Oh Those Busy Fourth of Julys

nfd2004

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Being the Fourth of July, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the busy Fourth of July"s in the 1980s and 1990s. It was the closest to what could be compared to the busy War Years. I remember making it a yearly trip. During the day, the City Parks would be "packed" with people. Around 6 PM all the reserve rigs (500 series) would be coming into service. They would be assigned to report to various staging area firehouses. One such firehouse was the quarters of Eng 276/Lad 156, because they had a large parking lot next to the firehouse. I believe there were also reserve Battalions brought in. Maybe Batt 71, 72 etc.
  As it got dark around 9 PM the Action started. And it was non stop for most of the rest of the night. With all the fireworks, rockets going off, it was like being in a War Zone. Riding down the street, all the windows in the car had to be up to prevent a stray rocket from coming into the car. The streets were just taken over by the people. I remember being in Brooklyn, and not seeing any police around. My buddy and I had talked about that. "Where were the cops". We soon found out as we passed one of the police precincts. All the cops had basically surrounded the precinct guarding the station house.
  One year in the Bronx, we had taken in a good all hands. As the fire was brought under control, we were heading back to the car when another job came in less than two blocks away. It was on the Grand Concourse, not far so we just ran to it. We were there just as the rigs were pulling up. Fire was blowing out the front of a Taxpayer. It went to a Second Alarm. Caught another Taxpayer job on Jerome Ave near the Cross Bronx Expressway just a few years ago. Got off the Cross Bronx and Eng 75 and Lad 33 had just pulled up. Heavy fire blowing out the front with a possible squatter inside. That went to a Fourth Alarm and nobody was found inside.
  You were sure to catch some work on the Fourth of Julys in the 80s and 90s. It was like the busy War Years all over again for one day.
     
 

nfd2004

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If anybody wants to list the jobs that went on for this years Fourth of July, I would be interested in that. It seemed like there were more jobs than recent previous years just from what I read. Plus I think July 3rd was a busy night too.
  The weather was Great, people had been cooped up in their apts because of the bad weather recently, it was a Saturday night and a Full Moon. All contribute to a busy night.
  If it was a busy one, I might have to consider making plans for a buff trip next year. Anybody want to join me ?
 

catry

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Not exact numbers but I counted about 16 All-Hands and 3 2nd Alarms from 21:30 hours on July 3rd to 3:00 hours on July 5th.  I'm guessing that's not even a fraction of what there used to be!
 

nfd2004

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Well Catery, thanks for the comeback. Actually thats a pretty busy night. Yes, there were busier years in the 80s and 90s, but it seems to me, alot of years, maybe after the year 2000 it seemed to really slow down.  And those hours you talk about from 21:30 to 0300 were always the busy times. Thanks my friend. Overall I"d say a pretty busy night for the FDNY.
  Just one question, for anybody. Except for the extra companies assigned to the Fireworks Duty, were there any extra units assigned for regular fire duty.
 

nfd2004

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Sorry, but I see Catry had this posted on Citywide, listing the jobs for this years Fourth of July. Thats what I was looking for.
 

FD347

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We haven't had spare units staffed for 7/4 in a long time. I think the last time was around 1998. Maybe even 1996. I forget. It was right after Giuliani killed the fireworks.

Last week we had an active 7/4 but by no definition of the word was it busy.

 

nfd2004

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KickAssBlaster said:
Giuliani did what?


  Yes, I forget the details, but there was a big campaign to cut down on any fireworks, "And it worked". I think anybody caught with fireworks was arrested. I think even a few shipments coming in from other states were caught. I think there was even an anti fireworks squad put in be the NYPD. Also a big radio and TV campaign that fireworks were illegal. Within a year or two, fireworks were pretty much a thing of the past.
  This past Fourth of July (2009) was one of the busiest in a long time.
 

