GLORY DAYS

JohnnyGage

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?NO FRILLS?; P 10
STANHOPE STREET

October 26, 1991. I?m sitting in the kitchen awaiting roll call for this beautiful autumn Saturday night tour to begin. The boss tonight is a covering lieutenant; Lt. Gene Gowan, he was recently promoted to lieutenant from L 32. At roll call he introduces himself and assigns us our positions. I have the ?irons? and my partner Gene Higby carries the ?can?.

After roll call, since the ?truck? has the house watch for the month the engine will head out to procure the meal. After the boss finished writing his roll call in the journal he joined me for a few minutes in the kitchen chatting over a cup of coffee. He was a fireman in L 32 and that was where Jack Mayne retired as Captain not too long ago and it will be fun to hear some Jack stories. Lt. Gowan wears yellow tinted aviator eyeglasses, he is congenial and happy to relate some stories about Jack and other guys we both knew from my L 38 days.

The night tour was unremarkable with the usual runs and emergencies for a typical dry Saturday night. The next morning I?m up by seven, I don?t like being in the rack after seven and getting the day started. I?m working the day tour today, the second part of my twenty-four and start it off by making an early fresh pot of Joe as some of the troops slip into the kitchen and sitting room awaiting relief.

Meanwhile, a few blocks north horror is unfolding at this very minute. The two tones sound off as the teleprinter starts to print out an alarm, the housewatchman yells out: ?EVERYONE GOES, STANHOPE STREET, TOP FLOOR!?. Over the noise of guys bustling into their gear the Brooklyn CO dispatcher advises from the in-house PA system ?ALL UNITS RESPONDING TO STANHOPE STREET, PEOPLE TRAPPED ON TOP FLOOR?. The CO repeats the message.

There is an excited urgency to get out, guys scramble to their position as the rigs fire up and come alive. L 112 is parked in the front and we?re all aboard, ?Go, Stevie go!?, LCC Stevie Brock whips the rig onto Knickerbocker Avenue with the engine close behind, they are third due and so the truck leads the response.

Stevie is hauling up Knickerbocker Avenue as we pull up and cinch our collars tight. The four of us riding in the back reached over the engine cover compartment and put one hand on top of another in unity, a tradition our groups composed when we knew we were going to work.

Stanhope Street is nine blocks away from the firehouse, ?Tonka Truck? L 124 is first due and they cross Knickerbocker Avenue ahead of us. Stevie is right behind, crossing under Myrtle Avenue ?El?, another two blocks he makes the left onto Stanhope and shouts ?JESUS CHRIST, A JUMPER!?

Stevie brings the rig to a screeching halt a short distance behind L 124, the scene is unfolding, harrowing and dreadful, the jumper is a young boy who has been impaled through his thigh on a spiked fence, the boy's father is frantically pacing and shrieks in anguish. The BC sees our ?inside team? charging toward the front door bypassing the unconscious boy, he is speaking intensely into his handie-talkie and points in a jabbing motion towards the top floor.

Gene and I race to the top floor, Lieutenant Gowan close behind. L 124 members are attempting to force the front bedroom door of the railroad flat which is usually heavily fortified and locked, their only choice since fire is lashing out of the preferred entranceway, the kitchen door. E 218 has a line stretched to the kitchen door and awaiting water, the door is open only about a foot and heavy fire is blowing out from floor to ceiling. Gene and I donned our SCBA facepiece as E 218 gets water and cracks the nozzle discharging the trapped air with a loud hiss. Gene tells the nozzleman to ?JUST GIVE IT A SHOT AND LET US PASS?. E 218 opens the line just enough to drive the fire back into the apartment, Gene yells through his facepiece that he is going to ?THE RIGHT?, I will go to the left to search for the missing occupants.

I squeeze through the door and immediately trip, dropping to a knee on glowing red hot coil springs of a mattress that is wedged between the door and sink, Gene follows and he too trips onto the mattress.

Meanwhile Battalion Aide Mike Killarney, normally assigned to L 124 and detailed to B 28 grabs the forcible entry saw from L 124. With the help of others who support the young boy Mike proceeds to cut the wrought-iron fence around the impaled youngster as police officers restrain the overwhelmed father. In a short time the boy is transported to the hospital with a small section of fence still impaled but immobilized.

clippingmain.jpg

After untangling myself from the hot coil springs of the mattress I dart to the left searching quickly for other occupants, the apartment is charged with hot dark black smoke. In front of me the other door of the apartment that L 124 was working on burst open, laying in front of the door is the mother. She is a large woman wearing a nightgown laying on her back unconscious. The forcible entry team of L 124 and I attempt to move the mom and it?s a struggle, Gene Higby joins us and we each grab a limb carrying her to the window where the tower ladder bucket is standing by. We ease her into the bucket that is slightly below the window sill. From the window I notice members on the street performing CPR on a young girl laying across the hood of a parked car in front of the building, the situation looks grim.

Lieutenant Gowan, Gene and I head downstairs, more companies have been called in and we are spent. In front of the rig we review the woeful job. The adrenaline now subsided, I felt my knee tightening up, figuring I must have sprained it by tripping on the flaming mattress. I slide my soaking wet jeans to my knees and notice a two inch red circular burn on the inside portion of my left knee, the skin hanging. Gene feels the same discomfort and reveals the same injury on his right knee.

Apparently the fire started in the mattress, the father pulled it into the kitchen attempting to extinguish it with water from the sink but his attempt was unsuccessful and the fire grew. The father was forced to escape leaving the mattress burning at the door, blocking the only exit and leaving behind the mother, two sons and a daughter. The mother and one son were pronounced dead at the scene, the boy that jumped had over seventy percent burns and died a few days later. The young girl remained in critical condition. I don?t know if she ever recovered.

fence-in-frntof-house.jpg
FENCE THAT WAS CUT TO REMOVE IMPALED BOY.

fence-today.png
FENCE REMAINS THE SAME TODAY.

Gene Higby and I were transported by FDNY Ambulance to the Medical Office in Manhattan and treated for second degree burns then placed on medical leave for the next several weeks.

Thanks for reading! KMG-365
 
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68jk09

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SAD THAT THRU THE YEARS SO MANY OF THESE FENCES WITH DECORATIVE SPEAR POINTS REMAINED....NO REASON FOR THE TIPS OR POINTS ...    https://www.facebook.com/gettinsaltyapparel/?__tn__=kC-R&eid=ARAZJbVG6KUticzwyYZUSeI-DyVbXY7w9qctOXVE9c1qf1Lf8SSKGz4NwnRAvJeoQ6RQyjP-c2xC5EsA&hc_ref=ART70BJIsJA5Kg0HJ83aSDgUo08U2NSb9bBuEHluXIifCXTikm0NhgMlA-3bus_fOkg&fref=nf&__xts__[0]=68.ARATef8rFksHlQWPl-rJfJLsNLzsF40rLztksiE8gBsepMU25DzgUFEO4LHYB81vsZE8yPq92Be5mXDPHAVSEjREALh8AYAetAAprQCxJiPesaNLgbM9R3gmZJFzaZD-l-mrF3iEy9ALl2yRSTv3lh3XgMaMkRKqB1DA05K_8kc40STmIJhdkruloyr80xRclIv3zh1jyNMnfzZpkAsIsExqNCoNzlk9b4XBDg3WG_mrzBJVr8hbgvJDabTqfNKseDUb9eLWdNAuZ2sWIDmGkv3LSJWUI-bLtVmE-5q-ZaI74rrwfQ2K3L2Pw-1NCjNl5n4kQA5eLijAsuSBKsATj-m9Wbxy
 

68jk09

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WE KNOW WHO THIS IS FOR..... https://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Vintage-Cairns-Painted-Aluminum-Elwood-No-1-Fire-Company-Fire-Helmet-NJ/124177255863?hash=item1ce98a8db7:g:GU0AAOSwhkNescvt
 

nfd2004

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68jk09 said:
WE KNOW WHO THIS IS FOR..... https://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Vintage-Cairns-Painted-Aluminum-Elwood-No-1-Fire-Company-Fire-Helmet-NJ/124177255863?hash=item1ce98a8db7:g:GU0AAOSwhkNescvt

Would that be "The Most Reverend CFDMarshall" from his younger Tennessee Glory Days ?
 

