Remembrance

Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
A lot of remembrance , where to start, I guess the beginning. Came out of the Navy 1958, did 3 years on what was called a "kiddee cruise," enlisted before 18 discharged before 21. Was fortunate that a number of civil service exams were scheduled in the coming months. Took the FDNY ,NYPD and NY State Trooper examines. Wanted to be a cop at that time but was called for the FD first. Was appointed to the FD 3/30/60 at age 22. Don't know why but was told to report to the 6th Division headquarters 4/1. Seemed that the proby school was several weeks in and they would have us, about 100 ride in different divisions until our school started. About 20 of us went to the 6th that morning. I was teamed up with an African American FF Fred Johnson. Nice guy we got along great. The officer in 19 was a Lt. name Whitney. Whitney wanted Johnson and me with him like he wanted hemorrhoids. Was told to take gear from the rack and ride with the truck on runs. Whitney told us "at a job God help you if I can't reach out and touch you, you STAY with me." He hated it but the guys loved it as it was semi-annual inspection time and they had Johnson and me cleaning qtrs every hour of every day there. First day we were eating lunch when a kid came into qtrs and said that a cat was stuck up in a tree. We had a wooden spare in 19 that tour and Whitney  said we would test the ladder and raise it. We did and took the cat of the tree. Was the only time in my 37 FDNY years that I took a cat out of a tree. At this time in the job units would be called to training (the rock) for evaluation. If A unit failed 3 out of 5 test evolutions it went not well for the company and company officers. Our 2nd day in 19 the unit was called to the rock for evaluation. When we arrived at training a Lt. met the company and began assigning a evolution. Johnson and I dressed like real FF's were told to "get a scaling ladder and put it up to the 2nd floor window. We asked another FF "what was a scaling ladder?" He pointed to one on 19's rig. We took it off and started to raise it. Lost it half-way up and dropped it on another FF's head(Helmet). The evaluation Lt. ran over to us, pissed, and said "how long are you guys on the job that you can't raise a ladder right?" I said "what time is it?" He said "what the hell does it matter what time it is?" I said well we started 9AM yesterday so I guess it's about 25 hours we're on the job. He told us to sit under a nearby tree and not touch anything. Was a pretty good day sitting in the shade and watching 19 going through the rigors of hell for 5 or so hours. We rode with different companies 9x6 tours Monday thru Friday and then did a 6x9 in a company on Saturday nights, a 60 hour week until we started training about 6 weeks in. After training I was assigned to 74 engine and Johnson was assigned to 49 truck. Sadly about a year later Johnson was killed in a off-duty car accident, was a great guy, would have been also a great asset to the FDNY.   
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
Thanks Mike. The changes in the FDNY from the day I walked into the 6th Division in 1960 and retired in 1997, really amazing. I can't imagine today letting guys, or girls, girls? walk into a firehouse; no training, put on gear and respond to fires. Changes in the city. In 19 those few weeks I remember the company responding to Charlotte Street, 19 was probably 2nd due truck then. I grew up in the city, Astoria, but I couldn't believe the mass of people that were in the streets of that neighborhood, seemed like thousands. It reminded me of scenes in movies, Africa, where to drive through a street you would have to lean on your horn to part the people from your way so you could pass. Charlotte St. was mostly 6 and even 7 story tenements and H types. Poor neighborhood many of the apartments had 2 or 3 families. Then when I was back there in 1973 Captain of 82 any time of the day very few people in the street, the neighborhood was Berlin in 1945. Remembrance, some good, some not so much.
 

mack

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Aug 8, 2009
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Chief - Thanks for your remembrance. BC James Whitney, L 42/L 19/R 3/B 4, passed away in 2004 - RIP:

WHITNEY--James J., age 88, passed away September 9, 2004, at home in Peoria, Arizona. Born and raised in New York City, Jim was a US Army Lieutenant during WWII. He built a home in Dobbs Ferry, NY, and worked for 30 years in the NYC Fire Department. He was assigned to Ladder 42, Ladder 19, Rescue 3 where he served as Captain, and retired in 1978 as Chief of Battalion 4 in lower Manhattan. Jim garnered numerous citations throughout his career for bravery in the line of duty. He was a generous and loving person, a true believer in adventure, compassion and the goodness of human spirit.
 