R1SmokeEater

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Audio clips recorded on July 4th, 1990- one of the last "busy" ones. This is the last clip, there are 9 before it.
http://www.youtube.com/v/YdAhD4q9Vkw&hl=en&fs=1&"
 

jeepcj85

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I live in Worcester, MA and it went the same way here. In the 70s, 80s and 90s the procedure was to bring an ENTIRE tour on as overtime. This would put into service an additional 4-5 extra engines, 2 trucks, 2 forestry units, a second heavy rescue, and 3 chiefs. Total compliment would be around 21 engines, 9 trucks, 2 rescues, 4 district chiefs and 2 deputy chiefs. It would also boost staffing to 1+4, 1+5 or 1+6 for all companies. 600-800 runs and 10- 20 structural fires over the 2 nights would be the norm for years. Even with the extra help, fire alarm would routinely run out of companies. 2-3 story high bonfires in the middle of intersections were routine in a few areas. Bleachers at ballfields were set on fire, and firefighters were harrassed and sometimes assaulted as fires. One Lt I know remembers rolling out of the firehouse and seeing a ball of fire coming toward the rig. As they pulled over the fire zoomed by them....it was a truck tire filled with fuel, set ablaze and rolled down the street. It was also common to pull up at a job and find all of the hydrants with tires stacked on them and lit on fire. Helmets were worn at all outside fires because of rocks and bottle rockets hurled at the men.

The fourth now sees a few dozen bonfire calls and an occasional structural fire. There is also no more overtime or additional units put into service. It all ended in the late 90s....I wonder why?
 

nfd2004

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"jeepcj85", same thing a few miles South East of Worcester. Providence, R.I. went through the same thing. For me it was a choice of buffing Providence or NYC on July 3rd, and 4th. Providence would man Five Reserve Engines, Two Reserve Ladders, and three brush trucks. Plus they would bring in Mutual aid companies from the surrounding Cities. As soon as darkness set in, the action started and it was non-stop. One year we were taking in a job and as we got off the exit of I-95 was a 2 1/2 frame - Fully Involved. I said to the guy I was with "There it is". He said; "No NOT that one", "the job we're going to is Two three deckers", referring to (2) three story frames. We rode right by that 2 1/2 frame with no units on the scene, just as units were being dispatched. One year one of the guys kept track of just the "fire calls", not counting responding to EMS Medical calls, because they also do the ambulance work there. On that July 4th, there were over 200 fire calls, such as rubbish, cars, and building fires. Of those over "200" calls were "Ten - Code Reds", or working fires. That's a lot for a City of about 170,000 people with regular 15 Engines, 8 Ladder Cos, and a Heavy Rescue, plus their rescue ambulances. And a lot of these fires were in big wood frames with severe exposure problems. By the time the action was over, usually about 2 AM, the entire city was covered with smoke from these jobs. That Providence Fire Dept did one heck of a job. There were times that the fires seemed to actually create their own wind storm, and how they didn"t loose blocks is only a miracle. Hats off to those guys that worked in these busy years. Like Worcester, Providence no longer has those busy Fourth of July's. But they still have One Great Dept protecting that city. Excellent Firefighting as I see it.
 

BritishAndy

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Hi Guys,
I know this topic hasn?t been touched for a year, but reading about the 4th July and the activities of the FD to cater for it, reminds me so much of our British `Guy Fawkes Nights` - or Bonfire Night - the 5th November.
The tradition started due to the Gunpowder Plot on the 5th November 1605 when a group of Catholic conspirators led by Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the British Houses of Parliament and assassinate King James I.
Unfortunately for Fawkes, somebody had tipped the authorities off and he was collared in the cellar of the Houses of Parliament a few hours before the attempt and subsequently executed!
Since then and up to the present day, it is a British tradition to let off fireworks and set bonfires in the run up to and cumulating on the 5th November. Children would build effigies of Guy Fawkes who would then be thrown onto the bonfire!

Unfortunately ? or fortunately for us buffs, since the 1960?s Bonfire Night has been an excuse for kids (and some adults) to set fire to anything and everything.
Often huge piles of scrap furniture, wood, fences and such like would be donated or stolen and bonfires built on waste ground or fields, or even in the middle of streets!
In days gone by the bonfires would be a neighbourhood party with barrels of beer brought out and even pianos for a sing-song! However should the radiating heat threaten nearby parked cars or premises, the Fire Brigade would be called for, and they would be invariably seen as ruining a good party!