CFDMarshal

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If I remember, that photo and shirt we to honor a Asbury Park firefighter that was burned on the job over 10 years ago.
 

mack

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68jk09 said:
Willy did you pose for this ?........  https://www.ebay.com/itm/FIRE-DEPARTMENT-2000-norwich-ct-calender-union-local-892/264711829708?_trkparms=aid%3D1110002%26algo%3DSPLICE.SOI%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20190711095549%26meid%3D7aa95b1209214c9d84b5815cf7e71f4c%26pid%3D100047%26rk%3D6%26rkt%3D12%26sd%3D264711829828%26itm%3D264711829708%26pmt%3D0%26noa%3D1%26pg%3D2047675%26algv%3DSellersOtherItemsV2&_trksid=p2047675.c100047.m2108
Chief - Johnny Gage posed for this FF calendar:

   
 

JohnnyGage

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'NO FRILLS'; P 11
EPILOGUE

Tonight's night tour crew is sitting downstairs in the ?Mole Hole'' mindlessly watching television, usually we have the Country MTV channel on and listen to the country songs as a backdrop while we  jabber. Overhead the crippled albino mouse is running amok along the black pipes near the ceiling. Someone runs down the stairs and stops, from the doorway Fireman Kayce loudly speaks to me from there; ?Hey Johnny, something bad going down in Manhattan, doesn?t sound good for L 5, isn?t that where you have a (transfer) paper in for??.

Evolving at the very moment in Manhattan was a horrific fire where three members of L 5; Captain John Drennan, Fireman Jimmy Young and Fireman Chris Siedenburg  attempted to search the floor above the first floor fire and begin their primary search. When the first due truck forced the door to the fire apartment  open, a large volume of flame extended up the stairwell engulfing the L 5 inside team in flames which filled the stairwell. Fireman Jimmy Young died at the scene, Fireman Chris Siedenburg died the following morning and Captain John Drennan lived for forty days after the fire suffering from third and fourth degree burns before he died.


62 WATTS STREET, MARCH 1994

I have been with L 112 for almost seven years but due to circumstances beyond my control on the homefront I have decided to move my family off Long Island for greener pastures north of the city. Unfortunately, my hometown has become too dangerous to raise my young children. Our family owns a summer house north of NYC, the area is peaceful, safe and the school system is tip top, I will relocate there until I find something permanent in the area.

I have thought long and hard about leaving Knickerbocker Avenue, I even considered commuting, but the drive to Brooklyn would be ghastly. I also decided to make a break from commuting by car and take the Metro North Railroad.

I settled on a transfer to Manhattan and not back to the Bronx. I remembered my ninety day detail to L 10 when I was with L 38 was very interesting and refreshing. Although there was not much fire duty, there were other aspects that filled the day, especially emergency type runs. Manhattan is rich with History, Wall Street, Museums, Nightlife, Rockefeller Center, Subways, Carnegie Hall, Restaurants, the Bowery, Madison Square Garden, it truly is the city that never sleeps. Everytime I came to NYC I found it electrifying and exciting, the transfer would be a good opportunity to tap into this phenomenal world and try something different.

I was unfamiliar with the fire companies in Manhattan, except for L 10. I made a small checklist of companies and decided early on that I did not want to work in an area that chased Class E alarms all day. That  immediately eliminated midtown and downtown First Battalion companies. I also thought that before I retire, somewhere along my career I wanted to try my hand at the tiller wheel, the quintessential ideal of firefighter lore. And, finally the joint had to be easily accessible by subway. I scratched off companies until one was left and submitted my transfer application for only one company; L 5 early March of 1994.


JG CUTTING LOCKS ON CELLAR GATES

My transfer request was approved in early June of 1994 shortly after Captain Drennan died. I remember my final day tour on Knickerbocker Avenue. I bought lunch for the troops, the day tour seemed to go by too quickly. The senior LCC Jimmy ?Pop? Thornton also had a transfer application approved for his transfer to Queens, so we were both leaving, but in opposite directions. I sat in my car loaded with my gear and locker contents and two cold tall boys of Bud. What was I doing? I felt uneasy and stunned as I sat in the parking lot across the street ruminating about my decision. The ?CHINAMAN? joined me for the second tall boy, he also would be leaving soon for promotion to Lieutenant. But, the deal was done, I was leaving this exceptional and astonishing company of stalwart officers and incredible colleagues, crazy good times and shenanigans mixed with consistent fire duty. I thought this day would never come. I have a week off before I have to report to L 5.


BIG BOYS; LT. MARTY H, JG, TOMMY H, STEVIE B, KEVIN C.

Thanks for reading, stay back 200 feet!              KMG-365
 

68jk09

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The following is a story sent to me by RET FF Steve Whalen (a proby school Classmate of myself ...John Bendick & Tom Kuefner ).Steve recently provided us with his great collection of his & his Father posted in the "Vintage War Years Lids" thread see reply # 396 http://nycfire.net/forums/index.php/topic,57037.390.html .... here is Steve's early FDNY story.....QUOTE..I took the test that Mickie May pounded on John Lindsey's desk and told him that his men were dying because the City was burning. He got 2,500 men,starting with the test that I took. I was 20 yrs. old in 1968. I took the test and wrote 100%. That was June. In July, as the Army wanted me for Vietnam, I turned 21 Yrs. old. I had been to Fort Hamilton for a physical and was waiting for a letter, including a Subway Token, from the Army. I woke up one morning and my Father, the DAC, was out mowing the tiny lawn in front of our Flatbush Brooklyn house. A Chief's car pulled up and the BC handed out a piece of paper. "Hi, Bill", I heard the Chief say to my dad. My dad knew him and I was down the stairs in a flash. My appointment day and where to appear was in the letter. It came down 'In the Bag'. Faster than the Mail. I told my dad that I would finish the lawn and that he should go inside and call the Military Service Unit of the FDNY. At 6'5" I would not done well in Vietnam. I put my hand up on Sept. 14th and that was the end of the Army and me. I would have been a good soldier, but I much preferred to do my service in the FDNY in Downtown Brooklyn putting out fires at the rate of 6,000 runs a year. Steve W
PS: I have a great story about my Grandfather about the day he finished the First Motor Pump Operator School. I'll give it to you in another email."..........UNQUOTE.
 
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mack

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JohnnyGage said:
?TOUGH TIMMY (TT)?  Part 1
  Meet TT

?Tough Timmy?. It wasn?t Tim, it wasn?t Timmy, it was ?Tough Timmy?. I called him Cap.

The first time I heard the name of my future boss was during the last few days of Proby school. My classmates and I were to graduate shortly, the fire department orders had just come out and we new shiney firefighters were anxious to see where we would be assigned. A lieutenant held the copy in both hands and began to read off the two-page, double column order. I kind of knew I was headed for the Bronx; I was pretty sure I was going to E 45. As the lieutenant read the names of firefighters going to 45 my name wasn?t mentioned. Hmmm, I thought. Then he gets to my name, ?Gage, you're heading to 88?, the Lt  immediately looks up, with a grin and chuckle he says ?Good luck, kid, you?ll be working with the famous ?Tough Timmy?! 