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
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1,421
Chief,
Thanks for sharing your remembrance with us.
There are guys on this sight who are a wealth of FDNY information, history and tradition. And it is so important that these stories/remembrances are told and chronicled as a way to preserve our history.
Young firefighters today have little or no idea what it was like back in the 60's and 70's from open cab apparatus (with plywood roofs) to three, four and five jobs a tour or 20 plus runs a tour.
Keep the history coming
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
I turned 81 this past August, figured I would post what I remember, while I can, how the FDNY changed over my years. Masks- when I came on assigned 74 engine. My years there 74 was considered busy for engines, we were 9th,11th and 14th in workers my 3 years there, Workers were any job you went to work at, even doing a look see at a false alarm. We had around 900 workers my first year there, probably 30 to 40 structural workers with 40 hours of structural work for the year. Contrast that with 82's numbers e.g. July 1975 210 structural workers with 205 structural hours of work for the month. Assigned to 74 we carried 2 Scotts in suitcases on the rig. The main mask (one) was an MSA mask, a filter mask which couldn't be used in a cellar fire. But the MSA was a great mask for the nozzle man. There was no mandatory mask policy for the department until around 1986 or so I believe. I was a staff chief at the time masks became mandatory. Was a great move as with all the new construction material etc., plus reduced flash-over time. I never liked wearing a mask, found it to confining etc. Also as a new FF I had an experience with a mask that I guess stayed with me for my years. It was at the Times Tower fire in Manhattan. We went on the 5th alarm. When we got there my Captain Waldron was told to mask up and relieve on one of the 5 or 6 stretched lines. He and another FF did so and went into the tower. The fire if I remember right was 4 or 5 floors down, newsprint. Two firefighters had lost their lives, 24 truck, searching for trapped civilians. Ten or so minutes later Waldron came back out. I was given the mask with a fresh tank and told to relieve on a line. At that time there was no air gauge for the tank or a low air indicator alarm. The tank was rated at 20 minutes of air and you were supposed to "keep track" of how much air your had left. Now this may have been O K for apartment fire etc. but hairy when you have to go down 4 or 5 flights of stairs, fully smoke charged. I can remember being "scared" at 2 fires during my years, that was one of them. I went down, found 21/2" line and followed it to the nozzle. It was just me and the nozzle so I picked it up opened it up and threw water at smoke. A few minutes later another FF backed me up and then a few minutes after a chief came up to us and told us to shut down and go back up to the street. He didn't have to say it twice. In the coming years the MSA was gone and we carried the 5 Scotts. My years as a company officer in 50 and 82 I would have one guy my mask man if needed and call him up for usually a final push. My mask guy in 82 was Eddie Montaque RIP, an African American FF, a bull of a guy. I would yell "Eddie take the nozzle," he would crawl up, never hesitated, never failed. If the good Lord ever wants to put the fires of Hell out,he should just yell out "Eddie take the nozzle."
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
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5,652
Thanks Chief for telling us your story.

I am very thankful that I got to meet you when you came by to visit a few of us in Bayside Queens a few years ago.

I remember you telling me about July, 1975 being the peak time for Engine 82 during those very busy FDNY War Years. A time in which you were the assigned captain of Eng 82. I have passed around those numbers since that time and of course today, "it's hard for anybody to really understand that". Except of course the guys who were the FDNY War Years Firefighters themselves, or some old buffs who happened to see it for themselves.