Traditionally the week leading up to the 5th November is always the busiest period for British Firefighters, although like most things, it was far, far busier years ago than today. It is dependant on the area of Britain ? for example major cities such as London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow are hectic. Yet rural areas like Dorset, Hampshire, Wales, the Lake District are virtually sleepy.

Some examples for you from my brigade ? Merseyside, who cover Liverpool

In 1985 they answered 4250 emergency calls between 1800hrs and midnight on the 5th November.

1998 that figure was 3210

2006 it was 6000+ (this was because 5th November fell on a Saturday)

2009 it was back down to 3000+

This may not seem too busy to you guys, but Merseyside have 26 full-time (career) stations and cover a relatively small area.

Unfortunately, city officials have taken steps to ensure each Bonfire Night gets quieter every year. They send round garbage trucks in the days leading up to Bonfire Night to remove wood and debris. Any bonfires getting built are pulled down and removed.
Merseyside Fire Brigade now will only respond to a bonfire if it is reported to be close to property or cars, and even then, control (dispatch) will stack the calls until a pump (engine company) is available and redirect them to it ? this can often take anything between 45 minutes and two hours!
They do however respond immediately to structure fires, though if things get real busy the introduce a ?reduced attendance policy? in which a single pump will attend ALL responses including structure fires. They would then need to request back up upon arrival.

I have buffed Bonfire Nights in Liverpool for the last fifteen years and have had some incredible nights, I will share some stories with you guys if you are interested?

All the best
Andy
 

rdm258

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Andy,
  I would love to hear some of the stories as others would too. Plus do you have any pics or a link to your dept so a visual can also be introduced into your stories. Thank you very much
Rob
 

BritishAndy

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Hi Rob, Thanks for showing an interest. To save waffling on and potentially boring you guys, I found an old report I made from one particularly busy Bonfire Night in 2006. It might not sound much, but we attended 31 seperate fire incidents between around 2pm and midnight, we missed a good few more due to either driving or being out of the car and away from the scanner. It was so busy that night that our dispatch centre (control) didnt have enough staff to answer emergency calls, they had to be transfered to the Police and adjacent fire brigades...this is unheard of!
Anyway, below is my report - sorry if it's a bit long and I have but some explanations in incase you guys were wondering what is was.


Merseyside Fire Service experienced one of their busiest bonfire nights for several years last night which resulted in some VERY unusual appliance movements.
I thought it a good idea to try and keep a record of all calls we attended, and any incidents of note I heard, this should keep the historians amused in decades to come !

I won?t post the details of all 31incidents we attended, however read on to see the result of a very, very busy night....

Started at 14.00 and immediately evident that it was busy with crews getting turned out to bonfires around the city. Our first call we came across was a bonfire in Parthenon Drive, Norris Green - S8.2 (Old Swan) (Engine Company) attended. Interestingly they only extinguished the small bonfire which stood next to the huge pile of unlit timber, furniture, wheelie bins.

At this stage, plumes of smoke could be seen in all directions but before we could investigate, we headed to Branthwaite Crescent, Norris Green for a reported derelict house fire. The PDA of S8.2 and N3.1 (Croxteth) (two engines) arrived and found it to be rubbish to the rear of the house.
More bonfires followed, with most appliances proceeding at normal road speed and without blue lights, it was now 15.11 and we had taken in seven shouts already!!! Our next call of note was to the bin sheds on fire, Langholme Heights, Lower Lane, Fazakerley (hi-rise apartment block) - again N3 Croxteths area. No sooner had we arrived, then we were re-directing to an empty pub on fire in Toxteth. This was a bit of distance away, about 15 minutes but we continued due to the nature of WM Pikes informative " basement, ground and first floor of derelict pub involved ".(WM is a Watch Manager - Lieutenant in charge of a Engine company, an informative is a radio message to dispatch giving a size up of the fire) Needless to say when we arrived the fire was `licked` and the battalions of youths in the area made photos pointless.

Next up was another derelict building, this time a house fire, King Street Garston. Unfortunately, although this wasn?t an actual building on fire - the crews were attacked with bricks ! S1 Allerton took the wise choice to withdraw until police help arrived. Quite why these individuals should see crews as targets is beyond me, and it?s about time tougher sentences were handed out - like a flogging !!!

