Friday, July 29, 2011

Mike and Grandpa

Both my son Mike and my Dad had an unusual experience recently. Mike was helping out at a structural burn class, and Grandpa, still a New York State Fire Instructor, was able to stop by for a bit to watch. It’s not often you get to see fire fighters with the same last name together, who are separated by 57 years of age........

Thursday, July 28, 2011


That the Probie was not a rocket scientist was apparent. Like all, he had to go through an initiation—hazing some would call it. Unlike most, he fell for everything they threw at him.

The water fountain was a case in point. A standard brown industrial model with a silver curved outlet and drain in the center of the bowl; identical to the type the kid had to have seen hundreds of times before in elementary school. The three guys working him over weren’t much past him chronologically. They were ages older experience wise, however.

“Don’t you know one of your jobs is to make sure this water fountain is full,” one of them told him.

“Jesus, you don’t want it to run dry,” said the second.

Unaware, the Captain walked out of his office and dumped the remnants of ice and water from a cup into the drain and turned back.

“Holy shit, you don’t want the Captain having to fill the thing for you do you?” said the third. The Captain pretended to hear nothing and with a slight shake of his head, returned to the stacks of paper work in his office, having seen this, or similar routines hundreds of times before.

From the look on the rookies face the three knew they had him hooked and proceeded to other tasks while watching the kid out of the corner of their eyes. Probie found the largest pot he could in the kitchen and proceeded to fill it with about five gallons of water. Lugging it over, he tipped the awkward vessel up to fill what he was convinced was the fountain reservoir. The drain, not sized to take more than the small stream from the quarter inch outlet, immediately overflowed, soaking the kid and the surrounding floor. The Captain walked out of his office, surveyed the wet floor and Probie, shook his head again, and returned to his office. The laughter from the three “older” firefighters was loud, but another lesson was learned, and tradition passed on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Question

One of my writing group friends had an interesting comment after reading a chapter from the first draft of my book.

“Tell me about the emotions you are feeling when dealing with such a critical situation,” he said.

I gave him a terrible answer that didn’t really encompass how it really is. This is what I should have told him.

You don’t really “feel” during the incident. You have to perform. Any feelings are buried deep inside. If you let your emotions come out at that time, the job wouldn’t get done.

Even afterward, we don’t handle things the way one might expect. Firefighters are witness to many ugly tragic events. The longer you do it, the more of them you see. Everyone deals with these things differently.

I compartmentalize these incidents. You can’t think about them constantly or even regularly or you’d go crazy. I stick these them in a corner of my mind behind a door in an attic room that only gets visited on occasion. You have to go there every so often to maintain your humanity, but not so often as to destroy your ability to do the job.

Everyone who does this job for an extended period of time is a very different person than they would have been had they done something else. You can’t see and experience the things we do and not have it change who you are.

For myself, I think it has made me more immune to people’s suffering, harder, and more distant. Not because I don’t care, but as a protective mechanism.

At the same time, it has made me more sensitive. I avoid sad movies; simple things like the boy’s dog getting shot that have little or no effect on “normal” people who find such stories entertaining. These bother me.

The way I look at it, I go out and expose myself to real world tragedies. I don’t want to watch a movie or television program about fictional one’s for entertainment purposes.

Probably not the answer he would expect, but its how it is; for me at least.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RIP Ralph

We lost Ralph this past weekend, a shock due to the unexpectedness. I have to believe he's in a better place now, and will be playing golf every day while waiting for the New York Giants to take the field this fall.

I'm guessing there might be an ambulance up there, hopefully orange and white in color. It probably doesn't get much use, but that will be fine with Ralph; he spent more than his share of time running calls in one on this earth.

If there is an orange and white camper, as we used to call it, up there, he's staffing it with John, who we lost a few years back. Ralph and John were the Mutt and Jeff of ambulance officer's who could finish each others sentences and were inseparable.

Ralph's wonderful wife Pat asked for the picture of the three of us for his wake. She said it meant so much that it was in the book. It means a lot to me that she would think so but feels so very strange to look at it now as the last man standing.

RIP Ralph, you will be missed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Getting Old

I was jotting down some thoughts for my book, and a some interesting dividing lines by decade came to mind on how much interior firefighting I could do came to mind.

At eighteen or twenty, I could go through three air bottles, overhaul, clean and pack up the equipment, and go home and rest for forty five minutes, and be ready to go again.

At thirty, age and judgment limited me to two tanks, and it took a couple hours before I felt back to normal.

At forty, I could still do two bottles, but the recovery time was now extended to the next day.