For me, it was certainly an Honor to meet and talk to you. During those years of the 1970s, myself and several others no doubt saw you and your Brother FDNY War Years Firefighters in action fighting hundreds of fires.

As I understand it you were the Asst Chief for the Bronx and Manhattan. You were involved in the development of what we now know as a FAST Company. Once it was in place in NYC, other cities followed, sometimes calling it a RIT Company. It later became a national standard. I also heard that at one time, "you" took a serious hit because you refused to come up with a plan to cut back on manning or closing companies within the FDNY.

Chief, I'm sure you remember this video. It goes back to your days with Engine Co 82 and in this video, they interview Firefighter Eddie Montague, who happened to be the Engine Company Chaffer the night a lot of guys got hurt and he didn't because he was that ECC and not in the building. The reporter says to him; "I guess this could be considered your lucky night". FF Montague's response is: "Not really because I like to go in and fight fires".

Here's that video. It's been posted before on this site. It's called: "The Bronx is Burning". The picture quality may not be 100 % but it certainly tells the story. You'll see how things were so different then. Yet through it all, these guys and the other members of the FDNY successfully put out more fires than any other generation of firefighters across the entire world.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO1hKcFH7Xo   
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
To set the record straight I was against the FAST truck concept at its birth, I thought it would strip areas of truck companies on short-lived all-hands. When I was a BC I transmitted an all-hands, legit, for a job. On the all-hands they relocated as procedures an engine and truck. Found out later in the tour that the truck relocated was gone 2 minutes when a first due box came in for them. A one year old baby died in this fire, maybe the relocated truck could have saved the baby, will never know. Bothered me then, today and all of my tomorrows.

I was Man/Bx commander. Phone at home rang one morning around 4AM. Dispatcher informed me that a firefighter had been killed at a Bx 3rd, FF Al Ronaldson, Rescue Co. 3. I responded arrived at the scene. Fire was in a large 2 story commercial. First floor was stores 2nd floor was a large ballroom type occupancy. There was a 10'x10' collapse from the 2nd floor onto the 1st over the store of the fires origin. FF Ronaldson had either fell with the collapse or fell into the hole while searching. Those years a firefighters death was investigated by the Safety Chief who responded and a staff chief who was on scene. During the investigation one firefighter we interviewed was Puggy Walsh, FDNY football team Hall of Fame member. Puggy was assigned to the Field Comm Unit. Puggy arrived at the box after the 2nd had been transmitted. On arrival he exited the rig and began to do a walk-around for his progress reports. As he was first leaving the rig he heard the loud collapse noise with HT chatter that there was a collapse As he was doing his walk=around he heard someone call his name, it was Ronaldson at a 2nd floor window, they were friends. Puggy waved back. A few minutes later he heard the may-days for firefighter down, Ronladson had fallen onto the collapse hole doing his search.

Several months later the FDNY was cited by the Federal OSHA for a violation with Ronaldsons death. We had a hearing at headquarters. On FDNY side was the COD,Ch of Ops and 3 staff chiefs, I was at the table. For OSHA there was a approx. 50 year old lady, non-firefighter and a Chief from a small mid-west department. Ronaldsons Lt. had called Ronaldson on his HT without response. As he was going to search for him the may-days were transmitted. The OSHA lady said that when the Lt. had no contact on the first try the chief in charge should have called all members out of the building immediately for a roll-call. We said you couldn't do that as this was not uncommon at jobs due to tool noise, HT off or low volume etc. To satisfy the citation the FDNY agreed to have a truck company (no more FAT engine) on the transmission of the all-hands. The FAST truck was born.I left the meeting thinking "what the hell does she know about firefighting, this will strip areas. I believe the FAST truck concept is standard all over the U.S., how many FF lives have been saved we will never know as the number keeps growing. The 50 year old non-firefighter lady was right.
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
So many changes from the first year on the job, 1960, and the last, 1997. Responded by the bells which just gave us the street location. During the busy years on busy tours the circuits were open and every box would come in, bells ringing was continuous. When I left we had the teleprinter, address, info etc., big and great change.  Handi-talkies. 1960 the only radios at a first alarm assignment were the BC and his aide. No bunker gear, leg/knee burns were a real problem. I was almost passed over for Captain as I was on Ml for blood poisoning left knee, was able to go FD two days before my promotion. We tried to sew pot holders into our pants, didn't work especially if the knees got wet pushing in. Power saws. Spent 5 years as a FF in L127,  cut a roof you cut it with an ax, the saws were a blessing.