At this stage we were zipping across Liverpool going to various bonfires, and activity on the radio was quite brisk. One appliance from C4 Low Hill (C4.2) had mobilised to a fire on Townsend Lane, Walton. However on arrival he immediately `made pumps 2`(request a second engine) as this fire appeared to be a large number of tyres behind large hoardings. Police patrols attended to manage the traffic and S8.1 (Old Swan) completed the attendance.

It was night-time by now and approaching 17.30, things were steadily getting busier and busier. Our next call was to a reported building on fire, Spekeland Road, Wavertree. This road lies to the rear of the famous Edge Hill Railway Station. Additional info gave this as a `tyre garage on fire` attendance was two pumps. The large plume of thick black smoke as we were enroute confirmed this as a definate fire, however upon arrival it was indeed tyres on fire - but on wasteland in the open.

Unfortunately our next `shout` was probably one of the most dramatic of the evening. Both of C2 Liverpool City?s` pumps were sent to a house fire at Selbourne Street, Toxteth. Control informed the crews that this was a `call received from a child on mobile phone stating fence on fire, spread to house, possible persons reported`. We were literally seconds away from the incident whereas C2 were about 5 minutes away !
When we arrived at Selbourne Street the first thing we noticed was a crowd of spectators - an ominous sign ! To our surprise we found the rear of the house `engulfed` by flames with people shouting in the street ! I suppose with most of us, being `fire buffs` we appreciate the dangers of fire more than the general public, so to find ourselves on the scene of a very serious house fire with possible people still trapped inside and no fire brigade attendance, made us very anxious to say the least ! Thankfully - and I do mean thankfully, C2.1 and C2.2 arrived moments later and went about their work quickly and expertly.
It transpired that youths had set fire to the fence of this property which in turn had spread to the rear of the house. Fortunately, the elderly lady occupier was already out, albeit shaken and upset.

It was now just after shift change and it had turned hectic! We continued around, finding W1 Birkenhead attending an AFA (automatic fire alarm) at Philharmonic Court, Liverpool ! and S6 Toxteth at a stack of pallets on fire, Laurel Road, Kensington.
Our next incident then arrived. C4 Low Hill (C4.1) was enroute to a bonfire when he was re-directed to an office building on fire, Walton Road. Control must have took numerous calls to this as the PDA was increased with C1.1 Kirkdale. We were not too far away ourselves but both pumps arrived before us. Then C4.1 tried to pass an assistance message from the job but couldn?t get through via the radio, such was the volume of radio traffic. For three minutes he tried before he managed a `make pumps 3 for BA`.(request another two engines for SCBA) We arrived to find smoke issuing from a shop / flats building. C1.2 made up the third pump and `India One` - the IMU (Command Van - attends all three pump incidents and above)also attended. However good work by BA teams soon had the job licked and we continued.

Unfortunately from this point all hell was let loose with continuous calls streaming into control and appliances getting sent everywhere. Merseyside operate four radio channels, one for reserve so you can imagine trying to keep abreast of three channels of continuous radio activity was impossible. We quickly headed over to Breckside Park, Anfield were a large derelict house was reported to be alight. Imagine our surprise when we found a pump each from W1 Birkenhead and W6 Wallasey in attendance !! Both had come some distance to attend it was still only 19.00 hours !!