That day we could leave early and go to our assigned firehouse. I pulled up to the Belmont Ave firehouse and introduced myself to the housewatchman. I was the only firefighter assigned to E 88 from that order. The housewatchman told me to go into the back kitchen where the day tour Lt was. I introduced myself, the Lt was kind and introduced me to my new colleagues. Then he told me I will be assigned group 14, the ?Captains groups?. The kitchen erupted, ?Tough Timmy?! Just you wait... because he is going to eat you up!?

I would not get to meet my new boss for a few weeks. Captain Tim Gallagher was recovering from a heroic rescue of a mentally disabled teen in a window trapped by fire. He safely removed her but suffered severe burns. Later he would receive the Hugh Bonner medal for that rescue. But that did not let my fellow firefighters remind me of the daily countdown until ?HE? returns...But I?m getting ahead of myself?

Tough Timmy (TT) served with the Marines in Korea before coming to the FDNY. TT was the equivalent of the fiery NY Yankee skipper Billy Martin. Same build, same fiery temper. Look up in the dictionary the word ?scrapper?, next to the word will be his photo. He was fearless in firefighting and earned widespread respect for his bravery. He was wild, he broke all the rules. He loved fire duty. He organized the FDNY Hockey league years ago and continued to play (mostly fight) well into his 60?s. He skydived. He loved you or he hated you, there was no in between, and he let you know it. He was the Captain of Engine 88, and nobody would dare tell him what to do. TT was an old school legend, a war year firefighter to the core. A war year boss adjusting to the waning ?war years?.

Throughout my career I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of firefighters and bosses with a kaleidoscope of personalities. The personality that impacted me most was Captain ?Tough Timmy?. I had the pleasure of working literally side by side with this legend and witnessed some of the most incredible and zany ventures one would not expect. TT takes all the credit for molding me into the firefighter I became, I came to know him inside and out... It will be fun to share my recollection of an incredible boss and friend..and I have a few.




Thanks for reading; KMG 365.

TT pictures - Capt Gallagher - FDNY Hockey team - RIP:




 

JohnnyGage

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LADDER 5; P 1
'THE PHOENIX'

Whenever you were under the weather and had to 'tap out', meaning going 'sick', you had to call the Medical Office (MO) and report your ailment to the duty nurse. The following day you had to make the trek to the MO on Lafayette Street in SOHO Manhattan to see the Doctor. The MO also doubled as the quarters of L 20.

Visiting the Doctor was an all morning affair as dozens of injured and sick members converged on the third floor of the Medical office waiting room that resembled a double sized classroom with plastic chairs side by side. The parking was scarce. Two gray metal desks aligned the wall outside the Doctors door. On one of the desks was a couple of piles of personal medical folders, one for each firefighter. A light-duty firefighter sat and kept a watchful eye on the folders and called your name when it was your turn. The folders were stacked as you reported into the Medical Office on a first come first served basis, the stacks would be quite high and the waiting time to see the doctor could easily take a couple of hours.

I would 'check in' as early as possible then take the opportunity to walk around SOHO or Little Italy. Whenever I walked through Little Italy I'd seek out a joint for a cup of espresso and a pastry. Other times I would roam around on a walking tour in different directions exploring the area. Once I remember strolling down West Houston Street (pronounced HOW-sten unlike the Texas city) and noted a firehouse in the distance at the corner of Sixth Avenue, it stuck out because I have never seen such a large red apparatus door on a firehouse before. I didn't realize it was E 24 and L 5 at the time.

L5-firehouse.jpg

And now I have transferred to the firehouse with this big red door, it's the summer of 1994. I've heard that this might be the largest FDNY apparatus door, it could be. The firehouse is situated on the southwest corner of West Houston Street and Sixth Avenue, also known as 'The Avenue of the Americas'. It is a handsome two story brick structure with ten identical windows across the top constructed in 1975. The location is ideal as it affords the companies swift turnouts onto large thoroughfares. West Houston Street runs crosstown across the full width of the island. Sixth Avenue is a major northbound artery bounded by mostly commercial occupancies. Both companies cover first due areas in the West Village and Greenwich Village communities that we share with L 12 and E 3 and second due to parts of SOHO and Tribeca neighborhoods.

L 5 is situated between midtown and downtown Manhattan, a good spot since any real significant fire the company will usually respond on a greater alarm and generally get a piece of action. L 5 runs far less Class E 'smells and bells' alarms than the midtown and downtown truck companies. There are more emergency type alarms in Manhattan due to the overwhelming congested neighborhoods. For example; Water related emergencies, subway incidents, hanging scaffolds, stuck elevators, gas and water leaks, motor vehicle accidents to name a few. Many fire related alarms consist of duct fires from built up grease in restaurants and during the winter months manhole fires become prevalent along with fireplace and chimney fires in older structures. And of course the 'food on the stove' alarm that is common to all the boros.

L5-Martinelli.jpg
'PHOENIX' LADDER 5 (M. Martinelli Photo)

Whereas certain spots in Brooklyn are stretched thin on Ladder Company coverage, the opposite encircles L 5. The firehouse is abutted by other single truck companies, namely L 8 to the south, L 20 to the east and L 3 to the north. An overabundance of truck companies severely handicaps the response area for L 5. In addition immediately to the west of L 5 is the Hudson River, a natural barrier. For L 5 to respond across Broadway toward the East Side or Chinatown the fire has to be a monster. L 5 averages a respectful two thousand runs per year, the same amount for surrounding truck companies for the most part.

The two story firehouse is almost three times the size of L 112 in square footage. The firehouse was built in 1975 and sharing quarters with L 5 is E 24. Later the First Division would move in and then subsequently B 2. Upon entering quarters you are greeted with a large office like 'Housewatch' which has a large window facing the apparatus floor, another large window looks out over Sixth Avenue. Inside the housewatch is a large desk with a console. The console has buttons to open the overhead door, activate the turnout bell, a hand microphone, mounted red telephone, department radio controls all built in with the official department phone on the desk next to the journal. Behind the desk is a small two seat couch along the back wall where the computer terminal sits in the back corner. Hanging on the wall is a large circular group chart board that was handmade from wood many years ago by a talented firefighter. Each firefighter and officer gets a one inch round circular paper tag with a hole mounted on top. Your name is written in and then placed on a small hook on the chart that corresponds with your group number. The center wheel is rotated daily to assign details and housewatch hours. Above the group chart are two large wood plaques with discolored paper tags of former members.

Next to the housewatch are two divided company offices where the officer completes his reports and maintains the manpower log. Hanging on the back wall of the truck office is a large black framed print called "The Figure 5 in Gold" that was presented to Captain Drennan while he was company commander. The abstract painting references a poem which describes a fire engine speeding through the streets of New York on a rainy night. The painting's title is a phrase from the poem that was written in 1928 by Charles Demuth. The print is very striking.

Large-5.png
"FIGURE FIVE IN GOLD"

Below the print is a row of gray file cabinets holding building cards with addresses of buildings in our response district that we are responsible for. Every fire company in the city has what is called an 'administrative district'. That particular company is responsible for inspecting certain types of buildings annually or as scheduled and following up on any complaints. There is also a card file for every fire hydrant in the company jurisdiction.

Every hydrant has an address and a corresponding card. We check these hydrants annually by visually inspecting them, then open allowing the water to flush, close the hydrant, grease the threads, recap and move onto the next one. If there is a cap missing or the hydrant defective it is reported to the officer and he will intern send the proper paperwork through the channels to have the hydrant repaired and missing parts replaced. Sometimes the hydrant is completely missing, most likely knocked over by a vehicle, then hauled away to become someone's lawn ornament.

