My younger Buff years

Feb 27, 2010
RIP Rocco, Willy, was he the member that we chatted with that was returned to duty with the jacked up ankle?
Dec 7, 2007
Beautifully said, Bill. If you considered him a friend he had to be a gentleman, an outstanding firefighter and a very decent soul. Prayers shall be said.
Jun 22, 2007
The documentary titled "Decade of Fire" will have it's public broadcast on PBS/Independent Lens beginning on Monday evening November 4th at 10 pm and will run various days and times throughout that month.

As I understand it, people who grew up in the South Bronx neighborhoods tell what it was like. They also suggest that the city encouraged the South Bronx to burn down in order to get rid of the much older rundown buildings throughout the area and did little to stop the arson.

I also talked to some people regarding that, who were right in the middle of it at the time, and some believe that it seems to have perhaps played some part in high incident of arson fires in the area.

One area in which several city blocks had been totally destroyed by fires was an area just south of the Cross Bronx Expressway bordered by Third Ave to the east and Washington Ave to the west, now occupied as "The Bathgate Industrial Park".

Also during this time, firehouses were closing down and firefighters were getting laid off.

Recently, one of the members of this site and I were discussing the fact that "before" any such Bathgate Industrial Park plan was considered, NEW gas and Electric Lines were being installed under ground on Third Ave at that location. Why would that be done to an area with nothing left but a few burned out shells ?

The Charlotte St area was another destroyed area. But after the fires it became home to Ranch Style homes with yards and picket fences.

Simpson St where every building was burned out except for the Fort Apache Police Pct (41) is now home to new townhouse units. About two years ago, one unit was for sale. I checked and the asking price was $324,000 (?).

"Decade of Fire" talks about that. Was the burning of the South Bronx and so many other places throughout the city a plan to rebuild and increase property values ?

Here is a couple of links that tell a little bit about the upcoming "Decade of Fire" showing.

The documentary "Decade of Fire" DVD is now offered on Amazon for $17.99.

The FDNYs War Years had begun.

Here is the trailer to that movie.
Jun 22, 2007
Bill - Bronx fire during the World Series, 1977 - Fire during World Series was a vacant school - former PS 3 - at 158th St. and Melrose Avenue in the Bronx.


By the way, the Dodgers won Game 2 by a score of 6-1 - but the Yankees upset the favored Dodgers to win the 1977 World Series in 6 games. Billy Martin was the Yankees manager. Tommy Lasorda managed the Dodgers. Reggie Jackson became "Mr October" by hitting 3 homers in Game 6 at the Stadium.

A new candy bar was introduced after the World Series and named for Jackson - the "Reggie Bar".

The entire country was watching the World Series of 1977 being played at Yankee stadium when the cameras focused on a large fire in the Bronx.

The country got to see the Bronx was burning as the late sportscaster Howard Cosell commented on the fire.

A few of us here have a good friend, who at the time was working in the Bronx Fire dispatch when this fire occurred.
He showed us this video and I thought some of you might like to see it too.
Apr 23, 2018

I was a young teen plopped next to my younger brothers waiting for our summer haircut in Tony’s barber shop, however a simple life altering event materialized right before my very eyes and from that moment I knew my life would never be the same again.

Since I was the older brother my younger brothers were first to get their hair cut and me last. Whiling away the time sitting patiently in a row of chairs behind the barber was a table with an array of magazines strewn on top. One of them caught my eye with its flashy July cover, “TRUE MAGAZINE”. Looking it over I then incredulously notice a by-line in the lower left of the cover that says; “The Smoke Eaters of Engine Co. 82”. I instantly recognized the engine number, for only a few weeks ago I spent a day tour riding with my “Uncle” Jack Mayne, a fireman with Ladder 31 that is quartered with Engine 82. Riding with Jack through the streets of the South Bronx was incredible and inspiring. And here in front of me was a tell all narrative.

I realized that I had stumbled upon the spear tip of the Holy Grail of firefighting literature. The article was written by Dennis Smith, way before Dennis Smith was Dennis Smith. The feature starts on page 50 and continues for four full pages with a few black and white photos added to the column. Little did I know that this was the precursor of what would inevitably become the renowned “Report From Engine Co. 82” by Dennis.