Again, we could only stay minutes as another potentially serious fire call came in - shop on fire, Lodge Lane, Toxteth. By now, the reduced attendance of a single pump was in force. We had hardly got going to Lodge Lane when a further fire call was received to a warehouse on fire, New Bird Street, Liverpool. This area has been the scene of many big jobs and no doubt that?s why control chose to send two pumps. Upon arrival crews found rubbish alongside a warehouse and the stop was quickly passed.
We then headed up to Cockburn Street (pronounced Coburn) Dingle to see S9 Belle Vale at a car fire on the football pitches. This was just streets away to where the famous Liverpool comedy `Bread` was filmed. With no sign of the Boswells !! we met up with Stephen Bell (another local buff) and immediately continued to our next shout - shop fire, Coral Racing, Townsend Lane. We only had a chance however to quickly drive past this address (no sign of fire to us, but there was a small fire inside the shop), before going to a `make pumps 3` flats on fire persons reported in nearby Kilshaw Street, Anfield. Here, crews rescued five people and a baby after some lowlife had thrown a firework into an empty ground floor flat. This in turn spread to other flats in the block.
We arrived to find a large ambulance and police attendance including one bobby on a 4x4 quad bike !! Smoke was billowing from all windows of the three-storey block but yet again it was onwards and a call to a warehouse on fire, Jordan Street, Liverpool. This was the street adjacent to the previous shout to New Bird Street and we suspected it could be a flare up of the previous fire.
W1.1 (Birkenhead) was on his own for this, however when he arrived he immediately made pumps three and shortly after aerials one (requires two more engines and one ladder truck). It was a completely separate warehouse from the previous call. This was a disused, single-storey type premise and was well alight inside. Crews used three main jets and a CPL monitor to quell the flames. The additional attendance was S9.1 Belle Vale and S8.2 Old Swan - usually about the 10th and 12th pumps to this location !!! The CPL (Bronto Aerial Ladder Platform) came from C2 Liverpool City.
At the same time as this incident, a further pump was mobilised to an empty pub on fire on nearby Stanhope Street - literally about 500m from the MP3. This transpired to be underground cables on fire.
By now the crews at the warehouse fire were gaining the upper hand so we managed a few more quick pictures and carried on.
At this stage we heard the most unusual attendance of the night, a single pump from N4 Crosby (N4.1) mobilised to a derelict house on fire in Shelly Grove, Garston !!!
This is literally from one end of the county to the other and the appliance had to travel through SIX station areas to reach the incident.
Upon arrival he sent an assistance message to make pumps two, aerials one - three unoccupied houses well alight. This assigned S8.1 (Old Swan) and the retained-manned CPL from W1 Birkenhead.
We hung around The Strand near to the Liver Buildings and waited for the CPL to pass us `on the bell`.

Our final incident of the day was yet another derelict building, this time at Goodall Street, Kirkdale. Again, single pump attendance this time from N4 Crosby (N4.2) and upon arrival, thick black smoke was billowing from the top floor and attic of this large, three-storey building. N4.2 sent an assistance message `make pumps 2` however a rapid water attack by BA men soon knocked down this fire and the second pump was cancelled.

And so concludes one of the busiest bonfire nights I?ve experienced in ten years of following the brigade. No doubt we missed other incidents of note, but we did the best we could to keep tabs on this hectic period.

Some other interesting facts about last night....

At one stage, control was so overwhelmed with 999 calls, operators were forced to re-route them to Lancashire Fire Service and Greater Manchester.

At one stage, a friend tried to pass a 999 call for a car fire but spent 10 minutes trying to get through, before the operator put him through to Merseyside Police who took the details!!!!!
 

nfd2004

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July 4, 2010. This year, it will be a long weekend for most people. Barbecues, Beaches, Parks, hamburgers, hot dogs, beer, soda, potatoe salad. Hopefully, the weather will hold out and people will have a safe enjoyable holiday weekend. But for some, like police officers, nurses, our military, and firefighters will still be required to work.
  In years past, firefighters from some cities have faced the busiest shifts of the entire year on the Fourth of July. With the economy not doing so well, many of these cities have a much larger abondoned building population than in the past few years. I've seen in the past in cities like N.Y. and Providence, R.I. that these are a favorite target for arsonist around the Fourth of July. It has been stated on the "Other War Years" by "puffynpfd" that the Providence area has an increase in the amount of vacant buildings. I was recently there and can attest to that.
  So it remains to be seen what the long holiday weekend of July 4, 2010 will be for some of those busy depts. My only hope is that nobody gets hurt putting themselves in danger for some vacant buildings.
  For those who haven't read some of the previous post, I hope you'll check them out. "r1smokeater" has some great audio of a Fourth of July from the 1990's with plenty of action.
 