Now on the leading edge of fifty, I try to limit myself to one tank. I can work after that, but it's limited to some light overhaul, definitely not the heavy stuff. Once home, I head for the bathroom; not to shower, which will come in a bit, but for the aspirin container, trying to head off the inevitable aches and pains. They arrive anyway, and stay to visit now for a good thirty six hours.

It's a bitch getting old.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Signings - August 2011


Why?—a simple question firefighters should be asking more.

Why don’t we have more cost effective access to technology? From the time the first firefighter entered a burning building, visibility—seeing through smoke—has been an issue. Bulky hand held infrared cameras became the so-called solution. Heavy, costly, and typically limited in quantity, they gave one or two guys the clear knowledge of what’s around them while everyone else continues to do it the old fashioned way—blind. Why doesn’t every SCBA face piece have a head’s up display with an infrared picture?

We’ve known for around two hundred years that sprinklers are our best friend in controlling fires and yet they aren’t required in new construction in some states. One state—Pennsylvania—actually repealed their mandatory sprinkler law after a rabid lobbying campaign by the building construction boys. Why?

We continue to open roofs manually that we’ve reached with aerial ladders or platforms. How come there isn’t an automated device attached to the end of the stick that can quickly and safely open the roof, controlled by an operator on the ground or ladder. Why?

How come we train our people in artificial environments that bear about as much relation to real burning buildings as Congress does to a deliberative body? Ooops, I forgot. We used to train in real environments but can’t anymore. Nevermind.

Finally, do you, like me, wonder why the simple practice of painting a piece of equipment, that is used in hundreds of industries, the color red and putting the word “fire” in it’s name automatically increases the price three fold. Why?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Technology, a wonderful thing?

Technology can be a wonderful thing—sometimes. Twice in the last month, I’ve been able to watch video of fire ground operations, and see my son go in the door—exciting and heartwarming stuff—at least to me.

“Michelle, come see this, it’s great.” She stared silently at the computer screen, hearing the sirens from incoming apparatus, the breaking of glass in the building, the thump of ladders hitting the exterior walls. Music to my ears. Her face had a pinched look, lips drawn together.

“There’s Mike,” I pointed to a firefighter going in the doorway of the burning building. There was a narrowing of her eyes.

“Are you trying to make my acid reflux act up on purpose?” she asked.

“Why, this is just good solid work here—nothing out of the ordinary or exceptionally dangerous.”

I don’t want to know if that’s what he’s doing all the time, and I definitely don’t want to see. Look, there’s fire up there over his head where he just went in,” she said.

“That’s fine,” I said, “they’re getting it from the inside.”

“Thanks, I’ve seen enough. I don’t want to know.”

I remember my Mom used to enjoy seeing an occasional fire, until I joined. Then her reaction became similar to Michelle’s. I guess it’s a good thing YouTube didn’t exist when I was coming up……

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fireground Discussion & Photography features "Fire Men"

Fireground Discussion & Photography
July 16, 2011

If You're Currently a 2nd Generation or Have Kids That Will Be in the Future - This Is a Great Read

If your a 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation firefighter or you have small children that will be your 2nd generation this is a great read. Read the following excerpt from his book and you will see what I mean...............

"He followed me out the front door onto the snow covered lawn. We both knelt down and removed our helmets and face pieces.
My son and I, together.
I looked over at him as he stared at the house, now only light smoke was coming from the front door. 'Did you enjoy it I asked?'
He just nodded back at me, with a satisfied look on his face.
I always thought it would be great to be there for his first time inside, but I never knew it would actually happen. I had just lived a dream. Emotions welled up inside me, flowing through my system. I thought I was going to cry. He wasn't my little boy anymore."

Click the following link for more information:

Friday, July 15, 2011

1st Responder News review preview

"Fire Men is a book excellently written in a way members in the emergency services can relate. I have read and reviewed many novels mostly about members of large, career fire departments. The fact that the author is a volunteer is academic as the stories are just as action packed as the ones taking place in large and small fire departments with career members. We are all brothers and sister saving lives in the midst of danger!"

-John M. Malecky, On the book Shelf, 1st Responder News

Full review will posted online in February 2012.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Midwest Book Review

An excellent read and very highly recommended reading for those seeking memoirs and stories about fire fighting

To battle the force of destruction itself can be something so very daunting. "Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family" is a familial memoir from Gary R. Ryman as he tells his story of how he, his son, and his father have made their line of fire fighters, telling the stories that can only come from a growing line of fire fighters. Thoughtful and profound, "Fire Men" is an excellent read and very highly recommended reading for those seeking memoirs and stories about fire fighting.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

WVIA-FM ArtScene radio interview

Gary will be interviewed by WVIA-FM's Erika Funke for a radio interview for her show ArtScene on August 8th at 1:30 p.m.

Stay tuned for an official air date!