- Mar 5, 2007
With almost a 60 year relationship with the fire service, I have seen a lot. I began first going to fires with the Civil Defense in Yonkers, and then spent 37 years with the FDNY and in some of the best companies ( E 96, Sq. 2, E 75, Bn 19, E 75, Lt E 68 and Capt. E 23) on the job. During those years I have worked with some of the best firemen in the world. There were numerous medal winners among them. But getting a medal is not the only way to be known as a good firemen A good fireman is a person who can overcome a natural human fear and get the job done. After evaluating a situation, weight the negative and positive you must be recognized as a team player, know your job, and strive to do better. These firemen also are the mentors to the younger members and should pass their knowledge on. When the job gets tough he is the one you want with you. It is very difficult to say who was the best fireman . Ever department has individuals who have these qualities to get the job done.
If I had to pick one out, it would be Lt. James McClay ( The Sgt Major} of Squad 2. He was a tall impressive man with a handlebar mustache. He looked like a British Sgt. Major. IN MY OPINION HE WAS THE TOUGHEST MAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN ON OR OFF THE JOB. Like Tough Tim he was into contact sports. I heard he was playing semi-pro football into his fifties. He was also a Marine. He was a fireman in the squad before being promoted. This was very unusual as they frowned on a promoted firemen returning to their company. However, being a very persuasive individual, it happened. I believe he was a founding member of the Emerald Society Band and a friend of John T O'Hagan. Most of my knowledge of Lt. McClay came from the kitchen. Therefore please correct me if I am wrong.
My first tour (6 pm to 9 am) with him we were riding out of the Tin House, as the first section of E 85. At that time the squad was doing a round robin, riding as first sections of E73, E82 and E85. During the Adopt Response times we would ride as an engine from 3 pm till 1 am and then revert to a Squad . Our first run was for rubbish in a playground , While we were operating one of the brothers got in a verbal spat with a local. Upon returning to the Tin House, the Lt. called us to the rear of the apparatus floor. As I looked around I realized I was the only one who had not worked with him. The first thing he did is remind everyone he was the boss. If there was any exchange with the locals, he would be the one to handle the situation. Lastly, the part I liked best he told us if you did not want to go to fires get the f--king out of his group. He did not believe in R&R. When he got on the rig we better be ready for the next job. This is what I transferred in for.