Just past the company offices is a large gear room for the officers and Chauffeurs followed by the kitchen. The kitchen table is made from remnants of a bowling alley lane and is extra large to comfortably accommodate both companies. A local artist has painted a village street scene incorporating both rigs. The table is protected with a heavy dose of shellac. Twelve blue plastic chairs surround the table. To round out the kitchen is a large industrial sized sink and large double oven Vulcan stove. A blackboard and bulletin board hangs near the kitchen back wall. Members sometimes post a 'day off' request they need in search of a 'mutual' swap of tour.

Toward the back of the firehouse is a workbench with various uncompleted projects in milk crates. A doorway leads to the cemented backyard of the firehouse where the members have built a gray handball court wall that is often used. The handball court can easily be converted to a volleyball or basketball court. A large barbeque stands by near the doorway.

E 24 sits along the north wall of the firehouse near the firefighter gear racks. The rig is a 1988 Mack, the company maintains the nickname "Red Rover" that dates back to the 1860's volunteer fire department. The Captain is Ron Kemly, a chain smoker who is heavily involved with the community and union, he is soon to be promoted to Battalion Chief. Three young lieutenants round out the company.
"E-24-1988-Mack.jpg
'RED ROVER' ENGINE 24

On the apparatus floor L 5 takes center court, a large numeral five painted gold is mounted on top of the center of the chrome bumper. The rig is a 1991 Seagrave 100 ft tiller. The company's nickname is "The Phoenix". However, originally L 5 was called "Columbian L 14" but somewhere along the shuffling, closing and re-shuffling of local volunteer ladder company firehouses in 1860's somehow L 5 became "The Phoenix", ironically the nickname of L 3 back then.

L 5 has the notable distinction of being the only ladder company to respond on the longest 'mutual aid' alarm. During the Great Baltimore City fire of 1904 the company was turned out with a handful of engine companies and loaded on a flatbed train headed for Baltimore. There was no advance notice given for the members to prepare. Unfortunately the apparatus never made it to the Great Fire as it broke down when the rig was removed from the train.

Balt-fire.png
GREAT BALTIMORE FIRE 1904

I have been assigned to L 5 for almost a year now. When Captain Drennan died from injuries at the Watts Street fire Lieutenant Pat Rudnick was coincidentally promoted to Captain and took over as company commander to maintain continuity and help mend the saddened firehouse.

wtss-st-hero-painting.jpg
PAINTING OF FR. CHRIS SIEDENBURG, CAPT. JOHN DRENNAN, FR. JIMMY YOUNG

The three other seasoned lieutenants were Billy Rann, Michael Warchola and John 'JJ' Jackson. The company firefighter roster was filled with many young firefighters with less than ten years with most with less than five. When I transferred in I was the fourth in seniority with thirteen years and the two members with the most seniority were about to retire. I was assigned to work with Lt. Warchola and Lt. JJ's groups.

After a while, I was starting to miss the first due fire duty and I had quenched my desire to tiller. I was contemplating another change, however Lt. Warchola and JJ had plans for me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

Thanks for reading, stay back 200 feet and be well! KMG-365
 
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JohnnyGage

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Ladder 5; P 2
“UP IN SMOKE”

With a hot cup of Joe in my hand and the morning NY Post under arm I grab one of the empty seats on the river side of the Hudson Line Metro North train coach for my ride to Grand Central Station. The train ride is pleasant, quiet and relaxing and I look forward to the smooth ride. People boarding various stops are all very respectful and quiet, before you know it half the train is silently taking a nap with the gentle rocking motion of the train, me included.

But on top of it all the price is right. When I first started taking the train I bought round trip tickets and offered them to the conductor when he approached. After a while I got to chatting with him about daily current events, sports and once we got into it about his career and how he liked what he was doing. He was a nice guy about my age and wore rainbow colored suspenders over his uniform. He’d stop and chat as the train emptied on the way home for a minute or two killing time. When he found out I was a fireman he started to let me slide under the radar with free trips. And so for a few years my only out of pocket expense was subway fare.

Once the train arrived at Grand Central I walked past the indoor delicious smelling bread and bagel coffee shops toward the “shuttle” train that links Grand Central to the West side subways, specifically the #1 and #4 lines. The shuttle is the shortest regular subway service in the transit
system as it only travels 2,400 feet in ninety seconds to the other station then returns. The shuttle runs continuously. From there I catch the #1 line which is the express stopping at less stations and bypassing others the #4 ‘local’ stops at. The travel between connections is all underground and comfortable. There is an array of “street performers and artists” that perform in the hallways as you commute by, some are very entertaining and very talented. Either the express or local, whichever I take lets me off at West Houston Street and from there it is a one block walk to the firehouse. Most of the time the commute goes very smoothly. On the way home is reversed and depending on how the tour went, maybe a beer for the evening ride home.

Nice and relaxed after the train ride I arrive at the firehouse a few minutes past 8 AM. My mutual partner ‘Nappy’ greets me at the door. He is eager to get going, he is an accountant and has a nice family accounting business on the side in the suburbs. I skip up the stairs, open my locker and put on a nice clean fresh uniform then slip into unlaced black work boots and run the toothbrush around my mouth killing coffee breath in the large mens restroom. Gone are the days wearing a tee shirt and jeans, here in the First Division you have to look spiffy. Across the street from the firehouse is a cleaners and although I usually wash my uniform in the firehouse wash machine every couple of weeks I drop off a set to the dry cleaners for an oil change. The uniform returns neat, cleaned and pressed.

Nappy has the Outside Vent position, the position that is also the tillerman. I put my gear next to the small three step ladder that allows you to climb into the tiller seat. At that moment the tones sound; “BEEEE BOOOOP;...ENGINE... LADDER”. The housewatchman announces over the
house PA both companies are first due to a Box on West Broadway for “smoke coming from a building”.

I quickly throw my gear on and hop up into the tiller. In a minute or so the LCC fires up the rig and sends back to me two ‘buzzes’, indicating he is ready to respond, however he needs for me to respond back in affirmation with another set of two buzzes before he can leave. I visually check to see all the members safely aboard from my higher position and that the doors on the rig are now closed. I press the buzzer in the middle of the tiller wheel twice.

view from iside tiller.jpg

Just about three blocks east on W Houston Street we make a sharp right turn into the SOHO neighborhood on West Broadway , which is about five streets west of the more famous ‘Broadway’. The rig stops in front of the reported address and I can see there are wisps of smoke coming from an upper floor of the six story building. The building is what’s called a ‘Cast Iron’ structure, built in the 1800’s.

A large portion of SOHO was designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as a historical district where there are about 250 cast iron buildings in NYC, most found in SOHO. Cast iron is exceptionally strong, the strength of cast iron columns and facades allowed enlarged windows to allow daylight in, high ceilings and expansive living spaces known as lofts. Many of these unique buildings were first used as department stores or for manufacturing, including fabricating pianos.

During the 1960s and 1970s much of the manufacturing from these buildings either dried up or moved elsewhere leaving the large spaces open. Although the lofts did not have a kitchen or bedroom, they were large and inexpensive. Artists saw their appeal and began converting them into living / work homesteads.

castironbuilding_sohostreetscape_untappedcities_larissazimberoff.jpg

The Ladder Boss notices the feathery smoke too, calls back to the LCC to have the “Box transmitted”, not a 10-75, yet, but the request for the additional third engine assigned to the Box. There is a front fire escape and I place a portable ladder up alongside it and proceed to climb toward the wispy smoke. The windows are extra large, the fire escapes are very sturdy and long. At the fourth floor level I come upon the light colored smoke trickling from a window. It is locked and I force it open with the fork end of my halligan tool with little resistance. The engine and ladder officers are in the loft apartment, too. Entering, we have stumbled upon a “pot farm”. The expansive floor space in the loft was set up as a “grow room” to manufacture cannabis. A hydroponic system of many rows of grow boxes with lighting and ventilation producing a healthy crop of ganja. Upon investigation we discovered that one of the humidifiers overheated and started to char.