Tony the barber allowed me to keep the magazine. From reading the article over and over and remembering Jack and the members of E 82 & L 31 in action, I realized that all I wanted to be was a fireman. Who would have thought a sixty cent magazine and a lousy haircut could change my life?
TRUE Magazine.jpg
Mar 3, 2007
I'm a Brooklyn kid, raised in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights/Bed Stuy, up the block and across the street from 280/132. I used to pass The House on the way to and from St. Teresa's Elementary school every day so I saw the men frequently and eventually got to talking with them and on many occasions was invited into The House to hang out by the housewatch desk. What a thrill. These guys were larger than life. Big, loud and seemingly fearless. What an introduction to the world of firefighting.

The older I got the more I hung out and the more I got to know the men. To "earn" a place I would do different chores/errands when the guys would ask me to and gradually I was accepted more and more into The House. Anytime I asked a question, I got an answer. Sometimes the guy on housewatch would give me little quizzes on the bells, ladders or hoses. I soon learned The House wasn't just for hanging out it was also a place to learn and do.

When I turned 18, I of course joined the Auxiliaries and was assigned first to 280 (for 4 months) and then across the floor/through the hole to 132. I transferred from 280 for two reasons. First - there were 4 other Auxiliaries assigned there so riding with 280 was limited. Secondly - I really wanted to go to the Truck. There was more opportunity to do stuff at a fire scene and 132 frequently relocated to 120 in Brownsville. I was very fortunate in that both companies were welcoming and made me feel part of The House. As long as I did what was expected of me and followed the rules, life was good. I was preceded by a top notch Auxiliary (Jerry Grady) who had set the bar high.

132 was a good, solid working company and I was fortunate to learn many lessons and gather many memories about firefighting and life while there. These lessons and memories have stayed with me all my life and I am and always will be grateful to have had the opportunity to hang my helmet in the Eye of the Storm.

When I became a member of two different fire departments in suburban Harris and Montgomery counties in Texas, those lessons learned in Brooklyn served me well. Hopefully, some of the lessons I passed on , have served those members as well.

Rest in Peace to those who have passed on. Continued health and best wishes to those who are still with us.
Jul 14, 2007
Great story, Jim. Mine is very similar. The boys at E 248 were terrific to me. I would cash their checks at First National City Bank where I was a teller and they would invite me to lunch in the back room on paydays. I was preceded as the company Auxiliary by Dan Buckley who became an FDNY dispatcher for many years in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As my time slowed down, partially due to marriage, my spot was taken by Pete Horowitz. A great time in my nine years with the company; a cherished time that will never be repeated. My experience served me well when I became a volunteer in Fairfield, CT and I still answer the alarm in Stonington, CT.
Jun 22, 2007
The Gettin' Salty group has just released "The War Years - Ep 1".

They expect to add three more episodes as well.

These videos were taken and donated by FDNY Retired Lt John Sarno 1942 - 1982, and FDNY Retired Lt Rob Sarno from 1981 - 2019

And THANK YOU to the members of the Gettin' Salty Podcast for passing this onto us

Here is "The War Years - Ep 1; FDNY Vintage Fires from the 1960s and 1970s"
Nov 1, 2019
Interesting to read the EMS side of things involving the FDNY back in those War Years. As a buff, I remember reading, I believe in WNYF Magazine, how a group of FDNY members had become EMTs. As I remember it, I think some of the guys had an EMT/EMS patch sown on their turnout coats, and there was also a a small EMT sticker put on some of their helmets. I also remember hearing when the city had no interest in trying to retain and recruit additional FDNY members as EMTs. And as posted by others, this was during a time when a one hour eta for an ambulance (referred to as a "bus") was accepted as common practice.

"69mets", thank you very much for that picture you posted of Engine 234 transporting a patient to the hospital. And as Chief "68jk09" says, "sometimes a NYPD unit would transport a patient in the back seat of a police car". I remember the time myself and another member I worked with were buffing on Teller Ave near Clairmont Park. We saw a male drop to the ground from a seizure. As FF/EMTs we went over to see what we could do. No cell phones and an ERS box the next block over. As luck would have it a police car happened to pull up. They called for an ambulance and was told, "one hour ETA for the bus". It was just about impossible to get an ambulance in those days. The officers told us, "put him in the back seat, and we'll take him". So that's what we did. No care given or vital signs taken. It would be so different today.

