One day while in my local library, I noticed something on a magazine about "The Busiest Firehouse in the World". I think at the time it was called "True Magazine". It said that a book would be coming out called "Report from Engine Co 82" and that it was written by a New York City Firefighter named Dennis Smith. It said that this company was in The Bronx, NY on Intervale Ave. and did over 10,000 calls the year before. I really had no idea of where this Bronx Firehouse was, so I got myself a street map and drove down there. I had become familiar with those Harlem Companies and that area, but this place was new to me. When I got there I saw that I wasn"t the only one. About twenty cars were all parked across the street from the firehouse. Each car had three to four buffs in it. Guys from The City, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island. Everybody had a scanner. The area looked much worse than what I had seen in Harlem.
There was a small grocery store across the street from the firehouse called "Angie"s Market". Angie sure didn"t mind the buffs hanging out in front of her store because Angie made a fortune supplying the buffs with their goodies. Hard to believe, but there were no McDonald's, Wendy"s, Dunkin Donuts around then. Not for miles. Maybe not even in the Bronx. If there were, we sure didn"t know about them. In fact, Angie's Market was probadly the only store left in the area making a profit.
At that time the FDNY had a Signal 10-30 that was used very often. It meant a "working fire" and using 2 Eng's and 2 Lads. These were Big fires in themselves. Sometimes a vacant five brick fully involved with No exposures. Today this would be a second or third alarm. By this time, the FDNY had gotten a few more tower ladders in and they were very pleased at the way they were able to knock down fire going from floor to floor with the tower ladder stream.It was get the fire knocked down and get back in service as soon as possible.
A priority system for response to fires was put into place. I don"t know if this was official or just something that had to be done because they were just so busy. Occupied building fires got the highest priority. Vacant Building fires were next, then car and rubbish fires. I would see car fires that nobody showed up for and they just burned themselves out. I can remember hearing Ladder companies going in first due for an occupied building fire from 50 blocks away. There just wasn"t enough companies to cover the tremendous workload. And that was with having Squad 2, all the extra second sections, relocated companies into the South Bronx, and the Tactical Control Engine and Ladder Truck. I believe the Bronx had TCU 512 (an Engine Co) and TCU 712 (a Ladder Co.). The TCUs were extra companies manned between the hours of 3 PM to 1 AM, the busiest time for fires in the area. Brooklyn had TCUs 532 and 732 also.
It was nonstop. You couldn"t scan two boros at a time. If you wanted to listen to two separate boros, you"d need two separate scanners. You could turn on the scanner any hour of the day and it was like listening to an AM/FM radio station. As the dispatchers would be talking you would hear the constant pull boxes tapping in and the sound of other dispatchers taking calls over the phones. How those dispatchers handled it is a Miracle in Itself. They sure did earn their pay. And that was before computers, MDTs etc. They sure did a great job, especially with what they had to work with and the overwhelming amount of work. And those guys on the job that went from fire to fire. As I look back at it some 40 years ago, it seems like an impossible mission. It almost seems like it really didn"t happen. But somehow, those guys did it night after night, day after day. I was about to get an education that no school or college ever dreamed about teaching. I would see the Greatest Firefighters in the World in Action. For me, it was "Being at the Right Place, at the Right Time".