The worst. Interchange. Rapid water. A city that didn't give a shit what was happening in so many neighborhoods. The Red Caps. Spent 6 years in the 6th Division, 70-76 never saw a Red Cap at any job, nor a TV News crew. They locked the barn door after the horse left, wasn't important enough what was happening on Charlotte Street for air time on the six o'clock news.

The best. The towers, were worth their weight in gold. Ladders 3 written if I remember right by BC John O'Reagan, B11 and Capt. Bob Farrell, L31. 1 3/4" hose. The best of the best, the men.
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
There has been much appreciated praise for the "war years firefighters." The first shots (buildings) of these years started around 1965, ended 1978. If these years had started around 2015 I believe that the FDNY members today would perform no different in any respect to the members of those past years. 82 engine and 231 engine, 31 truck and 120 truck today would be 82,231,31 nd 120 of 1968. Many of the firefighters of the 65-78 years while on the job had no Charlotte Streets in their response districts. I was a FF in 127 truck from 1964 to 1969. 127 ws a fairly busy truck then in Queens, but nothing like the South Bronx or Brownsville areas those days. We would hear stories of the busy tours in the busy companies but stories to us they were.An FDNY member wherever he worked, busy or slow was all FDNY. A case in point and a tip of the helmet to a member who I only knew for 15 hours and forget his name.

Around 1972 part of the raise package was 24 hours of overtime a 9x6 and a 6x9 tour which had to be worked in a "busy" company. One night tour I came down before the tour started and saw an old timer sitting in the kitchen.  I sat with him, he was around 60 years old was an MPO in a slow Queens engine. He told me that he had taken the train to the Bronx for the tour and that his wife was worried about him doing the tour. But he said that was putting in his paper in a few months and wanted the O.T. to add the few dollars to his pension. I was a Lt. in 50 engine. I told him "no sweat we have 5 guys riding, just help the MPO hook up and chase kinks if necessary. It was a slow tour, we only had 7 or 8 runs with no real work. At 0300 we get a first due box, We roll up and we have fire showing from 7 or 8 windows top floor apartment occupied tenement. We stretched. I always took the second position on the line, humped the hose but had more control over the line. The fire met us at the front door and the apartment, all rooms were fully involved, from what was later found to be gasoline fueled arson. We started in and after we knocked down a room and a half I called for a relief for the nozzle man. The guy in back of me crawled up and took the nozzle. Another room or two and I called up the 3rd guy for the nozzle. Another room or so and the 3rd guys had about had it (no bunker gear then and no mandatory mask policy, we were all without masks). Wanting to relieve the 3rd guy I looked over my shoulder and saw one of my guys, 50 helmet and a mask on. I called him up and we knocked down the last room. When the fire was out I as always notified the BC by HT that the fire was out and requested relief on the line for my guys to take a blow. When we came out of the apartment the last guy on the nozzle took the mask off and who was it but the old timer from Queens. I said to him that I didn't know it was him with the mask and that he did a great job. He said "thanks Lou, but look at my hands." He had borrowed turnout helmet coat and boots from the house rack, but there were no gloves in the coat. The skin was hanging off both his hands about 3 or 4 inches off his hands received from the scalding ceiling water as we were advancing. To this day I don't know how he was experiencing such pain to both hands yet held the nozzle and advanced. He was taken to the hospital. I waited for him to return to qtrs later that morning so that I could drive him home to his home in Queens. His hands looked like he had white boxing gloves on both hands. While he did not work or had never worked in what was then considered a busy house, he was FDNY in every cell in his body. To-days members would be no different.