In another incident, an elderly woman slipped on the ice in a parking lot. Once again, a call for an ambulance with no response as this poor old lady laid on the cold ground in single digit numbers. Several calls were placed from the business and word was "their on the way". The best we could do was cover her with a blanket and our coats. That poor woman laid there for almost two hours.

Those 70s and 80s in NYC were bad all around. You couldn't get an ambulance. The fire dept was stretched to the breaking point. The crime was completely out of control. The streets were lined with rubbish and trash. Vacant and burned out buildings for blocks. Grafitti everywhere. Even Times Sq had a reputation of a place to avoid. Most politicians had just about written the place off. It was it's City Employees that held that city together. Its Firefighters, Police Officers, Sanitation Workers, its Teachers, Police/Fire Dispatchers. And those completely overwelmed EMTs from NYC Health and Hositals, and those who worked the war zones in the city emergency rooms at each hospital.

Today, all of that is behind us. Somewhere and somehow things started to improve. But for those of us that were around during those 70s and 80s, it just couldn't get any worse. The City was at the breaking point. Just a few miles from where the richest of our country resided in luxury, was a Third World enviorment that few wanted to deal with.
I’m reading this in February 2022 and it looks like it’s back minus the insane fire duty
Jul 14, 2007
Time continues to pass by from those early buffing days.
So much has changed too.

The once burnt out neighborhood of Charlotte St in the Bronx has completely changed from all the burned out buildings, burned out ADVs, and piles of rubbish on the streets and in the vacant lots.

Today Charlotte St and many of the surrounding streets now have residential raised ranch houses with yards. They have picket fences rather than razor wire, and there are well kept town houses.

It is my hope for the FDNY War Years Firefighters, throughout the city, their stories should never be forgotten
There has been a few books written about them and the conditions they worked under as firefighters.
I call them the "Worlds Greatest Generation of Firefighters", known as the FDNY War Years Firefighters.

With that said, here's where my story continues from my previous post, # 1833.

It begins with a mail box in my neighborhood that I ride by all the time.

That mailbox out on the street is a real classic.
It looks like it was hand made.
It is in the shape of an old classic fire truck.
I always hoped that one of these days I would get to meet the owner and ask him about it and if I can get one for myself.
I just didn't have the chance to see him.

Recently, I was in a local drug store and I see a guy wearing an FDNY Tee Shirt.
He appeared to be in his 70's so I went up to him and asked, 'Were you on the job in NY" ?
He tells me "yes, I was"

So, I ask him if we can talk and I tell him how I used to buff back in the 1970s, 80s, and 90's.
We end up talking about an hour or so, like we are long lost buddies.
Of course we don't have too many retired FDNY members living around here.

I ask him when did he get on the job.
He tells September, 1968
Wow, I know some guys who were also apart of that Probie Class
Three guys who are well known and frequently contribute on this site.
First the owner of this site, Retired Captain John B., aka "jbendick"
Also two other retired FDNY War Years Members, Retired B/C Jack K., aka "68jk09" and Retired Lt Tom K., aka "LtQ".

Then I tell him how fortunate I was to get invited to that Probie Class of September, 1968 - 50th Anniversary Reunion, where I got to meet several other guys from that Probie Class.
They ALL sure caught their share of work during their years on the job.

I ask him what companies he worked in.
He tells me he worked Engine 234 and when he got promoted to Lt, he was assigned to Engine Co 210.
The same firehouse that my brother and I were first introduced to, with Rescue 2 on Carlton Ave.
I told him the story of being invited down to that firehouse way back in the summer of 1968, by FDNY Firefighter Tony T., aka "TAD".
He told me when he made Lt,"TAD" would often be his chauffeur on Engine 210.

Of course when he said he worked Engine 234, I remember this site member Retired FDNY Firefighter Garrett L., aka "69METS", telling me as a kid he used to ride there, where his father was a Captain.

What a great conversion we had.

Then I ask him if he lives around here.
He says; "yes" and I ask him what street.
That is the same street where that classic fire truck mail box is that I ride by all the time.
Turns out that's where he lives and that is his mailbox.

His name is Tom F., aka "Mufti".
He retired in 2000
Maybe some of you know him.
I'm hoping he will become a member on this site too.