On Sixth Avenue there is a young crew element in the firehouse and in a sense I have become “Pop” with fourteen years on and the second in seniority. The young guns are different, they are very much interested in their side jobs and sports but not so much in hearing about other fire related adventures. I make a mental note and keep my thoughts to myself. I find that I have more in common with the company officers that I have been working with; namely Lt. JJ who proudly was promoted from the ‘Highway Truck’ L 156 and Lt. Mike Warchola who was a fireman in Harlem. We talk amongst ourselves and reminisce about the years that have gone by already way too fast.

One particular night tour, just after roll call I was speaking with JJ alongside the rig while checking the hurst tool components, I told him I really enjoyed working here at L 5 but I was pining for more fire duty and considered moving on. I had my eye on L 14 in Harlem. I had it all figured out, since the Metro North made a stop at 125th Street before Grand Central, L 14 was only a block east at the corner of Third Avenue and like in L 5 I would only have to walk the one block, same distance. JJ took a step back and surprised me when he asked me “hold on”. He continued; “He and Mike were talking and they wanted to give me the seat”, meaning I would become the full time LCC of L 5 for our groups. I was flabbergasted at the request.

Becoming an LCC is a very honorable and respected position that I never gave much thought to. As a school trained LCC I was often detailed to drive L 5 and L 8 on occasion when there was no LCC. Having the seat full time meant no more details and that was a huge plus since I did not have a vehicle at the firehouse. Without a vehicle, when it was my turn in the rotation for a detail I usually hailed a yellow cab in front of the firehouse to go to the detail destination. I told JJ I would be honored to share the front seat with him and Mike. My status of full time LCC began the very next set of tours and the front cab of the 1991 Seagrave Ladder, serial number SL9103T would become my office for the next six years.

Thanks for reading, Hope you enjoyed! KMG-365
 
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Lebby

Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2015
Messages
215
I love reading such amazing descriptions of the job, I'm happy to report that whilst I was doing EMS in the 7th Battalion no companies treated us better than E24/ L5.
 

JohnnyGage

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
645
LADDER 5; P 3
‘DRIVING JJ’

Out of all the communities in NYC I find that Greenwich Village and the surrounding neighborhoods perhaps the most interesting of all. The area is steep with early American history and periodic culture activity. East of Sixth Avenue the ten acre Washington Square Park with ‘Arch’ and fountain has become one of NYCs most popular spots for residents and tourists. The park is surrounded by streets with buildings owned by New York University and some of the most desired to live on. The white marble Arch is the terminus of Fifth Avenue and stands seventy seven feet high was constructed to commemorate the centennial of George Wahington’s inauguration. In the early 1800’s WSP was once a Potter’s field that buried unknown or indigent people when they died as well as New Yorkers who died from early epidemics of yellow fever. Later the park was leveled into a Military Parade Ground. To this day the remains of more than 20,000 bodies rest below Washington Square Park. Excavations have found tombstones under the park dating as far back as 1799.
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WSP Arch

And a mere block east of the park was where the infamous “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory” fire occurred, one of the deadliest fires in history took place in March 1911 causing the deaths of 146 garment workers, many falling or jumping to their death from the upper floors of the ten story building. The tragic fire set in motion a historic era of labor reforms.

There are so many fascinating historical spots of recent years too, a few blocks north of the park on West 11th Street members of the leftist underground called “The Weathermen” were assembling bombs in the basement of a four story Greek Revival style townhouse when one of them exploded destroying the townhouse and killing three members in 1970. And just a few blocks to the west is where the legendary ‘Stonewall Inn’ is located, where the riots of 1969 took place. The Stonewall uprising is widely considered to be the single most important event leading up to the gay rights movement and many other interesting historic aspects in the area I’ll touch on later.

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Weathermen Bombing 1970

There have been a few changes in the firehouse now. Division 1 has returned to the vacant office on the second floor where they were originally quartered when the new firehouse opened in 1975. The Division left in 1990 and the “Factory Unit” moved in. This was a unit that morphed from the Fire Prevention Bureau and was responsible for inspecting all the local factories in the area. When the Factory Unit was dissolved there were two large rooms and a bathroom that was vacant for a while, but then the Division returned in 1995.

This would be the first firehouse I worked in where a Chief was also assigned, so I was looking forward to the new arrangement. With the Division settled in, I started to meet many light duty Captains that I would have never had the opportunity to get to know. The kitchen of L 5 did not have much activity going on unless a meal was being prepared or chow was on. I was used to hanging out in the kitchen and found it mostly empty during the day as most of the guys could be found in the large TV room on the second floor. There was no sitting room on the first floor and Light Duty officers would kill time in the kitchen, it was a good time to swap stories.

Even late night the kitchen emptied out after the night meal. Deputy Chiefs would meander down from their office and sit with a cup of tea or piece of cake and share their interesting stories with me. The First Division had stellar legendary Chiefs with the likes of cranky ol’ professor DC Dave Corcoran to future COD Sal Cassano and Pete Hayden. I especially enjoyed sharing kitchen time with Pete Hayden, he was a great story teller and FD historian.

It was in the kitchen one late night that Chief Dave rhetorically “asked” me with a knowing smirk to take over the WNYF Division 1 All Hands Column. I was happy to oblige and authored the column for a few years.

I have been the L5 LCC for a while now and my mutual partner is John Santore. John is the senior man in the truck and has had the seat for many years, he is easy going and loves to scrounge for junk, he takes pride in being called the “Junkman”. John knows where every construction dumpster is in the area, he lives to dumpster dive and often retrieves items that “maybe someday” he’ll need. He is a free spirit, wears ripped jeans, wacky colored high-top sneakers, tattered baseball cap and smokes cigarillos. John takes good care of the rig and likes to tinker with minor repairs. He and I started a “pass along” notebook. It was the typical cheap black and white composition notebook that was secured in a tray on the floor behind the LCC seat, any information or issues pertaining to the rig we made notes for the next LCC to review. With the other LCCs adding their notes, now all four LCCs had a notebook that compiled a brief running log of affairs concerning the rig that we would all be apprised of.

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Mutual Partner John Santore

The first day that I was assigned to drive the rig as a permanent LCC I shared the front seat with Lt. John ‘JJ’ Jackson. I remember he pulled me to the side and presented me with a blue denim Carhartt Jacket telling me “that’s what Ladder Chauffeurs should wear”. I felt very honored to receive the jacket and wore it regularly over many years. After periodically washing the jacket through the ‘Glory Days’ it turned into a perfect light blue hue.

JJ has a jolly charisma and a big smile, when he’d meet another firefighter his greeting was an enthusiastic “Heeey, Brother!”. JJ was a big robust guy with curly locks promoted to Lieutenant from L 156 the “Highway Truck” in Brooklyn and assigned to L5 before I got there. He was athletic and played a mean game of paddle ball or volleyball in the backyard when he had spare time. Heard from his office, Grateful Dead music or some kind of jazzy bluegrass would emanate from his boom-box when JJ was doing his reports, always with high spirits. I enjoyed driving him, but he had one characteristic that drove me nutty sometimes.

While responding thoughts raced through my mind, the safest and quickest route through tight congested Manhattan streets, apparatus positioning, reported fire location and on and on, as the siren and air horn blasted away. And with all this going on JJ sitting besides me would lean toward me and make a casual remark, usually something like; “Say, Brother, What do you think of the trade the Mets made yesterday?” It would jolt my concentration for a brief second, “Good trade, yeah, Mets did good” and then refocus.

One early morning just before daybreak JJ and I shared an eerie sight. We were toned out for a third alarm on 29th street and Sixth Avenue, a straight shot for us up Sixth Avenue. The Avenue is wide open, traffic almost non-existent and the traffic signals all green in my favor. I have the rig going at a good clip, every intersection I take my foot off the accelerator and ‘cover the brake’, just in case a crazy yellow cab zips out of nowhere.

