. Residents gawked at the images with smiles, smirks and some guffaws.

Since then, about $100,000 has been spent on the program, and decals have been placed on about 325 vacant city- owned buildings in dozens of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. Yesterday Mr. Gliedman and other city officals said the program had been quite successful.

''It makes a difference in terms of how people feel about their neighborhood,'' said Bruce J. Gould, a city housing official who was one of those responsible for starting the program in 1980.

Martin Gallent, vice chairman of the City Planning Commission, said, ''It's been very successful, for limited purposes, to prevent that yawning, vacant look, to give a semblance of life around a building and to prevent vandalism.''

Commissioner Gliedman noted that the decals, each costing about $6, had been put up in buildings primarily at the request of community boards, block associations or other neighborhood groups. As a result, he said, ''the neighbors have a sense of pride and participation.''

''We want them to know,'' he said, ''that we know about them, that we're interested and that we care. We want people to feel good about their neighborhood.'' Drop in Vandalism Reported

Moreover, Mr. Gliedman said, vandalism and break-ins at buildings with the decals have been only ''a small fraction'' of such trouble at other vacant city tenements. Asked why that might be, he said: ''The decals are a little off-putting to the person breaking in. They show that the neighbors care.''

Until now, the decal program has focused on neighborhoods where the residents have requested them. But under the $300,000 block grant made by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city plans to extend it to buildings along heavily traveled corridors, such as the Cross Bronx Expressway.

''The image that the Bronx projects - and projects to potential investors - is the image you see from that expressway, and our goal is to soften that image so people will be willing to invest,'' said Robert Jacobson, director of the Bronx office of the City Planning Commission. ''Business people make decisions based on perception.''
This had to have been named Project Potemkin Village.
 

JohnnyGage

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Messages
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WINTER OPERATIONS

Freezing weather may affect response and water supply. Prolong snowfall may create traffic congestion or obstruct streets thus resulting in delayed response of first due units and an extreme delay for special units. Hydrants may be obscured by snow or frozen.

In E 88, we had extra rolled lengths of 2 ½” hose, 5 gallon containers of sand that worked better than salt, and metal D handle shovel for hardened snow as added equipment.

As the LCC for L 5, I added a “Croton hose” to our inventory of equipment which was a garden hose that hooked up to an interior faucet for quick water for mopping up that worked especially well on small stuff.

As for chains, in November I laid out the chains, repaired any defects and oiled before hanging them on the firehouse rack. We had two sets, another set stayed in a canvas bag on the rig. Practice putting on the chains before the winter onslaught was good practice.

When the dreaded call over the firehouse PA at 3AM on a freezing night, “Chauffeur put on the chains,” I had them on both wheels within minutes.

I watched one morning as the backup engine chauffeur attempted to put on the chains, in frustration he went on a heated hot-tempered rant screaming at everyone who tried to help. I watched in amusement, when he finally cooled down, I gave him a hand.

maxresdefault.jpg
 

nfd2004

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Joined
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Messages
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Thanks Dan "JohnnyGage".
Some Excellent advice and practices here for firefighters to consider.
I hope you don't mind if I pass this along.

I know how I dreaded that 3 am call to put on the winter chains, but everybody (3 guys on the rig) helped put those chains on.
Over the P.A. we would hear the boss say; "ALL MEMBERS TO THE APPARATUS FLOOR" and we knew what it was for.

Now we fast forward to the past couple of years.
Some places have what they call "on spots".
I've never worked with them but they tell me they work well.
The Chauffer just pushes a button in the cab and they come down and activate when the wheels are turning.

Nobody has to actually put chains on the tires.

I guess these days those "on spots" are used on school buses too.
 

ta176

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Messages
164
I remember 1 Christmas party in the firehouse I was working the 9X, so my wife had to bring the kids in. We were still living in the City so only a 15 -20 minute drive to the firehouse, Tin House. Of course it was a Saturday but us doing 10 runs that day didn't really give me any time with the Family at the party.
 

JohnnyGage

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Messages
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Great photo by Joe Treza (L 103) operating at a vacant building job filled with tires. The crazy thing about these vacant building and lots were their specialty, various vacant lots were filled with tv's, some with refrigerators, some with plumbing debris and some filled with tires, etc. Vacant building fires were still in vogue during the 80's into the early 90's. Many areas around the city like East New York, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Brownsville and Harlem were still doing consistent fire duty in vacant buildings. Vacant buildings were a great training ground for the new firefighter, you were able to hone your skill with the guidance of legendary War Year officers at cutting roofs, forcible entry, search and stretching lines and became highly proficient when the sh!t hit the fan at the real thing. Experience was 90% of the job!...Thanks to L 103 Joe Treza for this photo.L103vacant.jpg
 
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