Shoveling Hydrants

Three fire stations are filled with bright light as the tones echo through the old buildings. The PA system hisses, firefighters stir from their bunks, waiting to see who is going out.

“Attention Engines 12, 2 and 7, Ladder companies 3 and 7, Rescue 3 and Battalion 2 a still box.”

All eyes open, a still box at three A.M. and the tone of the man behind the mic says more than any mechanized tone ever could. There’s a fire in our district, we’ve got a job.

“Attention Engines 12, 2 and 7, Ladder Companies 3 and 7 and Rescue 3 and Battalion 2, respond to 33 Anchor Street for an occupied house fire.”

I’m driving Engine 2, we have a callback officer from the West End on board. He knows the area, but not as well as I do. He trusts me, and lets me go as we barrel out of the Branch Avenue fire house, Ladder 7, Rescue 3 and Battalion 2 following, all doors open, then closing behind us as we empty the house. I’m leading the caravan toward Anchor Street where Engine Company 12 has arrived on scene.hydrant

“Engine 12 to Fire Alarm, Code Red, heavy fire side 2, sector 3 quadrant 2”

I see smoke billowing in the distance, heavy black smoke rising above the tree line, the moonlight casting shadows, but unable to shroud the plume that guides us. My window is cracked and the smell of smoke enters the cab, my officer is gearing up, as are the two firefighters behind me.

“Engine 12 to fire alarm, charge my line!”

The 12’s are in deep, have found the fire and are ready to put it out. They do not have an endless supply of water, but soon will.

“”There’s a hydrant,” says my officer as we speed past one about a thousand feet from where Engine 12 is positioned.

“Reverse lay, there’s another two-hundred feet past the 12’s” I say.

“There better be, that’s a dead end.”

We stop briefly and one of our guys gets out and gets two double males from our rear compartment, grabs two 3″ feeder lines from the bed and signals me to go. He’ll do his part, I’m sure, and I drive steadily toward the hydrant that I shoveled ten hours ago, sitting at the end of a dead end street.

Call me weird, but I love shoveling hydrants. Meeting the people in the district, helping them with their driveways, sometimes having them help us with the hydrants, is great PR, and good exercise, and actually a lot of fun, especially when the neighborhood kids get involved.

But the best part? Knowing at three A.M., with an occupied house on fire, exactly where the closest hydrant is, knowing it is operational, and knowing we can fit the engine past the Ladder Company that has their aerial up and is straddling the peak as we squeak past, ready to vent, doing a reverse lay and establishing the water supply.

“Engine 12 operator to fire alarm, turn in the hydrant!”

“Engine 2 to Fire Alarm, water on the way!”

And I spin the spindle twelve or thirteen times, and feel the hydrant come to alive, and the sight of the feeder lines coming to life as they hop and bounce down the road toward the 12’s is one of the greatest things I have ever seen.

Engine 7 takes an additional attack line from the rear of the 12’s and backs up the firefighters on the second floor, Ladder 7 is doing a primary search, Battalion 2 has set up Anchor Command and we grab a third line and go in, knowing there will be plenty of water.

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