On the southeast corner of 29th Street at Sixth Avenue is an old style three story wood constructed commercial with a grocery on the ground floor. The two floors above have a large spacious wooden window that spans the front of the building and flames are jetting out. I position the apparatus nearby in the best available spot, from there JJ and I notice at the same time what looks like six figures leaning out of the window that appear to be on fire. Finally through the smoke we realize they are full sized dressed mannequins that must have been knocked forward and are now leaning out from the venting window. Truly a bizarre early morning awakening while flames lapped over their melting heads.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! KMG-365

L5 no stripe.jpg
My 'Office'; L 5 Image by Mr. Willy before updated graphics were added.
 
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JohnnyGage

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
645
LADDER 5; P 4
LCC; ‘PRE FLIGHT-TAKEOFF’

Since becoming the L 5 LCC a couple of years ago there has also been a major change in my personal life as I have remarried and moved into Manhattan's Battery Park with my new wife. My wife has had an apartment in Battery Park for a few years now, she works in the WTC with Bank Of America. Our apartment is about two blocks west of the World Trade Center and faces #2 WTC, the South Tower. From our ninth floor apartment we would watch with amazement the window cleaners suspended from the roof of the WTC as they meticulously cleaned window after window of the iconic building.

The front entranceway to our apartment building is a stone throw from the Hudson River where there is an esplanade complete with comfortable wood bench seats to relax and observe the many different passing watercraft, rollerbladers, joggers and commuters as they walk to and from the Staten Island ferry.

My long train commute is kaput and now my commute is pleasantly short and convenient, I’ve also packed in the oil truck driving job. I enjoy the city lifestyle, everything imaginable is available and service orientated, grocery shopping and restaurants are all nearby and anything can be delivered, even a single cup of coffee from the local deli. With the extra time I now have I decided it was time to start studying for the upcoming Lieutenants promotional exam.

In the meantime, when the weather is dry and comfortable I leave a little extra early and take a leisurely walk to work enjoying all the sights and sounds of the hustle and bustle of city life. When strolling towards the firehouse for a night tour I carve out enough time to walk through the different sections of the Village. The walk helps me get a better feel of the unusual street grid layout and affords me useful perceptions and nuances that would likely go unnoticed while focusing on driving the apparatus.

Unlike the streets of Manhattan above Houston Street the streets in the village were created in the 18th century and were allowed to remain as such when Manhattan went on to a grid type streetscape. Streets are named rather than numbered, many are narrow and curve at odd angles. Some oddities in design had West 4th Street which runs east-west across Manhattan but in the village curves north, changes traffic flow direction and intersects with West 10th, 11th and 12th Streets.

Along these walking routes I have noticed interesting and unusual buildings that could have been easily overlooked. For example in the neighborhood there were many rear tenements that would not be noticed from the street view. These tenements are old, confined, hidden and dilapidated from the building that was built later in front of it at a later time when property values increased in Manhattan. Access to these buildings were usually through a tight alley and sometimes difficult to identify. Also in the village were converted mews, these homes were originally constructed as stables and now formed a row of homes with a small alley in between.

Then there was the unusual ‘Westbeth Artist Community’ building that encompasses a whole city block, the large structure with inside courtyard was the former ‘Bell Laboratories Headquarters’ and now converted to a commercial complex dedicated to providing affordable living and working space for artists and art organizations. Inside the structure are apartments with party wall type balconies, a difficult area to reach if a severe fire was to take hold. Furthermore, freight trains in the early 1900s used to pass through the Westbeth building on the elevated “High Line” rail of the New York Central Railroad. The High Line is now a public park built on a historic freight rail line that was supposed to be demolished. During my time with L 5 it was abandoned and a source for many outside rubbish fires caused by indigent vagrants.

westbeth.jpg
Westbeth Artist Community with Rail line running through.

My routine after relieving the previous LCC began with a visual walk around inspection of the rig while tugging on all the compartment doors to make sure they are secured. A quick peek under the rig to see if any unwanted fluids are on the floor and to check the inside dual tire I’ll push my foot against it to make sure it is not deflated. From there, it’s time to hop up into the cab, adjust my seat, fire up the rig and now scan the air and fuel gauge to make sure the air is holding and plenty of fuel on board. A flip of the main toggle overhead activates all the emergency lights. While all systems are running I’ll survey the rig again this time paying particular attention to the headlights, turning signals and warning lights for proper functioning.

For a while it seemed that on official Department Orders companies were reminded to inspect and maintain warning lights at the start of each tour, in fact the officer was required to take a mark in the company journal when he was writing his roll call stating that the emergency warning system has been inspected and operating satisfactorily. The LCCs had a walk-in closet on the apparatus floor with a locker that contained extra light bulbs to swap out dead ones right there and then.

Happy that all warning devices were working properly I climbed back into the cab, or as I prefer to call it “my office”. Here I secure loose tools and items left on the floor or dashboard. I began half jokingly implementing a “no butts” left in the cab policy, I was fine and had no objection to smoking in the cab at all, just didn’t appreciate the mess of a smelly squashed out old cigarette butt left behind.

Then from the front seat it was on to inspect and adjust the positions of the mirrors. Originally the apparatus came with simple elongated truck style mirrors that were typical to all trucks and could only be adjusted by swiveling the mirror. After speaking with the other LCCs I bought two large “fish eye” mirrors and attached them to the bottom of the single mirror on both sides of the rig. They were extremely crucial for noticing vehicles and pedestrians that were out of view.

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JG washing the Office

Anytime the weather was nice and I was off for a few days I pulled the rig out onto the apron and gently hosed out the front floor of the cab and back riding positions of loose dirt and debris. Then it was time to give the ‘Phoenix’ a bath. The shops provided a white granular car soap that came in a large cardboard can that worked well and in the same locker with the light bulbs I kept a stash of old bath towels that were ripped in half to wipe down the rig. When early spring arrived I picked up a couple of cans of “Rally Car Wax” and took my time waxing one section of the rig at a time. Sometimes the junior man might jump in to help, but I had a happy routine listening to the oldies rock station playing on a radio nearby and practicing Mr. Miyagy’s tenet; wax on, wax off.

Going one step further after my mutual partner and fellow LCC John Santore and I created the LCC “pass along” book we both agreed to take one different compartment each tour and thoroughly remove every tool inside it, clean and service the tool then completely flush out the compartment and restore. The rig had fourteen compartments with various tools and equipment but soon each and every tool was clean and serviceable in a washed out orderly compartment.

Certain times of the year the apparatus was placed out of service and had to go to the shops for preventative maintenance, this time we were also having trouble with the aerial jamming and not properly extending so the rig would be out of service for some time. On this one particular date just after the crew removed the rig of all it’s tools and two mechanics took the rig away to the shops “Red Square” I spoke with one of the supervisors and asked if it was possible to upgrade the apparatus graphics with the new gold-white-gold “FIRE” stripe.

A week or so later the rig was returned to us with the new stripes, the rig looked like it was brand new shot out of a showroom floor and not five years old. L 5 Fireman Louie Arena had two gold number five decals that matched the gold metallic five on the front bumper of the rig and he affixed them to the doors as our new unique identification numbers. At a motorcycle show I attended recently I bought two small black decals about two inches long and an inch wide that said “Get On, Hold tight, Shut up” and stuck them just above the handle to the crew cab doors, guys got a chuckle reading them. The rig looked and ran great, now all in sync with the new stripes, lettering, decals, and a fresh coat of wax.