 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
As the saying goes "no two fires are the same." Routine perhaps in the majority but never the same. Unusual, seldom used. One "unusual" was during a summer day-tour in 82 engine. A first due box for the house (82,31,B27) came in early in the tour. Responding the Bx dispatcher calls me on the air and says "B27 cannot start their car for you  take the BC position on your arrival. On arrival we have a heavy smoke condition pushing from around the street front 5th floor windows of a 5 story H type occupied MD in the A wing. I give my HT to a senior member and tell him to "talk the line in." Engine 85 arrives and I have them start a second line. A minute or so later just as the 6th Division is arriving we have a cockloft smoke explosion. All the smoke showing windows on the top floor blow out with smoke,fire and debris shooting out 30-40 feet from the building then settling back into the apartment. Fortunately there were no injuries. The luckiest guy was the FF in 31's bucket which he was riding in as it was being raised to the fire floor. The bucket had reached around the 4th story when it blew. Another 3 or 4 seconds the bucket would have been at the 5th floor, doubtful that the FF would have stayed in the bucket or survive the fire ball. Fire went to a 2nd.

Forty-eight hours later I come in for a night tour. I usually got in around 5. I'm talking to the day tour Lt. in 31, Lt. Teddy Nielson (RIP). I tell Teddy about the smoke explosion. Teddy was a FF in 31 truck for around 10 years before his promotion to Lt. A few months after promotion he was assigned back into 31 as one of the company officers, having served at this point around 15 years in 31 one of the busiest trucks in the job during its busiest years. Teddy tells me that "in all my years I have never had a cockloft smoke explosion." As we are talking a first due box for the house comes in, Teddy goes. A few minutes later a 2nd comes in for the box. When I see Teddy later he tells me that "we had a smoke explosion in the cockloft as we arrived. I spent another 22 years in the job, 21 as a chief officer and never had another cockloft smoke explosion. Remembering.

 
Joined
Jul 25, 2010
Messages
124
Chief....Allow me to add my thanks and appreciation for your posts. I?m an Astoria boy myself and you and I actually exchanged messages on the ?other site? a number of years ago. Incredible insight you bring with your memories...especially the story about the ?slow house old timer?. I?ve always believed that was one of the myths of our job....that everyone in a busy company is a superstar, and that everyone in a slow house isn?t. Being a ?superstar? is as much opportunity as it is ability. That said, however...as you well know, we each are defined by our resume...?where?d you work??. I guess it?s one of the contradictions of our job. Personally, I was assigned to 12 Truck out of proby school in 1974. Great bunch of guys...taught me a ton. But I always yearned to be in a ?busy place? . I was laid off and after being rehired was assigned to 11 Truck. Completely different animal...house simply had a different feel. Odd thing was...we?d see Rescue at a job...and the very same guys who had walked past me when I was in 12...now said ?hey? when I was wearing the 11 front piece. Always found that interesting. Anyway, enough rambling. Again, thanks for your posts. Be well...and keep writing.
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
Whenever Thanksgiving comes around I can't help but remembering 1961, the Times Tower Fire that Thanksgiving eve. From WNYF Winter 1962- The Times Tower is a 25 story building with a cellar and 3 sub-cellars, the 4th cellar being 70' below the street and was where the fire originated.  This cellar 110' wide was being used for the storage of stuffed toys made from kapok, excelsior and plastics. On arrival units were informed that two cleaning women were trapped on the top floor Two firefighters from Ladder 24  FF Charles A. Lange and FF Robert R. Hurst took an elevator under the control of a building porter a Mr. Frank Washington to an upper floor to begin their rescue search. Both members were overcome by rising toxic gases when exiting the elevator, both firefighters succumbed to their injuries. Mr. Washington's body was found in the stuck elevator the next day. It took eleven hand-lines to extinguish the fire.