I'm going to try and get one of the guys here to post the picture of that firetruck mailbox for me.
Sorry to correct Uncle Wilfred but Garrett aka 69Mets rode at E248 when his father was Captain there. Captain Bob Lindgren had me sign on as the company Auxiliary in 1964 and I rode there until 1973. I remember Garrett’s frequent visits to E248.
Jun 22, 2007
We have several members here who were a part of those very busy FDNY WAR YEARS, FDNY dispatchers as well.

YOU WERE THERE and I'm sure that each one of you has plenty of stories to tell.

As a buff and a career firefighter of a small 60 member department, I learned so much by watching you work and asking you questions.

You invited me as a guest into many of your firehouses and at that time, YOU gave me the chance to ride with you, an experience that I will never forget.

I visited the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn C.O's, during those very busy days and I saw an UNBELIEVABLE job that those GREAT Dispatchers of the FDNY did.

Your stories need to be passed on for other generations to hear what it was like.

So I ask you; "if your were a part of it, to PLEASE JOIN IN"

THANK YOU ALL for the GREAT JOB YOU DID during those very busy years of heavy fire activity.
And THANK YOU FOR NOT ONLY HELPING ME TO DO MY JOB BETTER, but so many other guys as well.
Jul 20, 2022
I worked from 1976, to my promotion to Lieutenant in 1984, in Manhattans 4th Battalion, on the Lower East Side, also known as. "Alphabet City"
The Avenues were Named, Ave. A/ Ave. B etc. My 1st unit in the 4th Battalion was Ladder 11, on E. 2nd St. near Ave. B. quartered with, then one of the Busiest Engine Companies in the FDNY Engine 28. In 1976 Ladder 11 had I believe 7,600 Runs and a lot of 10-75s = Working fires. And a lot of Multiple alarms. After a years' time in L-11 I was transferred to Tower Ladder 18 quartered on Pitt. St. along with Engine 17 and the 4th Battalion. In 1977 TL-18. In 1977 TL-18 did 6,700 Runs and was in the top 10 in the FDNY in Structural Workers. We had a joke in TL-18, we used the Tower Ladder bucket so much that we started wearing plastic Gold colored "Junior Pilot's Wings" someone had gotten from United Airline on their last trip to Disney World in Florida. You know firefighters anything for laugh. I then was promoted to Lieutenant and was assigned to covering spot in Battalion 26, in the still, very busy South Bronx. But that's a story for another time. Captain Bob Rainey FDNY Engine 26 retired.


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Jun 22, 2007
Captain784, it was this thread that allowed me to get to become good friends with many FDNY members, both retired and active.
Also several FDNY Dispatchers, Buffs and FDNY/EMS members.
Also some highly respected retired U.S. Military Members.

So many people have contributed their true stories about what it was like.
They have also posted videos and pictures as well, just as you have above.

I think if you check, there is a picture posted in this topic of piles of abandoned cars stacked up under the FDR when they started to clean up the Lower East Side.
Jul 20, 2022
The photos posted above are all from my years in Ladder 11 and just a little bit later Tower Ladder 18. The Middle photo is of 2nd alarm, I think on Clinton St. Fire in one building spread into the rear air shaft between the fire building and Exposure 2 = Exposure B. We had so many fires like this it is hard to remember for sure, the exact location. It was also over 40 years ago. The last photo shows Ff. Bob DeMartini TL-18, later a member of Rescue 5 in Staten Island and My self the then Firefighter Bob Rainey TL-18, at a 4th alarm in a vacant former "Feather Factory" on East 2nd St. near Avenue A on Manhattans Lower East Side in 1978 or 1979, We were waiting for them to start water for the Tower Ladder stream, before attacking the fire due to the radiant heat this large fire was producing. Here is another photo of that fire. Captain Bob Rainey FDNY Engine 26 retiredTL-18 Feather Factory Fire 1978 or 9.jpg
Sep 7, 2020
From my own personal dealings with Eng 82 back in the busy 'War Years' if they were just taking up from a job, & they got word that there was another job in the area, Engine 82 would volunteer to respond. I think that ******* would agree with me on that comment. It seemed that the term "R&R" was not in their vocabulary! I often wondered how the guys did it night after night.
Pride !