L5E24.jpg

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! KMG-365
 

memory master

Active member
Joined
Aug 29, 2008
Messages
2,666
Geez, you had a stash of light bulbs on hand Dan. If you recall, it took an act of Congress to have a light bulb changed by Roadside in EMS back in the day. lol
 

JohnnyGage

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
645
LADDER 5; P 5
LCC ‘TAKEOFF’

I had this perception about quick turn outs that was ingrained into me when I was with the DCFD. The DCFD was known for their ultra quick turnouts, and I mean quick. As soon as the house gong rang we hurriedly charged to our designated riding spot, donning our gear and hopping aboard as the rig was about to pull out. If the officer was dressed and saddled up in the front seat you had better be on board or you might find yourself left behind.

And for the most part driving Tough Timmy in E 88 and my time at L 112 we turned out very aggressively, nothing like DCFD, but still aggressive enough. So when I transferred into L 5 and before I became an LCC, I had noticed that a few of the younger members seemed a bit lackadaisical donning their gear, especially one fella who put on his gear as if it was the first time he ever saw it delaying our turnout. It was frustrating to me watching the complacency and sluggishness but I wasn’t in a position to say anything, who was I? Except that once I became the LCC I initiated a secretive motivation tool when we were being turned out, and that was I immediately fired up the rig and lightly accelerated the engine giving the impression we were about to launch, guys were tripping over themselves to get on board. I got away with it because back then as the LCC I hardly wore bunker gear. That action seemed to propel the slowpokes and our turnouts improved.

Now before moving a tiller apparatus it was the officers responsibility to make sure that we indeed had a warm body in the seat, in fact the officer was obligated to make a visual observation that the tillerman was seated before he climbed into his. Of course having a tiller rig there were umpteen tales of instances of rigs responding without or pulling out of quarters lacking a driver in the seat and wiping out a row of cars when the trailer swung wide. And L 5 had their fair share of ‘back in the day’ wipeouts too. However, new safety features on today’s tillers prevent the rig from starting unless someone's butt is firmly planted in the seat.

tiller.png
[Make sure their is a warm body back there before you take off!]

Once I was ready and seat belted in, I checked both mirrors keeping a watchful eye on the members as they boarded, especially noting when the tillerman climbed into his seat. If I needed to pass along any information to the tillerman I had an intercom above my head that all I had to do was press a toggle switch forward and speak. The intercom was always on from the tillerman and at times up in the front we might catch him unknowingly singing to himself belting out a tune or making remarks that he didn’t realize we heard. With everyone on board I’d send back two “beeps” to the tillerman for him to acknowledge and await for his two in return, another quick glance to make sure all cab doors were shut and we took off. Going north from the firehouse I usually had two options for runs. Sixth Avenue was the main route, except when traffic was at a standstill that started in the afternoon to early evening. My other option was to head west on Houston Street and hang a right going north on Greenwich Street that was always wide open to cross streets heading towards the Meatpacking District.

Having mostly named streets it was sometimes tricky to recall which way the one way traffic ran, so I copied an idea from a Deputy Chief. I noticed he carried a small three ring binder with laminated pages of procedural check off lists that he could reference while responding. I took the idea and made a folder with clear plastic sleeves and inserted a plain and simple street map with a direction arrow for the named streets. I kept the folder on the dash for quick and easy reference. It also came in handy as a memory jogger when I might have been startled and waking up suddenly from a comfortable slumber to bright lights and havoc. I added to the map footnotes for first due clustered buildings that resembled each other or other addresses that were difficult to access. Little tricks like that I found helpful.

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[Cruising down W Broadway]

In the mid 90s there was a buzz going on in the Greenwich Village and SOHO neighborhoods, particularly with flourishing new building construction that was transforming the area, especially new boutique hotels and renovation projects sprouting up on almost every street, the town was booming.The mostly vacant and seedy distinctive ‘Gansevoort Meat Packing District’ of eleven blocks of cobblestone streets that once contained over two hundred slaughterhouses, warehouses, meat packing factories and other industries began to decline and replaced by high end boutiques, trendy restaurants and nouveau nightclubs. In addition, SOHO was becoming a new “Hollywood” mecca for the Television and Film Industry adding to the already congested streets with film crews and large caravans of busses and trucks. Many times the narrow streets had overfilled dumpsters or construction vehicles that impeded your response. There is a myth that pertains to tight spots while responding that says “The faster you go, the narrower the rig gets”. I guess that’s true, I’m not sure as I had my eyes closed.

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[Blocks of cobblestone wasteland from Meatpacking Industries by-gone days]
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[Meatpacking District became an area of naughty sex clubs where 'Drag Queens' and transvestites were rampant. We warned new 'Probies" that some things may not appear to be what they may seem to be]

Driving a tiller was a hoot, the epitome and embodiment of fire truck lore. Remarkably, the tiller rig can easily make a complete sweeping U-turn across three lanes of traffic, the turning radius was superior to any engine since the cab had a much shorter wheelbase. On tight right angle turns I’d simply square the turn with the cab as the tillerman made an opposite hard left towards the curb, a little further into the turn the tillerman then made a hard right to recover and we motored on. When we made this maneuver it was amazing catching people's faces with awe as the trailer followed behind the cab effortlessly in what looked like to be an impossible feat. If I was able to get the cab through the congestion, the tractor part with the tillerman would track right behind getting his chunk done. Observing a tiller operate in a clogged intersection was gloriously majestic.

When responding in and approaching the address for optimum positioning it was important to get a quick windshield size up of the structure and whether there was any indication of smoke or fire. In the case of a narrow frontage building of less than thirty feet wide, whether anything was showing or not I positioned the turntable in the center of the structure so that the ladder could reach all segments of the structure, taking in consideration of overhead obstructions and trees. On larger buildings when there was no indication of a fire, I’d stop the rig at the beginning of the building leaving the front open to pull forward and re-position in case fire was discovered at the further section of the building. It was much easier to pull forward than to try and back track.

On tillers and rearmounts the turntable was what had to be positioned. Sizing up the position of the turntable for especially larger apartment houses we were taught at Chauffeur Training School to visualize the objective and follow an imaginary line down the building onto the sidewalk and then using the sidewalk contraction lines position the turntable. And that worked most of the time.

However, not every type of ladder apparatus had it so easy. Driving a rearmount ladder you had to pull almost completely past the narrow building to align the turntable that was at the end of the rig, similar to the tower ladder where instead of aligning the turntable you aligned the bucket. The purpose of aligning the bucket instead of the turntable allowed an easy and safer approach to enter a window from the bucket. Conversely, if the TL turntable was aligned instead, the bucket door would be awkwardly away from the window because the nozzle on the bucket would interfere with safe egress. Another important positioning tactic with the TL was to fade the truck away from the building thus increasing the lower “scrub area''. The scrub area was the area that the bucket could reach, angling the apparatus kept the boom from interfering with the cab of the rig and hindering the operation, especially at taxpayer jobs.

When the rig was in position I’d press the toggle forward on the intercom and tell the tillerman to take off for his ‘outside vent’ duties. It was common knowledge for the tillerman to leave the rear wheels straight forward in case I had to pull the rig up a short distance. The tiller apparatus also allotted other safety features, for example on larger multi lane Avenues just before we arrived at the location I’d have the tillerman swing the trailer out to block the next traffic lane to protect members when they dismounted the apparatus from crazy cab drivers and the like.

l5 tiller.jpg
[Make sure tiller wheels are aligned before leaving the tiller seat]

While responding to ‘pin jobs’ that necessitated the use of the ‘Hurst Tool’ or air bags I attempted to position the apparatus with the compartment facing the incident for easy access to deploy the tool instead of carrying the heavy equipment further than they had to. All the equipment the troops might need was at easy reach.