I was working a 6x9 tour in Engine 74 that night. 74 responded on the 5th alarm. At this time we only carried two Scott masks on the engine and one MSA (filter) mask. On arrival my company officer Captain Harry Waldron (RIP) was told to mask up and relieve on a stretched line. Waldron and another firefighter donned 74's two Scotts and descended down the 7th Avenue stairway. Around 15 minutes later Waldron came back up and I donned the his mask with a fresh tank. The Scott's at this time had no low air PAK alarm nor a pressure gauge on the mask hose assembly. The only gauge was on the cylinder.  We were told/trained that a full cylinder had approximately 20 minutes of work time air and for you to "estimate" how much time you had used and had left at a job. I went down the stairway and followed a 2 1/2 " line down. I don't know what level I reached 3rd or the 4th when the line took me into a doorway and I found a shut down nozzle lying on the the ground. I picked the nozzle up and opened the line into smoke. A few minutes later a firefighter backed me up and we continued to hit smoke. A few minutes later a Battalion Chief crawled up and told us to shut down and report back up to the street. We were there another hour or so taking up a few of the lines. Didn't do much at this fire but it has never left me.

May Firefighters Lange and Hurst continue to Rest in Peace. never forget their last full measure of devotion.
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
Over the past few years I wrote of the following . I would like to tie these memories together in this one History category, while I can.

The Bravest of the Brave. In my 37 years I never worked with a FDNY coward. They were, to the man, the bravest.But one firefighter did stand alone, FF Thomas Neary. I worked with Tommy when he was a firefighter in L31. One summer night in 1975 the Division 6 Deputy came into qtrs (82,31,B27) with a photographer from Life magazine. Dennis Smith's book "Report From Engine 82" had been on the best seller list for several months and Life wanted to do a pictorial about the house/men in the magazine as a human interest article. As we lined up for a chief's roll call a first due box for 82&31 came in. We responded with the deputy and photographer following us in the division car. E94 and L48 were returning from a box in the area and saw the column of smoke from the fire and responded. Normally second due on the box they both arrived in first. On arrival I saw that we had a fire in a 5 story, top floor, of a fully occupied OLT. There were 3 windows fronting the top floor fire apartment, 2 in the same large room and the third in a small bedroom which the fire escape served. Fire was venting from the FE room with heavy smoke showing from the remaining 2 windows. In the farthest window over a woman was screaming hanging out the window holding a small child out in front of her. E94 was stretching, L48 was raising their aerial. The ladder was malfunctioning, it would elevate and extend but was jamming on rotation, the tip of the ladder was several feet from the window. We carried a life net on 82, I told my guys to get it,but, the OLT had an outside front cellar entrance directly under the fire apartment line of windows guarded by a steel sharp metal fence with spikes. If/when the woman threw the child out and down most likely the child as would she if she jumped be impaled on the spikes. There were several hundred people in the street half yelling her to throw the child the other half yelling for her to stay put. Fire now began to show in the second window over. L31 arrived, 4 of the guys went for their roof rope. FF Neary and his Lt. Donald Butler went up the fire buildings stoop. Moments later fire was venting from the 2nd window and beginning to show at the top of the 3rd window. The woman reached out and was beginning to throw the child when a firefighter embraced her. FF Neary. A second later Lt. Butler also came into view grabbed the child and dove out the window onto the tip of the aerial still a few feet from the window. Neary then took the woman and threw her out onto the aerial caught by a L48 firefighter. Neary then dove out onto the aerial (no bunker gear then) with his turnout coat smoldering and his pant legs showing fire. You could hear a pin drop in the now quiet street.  All 4 went to the hospital, Neary and Butler were both out on medical leave for several months due to the burns. Later L48 said they "felt like shit" when Neary then Butler went over them into the fully involved apartment hallway to rescue the woman and child, neither with a mask. No one faulted them. Butler himself said that he would not have done so but when Tommy went in "he had to go also." After, I went over to the Life photographer and asked if he had gotten any pictures of the rescue. He said that he was so taken by what he was seeing that he didn't take a single picture.