engine6

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nfd2004, Im on shift this Sunday. The sale of illegal fireworks (with the promise not to discharge in the city) has greatly increased. The city expects thousands of visitors, as is the case every year. The fourth being on a Sunday will play into effect also im sure. I caught the tail end of the busy fourth's back when I started. Hopefully this year will be a safe one for everyone. My company is in an area that is similar to bourbon st in N.O. so im sure we will run. Maybe Ill have a few stories to post in a few!  Everyone enjoy the weekend and be safe.
 

mack

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I rememeber the years before Giuliani wiped out fireworks in NYC.  There was a haze of smoke, every boro, all night long.  Bon fires. Trash burning.  Fireworks starting roof fires.  
http://www.nyc.gov/html/om/html/98a/pr165-98.html

Some July 4th videos:

July 4, 1993
STATter911.com: Fire buffs in New York July 4, 1993

July 4 1994 E75
FDNY Engine 75 July 4th, 1994 w/ 10-75
FDNY Engine 75 July 4th, 1994 w/ 10-75 Part 2
FDNY Engine 75 July 4th, 1994 w/ 10-75 Part 3

July 4 2007 Bklyn
FDNY 07-04-07 STREETS OF BROOKLYN, NY 4TH OF JULY
 

nfd2004

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"Engine6", let the people have their fun, but you and your Brothers be careful and take care of yourselves. After it's all over, we hope you do have a few stories to tell. Happy Fourth to All.
 I'll be working too. At my P/T security guard job. It's a good job, but not like my younger days of being in the firehouse, or chasing the rigs of the FDNY or Providence, R.I.
 For me the Fourth of July was real special. If I was able to go to buff the FDNY I'd stay at the Econo Lodge in the Bronx on Baychester Ave. If I went to buff the Providence area, it was the Motel 6 in Warwick, R.I. Nothing really too fancy but a decent place to clean up and catch some winks after a busy holiday night. And Breakfast in the morning at Micky Ds. It just doesn't get any better than that.
  And "mack" thank you very much for posting those videos. And like you, I remember the haze from the smoke all night long. And the paper on the streets from the exploded fireworks. Some streets it was like driving through a war zone. Rockets and explosions coming from both sides of the street. Add in the sirens and air horns as the rigs responded to the hundreds of calls that started to come in just after it got dark around 9 PM. And it was Non-stop until about 3 AM. Again, you just had to be there to see what we are talking about.
 

rdm258

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I used to Love the 4th in Brooklyn especially during the 80's. I grew up in Canarsie so it was still a good neighborhood but the great "white flight" was beginning. My dad was on the job in the 63 pct so we stayed till he retired. It seems that all the candy stores were selling fireworks along with the older kids in the school yards. By 5 in the evening the trash from all the fireworks was usually burning in the street, garbage cans,trees, and o'course Seaview Park and the Padergat's used to go up every 4th. Within a 4 block radius seems that Engine 257 and TL 170 were out ALL DAY. I do remember one of the Officers from the Engine talking to my father about tyring to keep the block under control. My Dad would try, but on the 4th was a free for all.( On the 5th I begged my dad to take me to the fire house on Rockaway Parkway, he did, but was able to see in his face that he knew I was not going to be "blue", ALL RED. I was so excited to be their and we brought them Ave L Pizza, mom's idea).One of those red pull box's on the corner.I swear it must get pulled like 50 times on that day. Sometimes would hear the box ringing and ringing and finally 257 would arrive and some how stopped it from ringing,they didn't seem happy. Never remember seeing a patrol car drive down E84 St,Think Gotti had something to do with that. Also anyone remember the OLD Emmons Ave and all the arcades, did they burn down. Disappeared over night it seems.At least Roll N Rooster is still there.
To all the guys on the Job please have a Safe 4th of July and the same to the rest of us and your families. Here in Tennessee fireworks are legal all year long and its actually quite. The schools have a firework safety class when they are in 5th grade. So boring here in the South. To much rain for brush, don't have ADV,Homes are usually sprinkled and all have AFA's. We do get trailer fires A LOT,to me seems like its a dumpster fire with wheels. Always fully involved by time we arrive.
Working also doing a 48, the first 24 on the Engine and the OT on the 4th is on the Medic Unit, Ugghhh,
Sorry got of topic. Anyway Everyone here--Happy Fourth Of Jul  STAY SAFE
RD
 
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