Cleaning out Dad's house, I came across a treasure trove of pictures. The old school gear and methods shown warm my heart and bring back memories of when the job was big red trucks, revolving lights flashing, and the undulations of the siren under the officer's foot. At 8 year old, this was long before I understood the reality of the danger and ugliness at the core of firefighting. The smell of wood smoke permeating Dad's white duck coat, the three-quarter boots on the floor of the back seat, and the old Cairns helmet resting on top were my companions on every trip in the car.
Going to a live fire training was better than Christmas. And in this one, we made our own snow. Hi-expansion foam wasn't common back then and is less so now. For a wide-eyed 8 year old, it was an amazing experience.
Looking past the foam generator toward Dad in the, shall we say, more utilized white coat.
Our "snow" going into and back out of the building.
Sorting through old pictures, we discovered a now poignant shot, long forgotten. The two sets of bunker pants, one real, the other real enough for the owner, sitting side-by-side awaiting a call. I remember the line advancement with pretend hose and search drills the little guy did in the living room. The boots, his, are bigger now and the pants real. It was a joy watching him grow into them and taking him inside his first time. Memories are a good thing.
The experience of being a live-in firefighter is one
that most who have ever done it would not trade for anything.“Living the dream,” it is called by many,
particularly those who never had the opportunity, and they are not wrong.
A few things do change, arguably for the better, after
you move out and on.Language is
one.Fire stations are not kind to the
vocabulary.The F-word is not only a
noun, verb, and adjective, but in skilled firehouse hands, can be used as
punctuation.I remember having to
consciously restrict myself when outside the station in “normal” company to
avoid saying things like “pass the f@^*ing potatoes.”As time passes, so does the propensity to
use the F-word in every sentence.Once
or twice a paragraph suffices.
Sleep improves as well.When living in the station, I think I slept
eight straight hours once a week, maybe. Between calls, staying up late bullshitting,
and calls, three to five hours was a normal night’s sleep.This experience is excellent practice for the
period following the birth of your first and subsequent children.That amount of sleep would now leave me on a
continuous coffee intravenous.
The live-in opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime
experience. Thankfully, it is one you only get to do when you’re young.