Neary and Butler were both awarded a Class One award, a rescue made under extreme personal danger. That year Neary was awarded the oldest FDNY medal the Bennett medal which is the FDNY's Medal of Honor.

Neary was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to L28 in Harlem. Another fire and another child trapped in a rear bedroom with a fully involved room blocking a rescue. Neary took a door off an apartment door, laid on the floor with the door over him, slid across the floor to the trapped child's room, rescued the child and then slid back out. No mask, wore gloves, but still received severe burns to both hands from holding the door. Neary received a Class One award and his second Bennett medal.

 
Joined
Aug 25, 2009
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28,226
Lt. Tom Neary, L-28, in the center:

firephoto37WM.jpg


Lt. Tom Neary L-28 after a job:

firephoto360WM.jpg


Lt. Tom Neary & members of L-28 operating
at a store fire with occupied tenement above:

firephoto22WM.jpg
 
Joined
May 21, 2009
Messages
185
One of the brothers who must be remembered in this History section, BC Pete Valenzano, the father of the FDNY foam system/coordinators. I thought of Pete when I saw on D.O.112 the department is looking for a BC to assume the duties of the Foam Program Manager. One of my first assignments on the staff was that of Deputy Boro Cmdr Brooklyn, car 7B. One of the duties of car 7B  was the Long Island Pipeline Coordinator. For those unfamiliar the Long Island Pipeline is the supply line for aircraft fuel for JFK and LGA  airports. The pipeline originates in Bayonne, NJ runs underground to Staten Island then into Brooklyn and Queens where it branches off one branch to JFK and one to LGA.

I was working a day tour in the Bklyn Boro when a second alarm came in for a "leak" in the pipeline in Staten Island. The "leak" turned out to be 21,000 gallons of gasoline running down a major Blvd in S.I. The pipeline company doing a repair had knocked off a valve on the pipeline causing a geyser of gasoline 30 feet high spraying a number of near-by homes and creating a river of gasoline running down the blvd. We began to foam the river. A wood plank was thrown over the geyser to stop the spray. I grabbed an engine officer going by and told him he was my foam control guy to make sure we had all the foam cans on hand ready for use, I never saw him again. A pipeline worker with balls of steel went into the hole with gasoline up to his waist and was able to tap the valve hole. We had 4 foam lines protecting him but if there was ignition he was toast, literally. The incident went to 4 alarms without ignition.

The next day I was at headquarters and was talking to AC Bishop, Chief of Ops and AC Harris Ass't Chief of Ops. I said to them that we have to have  a chief in charge of our foam system. The next day in the bag I received a letter from Ops that I was now the FDNY Foam Coordinator. I knew nothing about foam delivery other than put a foam nozzle on a line, dip the nozzle wand into a foam can and spray the foam. Talking to some chiefs I was told that there was a BC in the Bx that loved foam, his nickname was bubbles, Pete Valenzano. I called Pete and asked him if he would take a detail to Training to develop foam delivery procedures and train foam coordinators. He said sure. I went to the Chief of Department John O'Rourke and asked him for Pete's detail. O'Rourke said I could have him for 2 weeks, Pete was there for 6 years before he retired. He was such an asset at Training that they wouldn't give him up. The FDNY foam program/coordinators was born. Within a year we had a number of different city chief's come to NY to see first hand his foam program/procedures.

Pete worked in busy companies throughout the war years. As did many, retired around 1990, retired but a few years he developed cancer, suffered greatly,  and passed away. Rest in Peace Pete, what you gave birth to in 1985 is alive and well.
 
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