When we came upon an isolated building that necessitated the aerial be positioned to the roof for the roofman, once the rig was positioned all I had to do was flip the ‘Power Take Off’ switch on the console near my seat to transfer the rig's power from the drive shaft to the aerial. Up on the turntable the pedestal had two toggle switches to lower the jack supports. Pull them up simultaneously and push forward the jacks descended in unison and as soon as the rig jolted upward within seconds the jacks and rig were secured to raise the aerial. It was so much easier on the tiller deploying the stabilizer jacks than rearmount apparatus and light years quicker than tower ladders.

The aerial was now ready to be raised, rotated and extended into position. Throughout my career I made it a habit to operate any available aerial ladder during drills and go through the motions of setting up the rig and positioning the ladder. Senior LCCs I got to work with were glad to share their thoughts and experiences from the ‘War Years’ and I marveled at how they operated the aerial with precision. Like a batter taking batting practice, I worked the levers on the pedestal operating the aerial when ever I had the opportunity.

Even when I became the regular steady LCC at every “Multi-Unit Drill”, or MUD as we refer to, I’d practice and imagine various scenarios setting and repositioning the aerial from place to place with as little moves as possible. I did become comfortable to a point where I could raise, rotate and extend the aerial from the bed position to the objective, whether it be a window, alongside a fire escape or roof with as little as three maneuvers. I perfected my eye to gauge the ideal angle for climbing without making minor adjustments. I heeded the wisdom from many wonderful LCCs, and adopted what scholars say about playing the piano; ‘practice makes perfect’.

controls.jpg
[Aerial controls, 'Practice Makes Perfect']

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed. KMG-365
 
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H and L 147

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2010
Messages
650
Dan have you told of your experience as vice president of the Hook & Ladder 5 hot dog club and the rules to gain entry into said club?
 

JohnnyGage

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
645
LADDER 5; P 6
LCC; ‘SQUASHING BAD HABITS’

Needless to say, there are many facets that make up a good LCC, of course the number one tenet is that the LCC must have a good grip on the layout of the company’s first and second due response area. Other responsibilities equally important are being knowledgeable of the duties of all riding positions, understanding apparatus positioning and ladder placement plus being able to operate every tool on the apparatus including the overlooked tactic of deploying a ladder pipe.

Sometime during the mid 1980s, the order came down from headquarters for all ladder companies to remove the scaling ladder from the rig, a traditional tool that lost its usefulness along with the life net. With one signature from the powers to be, the practice of using a scaling ladder was consigned to oblivion. I imagined, most likely, with the inception of tower ladders introduced in the 70’s, the next ‘dead horse’ was the antiquated ladder pipe. Slowly but surely the ladder pipe was hardly used, and by the 90’s not at all. However the ladder pipe evolution was still maintained in our official training evolution manual and accordingly every aerial ladder had the equipment on board to set up a ladder pipe if ordered.

Every Sunday after roll call, throughout the city, there was a group of companies that was scheduled for ‘Multi-Unit Drill’ or more commonly known as MUD. Companies would go ten-eight and assemble at a pre-arranged spot for the ninety minute MUD. MUD was usually held somewhere in the response area that afforded as little hindrance possible to the local citizenry. L5 at first used the Pier 40 area, then we switched to a more desolate area along Washington Avenue between two commercial structures that were not occupied during the weekend and we could drill without interference.

Once we arrived at the drill location the first act was to thoroughly inspect your self contained breathing apparatus and account for the spare air cylinders, after that the power saws were inspected, topped off with fuel and fired up. This was also a good time to set up the rig and allow other members to familiarize themselves operating the aerial controls, me included as I never missed an opportunity to practice. During this time of beehive activity the Battalion Chief would stop by and speak with the company officers and observe the members diligently training. Once he was satisfied he’d mosey on to do Chief things. Once the Chief departed the tools and equipment was put back in place and for the remaining time, for the most part, it was gab time.

However the FDNY recently initiated a Probationary Firefighter Rotation Program, where every proby hired had to be detailed to other companies for a 1 year period from the one they were assigned to. The detailed experience would enhance their training and development for their first three years on the job. I thought this was an excellent program for the new young gung-ho troopers. I embraced their eagerness and used the gab time to practice setting up the ladder pipe to perfection. And wouldn’t you know it, months later, L5 was operating at a multiple alarm near midtown whereupon the Incident Commander ordered us to set up the ‘ladder pipe’.

At that job we set up the ladder pipe smoothly and proficiently without a hitch. Although we we did not receive water which would have completed our mission it did stop Commissioner Von Essen in his tracks as he happened to be passing by, taking notice and exclaiming; “Is that a ladder Pipe?” He appeared amazed.

Another procedure that I launched as a L 5 LCC was raising the aerial to the roof for the ‘Roofman’ whenever the situation dictated despite any indication of smoke or fire. When I transferred to L 5 the ladder policy was that the aerial wasn’t raised unless there was a confirmed fire, otherwise the ladder was left in the bed. I was uncomfortable with this bad habit, for the roofman stood fast next to the LCC awaiting a report from the company officer before he’d react. This didn't sit right with me and I was not geared for that style of indifference from my previous experiences. So, once again, with the new proby rotation program in mind I made it a point that anytime we responded to an isolated building with a report of an odor or smoke I immediately raised and placed the aerial to the roof and had the “Roofman” proceed to their position. I was not going to be the one to enable bad habits to these troopers.

I recall a L 5 officer coming out of the building after his investigation when he turned and noticed that the ladder was placed to the roof; he quizzically questioned; “You put the ladder up?” The Boss was taken by surprise for a second but I could tell he readily supported the action, in fact he told me so when we got back in the cab of the rig. From then on I raised the aerial each and every time I felt it necessary and soon the other LCCs started to catch on and do the same.

I loved working Saturday mornings, especially on a Saturday morning when I pulled off half of the extension ladders from the rear of the truck and washed them down, it was my thing. The next nice Saturday I’d work I would complete the ladder inventory and so on. Most of the time there was a company proby or rotation proby eager to help out and I enjoyed their zeal to help. Just chatting with them they all seemed to be ambitious young lads and I relished their passion to learn. And so, we’d chat about their experiences so far, and casually I’d incorporate portable ladder tidbits such as placement into our conversation as we cleaned them, sort of an impromptu lesson.

As an LCC, I felt responsible for our crew especially when we had covering officers, many who were exceptionally young with little fire duty experiences. It was a dilemma well known in the first division for young promoted officers. As such, I knew the weaknesses and strengths of the members riding for the tour, especially who had ‘time on’ and ‘time on with fire duty’. And I appreciated any extracurricular training the department afforded to sharpen our skills.

One afternoon it was our turn scheduled to head for Randall's Island, “The Rock” for a hands-on firefighting tactic scenario. The scenario would be a ‘surprise’. We worked alongside an engine company from Queens at the “Class A” building that was designed to be a tenement with a railroad flat footprint. Into the drill the instructors incorporated a “Mayday, downed firefighter” problem. L 5 had to rescue and recover an unconscious ‘dummy’ firefighter and safely remove him from the tenement. That day we had a stellar crew with Lieutenant Mike Warchola at the helm and after all was said and done we passed the evaluation with flying colors.

Heading back home to the Village we were all giddy, sweaty and proud of ourselves, but just before exiting the Rock I noticed a very nice jolly ol’ chap on the grassy knoll politely waving and gesturing for me to stop the rig. In his hand I wasn’t sure if he was holding a Big Mac or camera, but nonetheless I pulled the rig to the curb. The gentleman approached with a fervent smile, he introduced himself and kindly requested to take a few snaps of our newly striped and lettered rig. And little did anyone know, that in this small world it would become the dawn of a remarkable friendship a short time later with me and the famous Mr. Willy!...I'm happy to present Mr. Willys iconic photo with yours truly behind the wheel in my office...

willie classic L5.jpg

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed. KMG-365
 
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