Lieutenant Quetta took the axe from my hands and simply said, “like this.” He put the flat part of the head between the door and the jamb, exerted some pressure and pulled the hinges away. He gave the axe back. “Now you.” I did exactly what he did on the lower hinge, the door fell over and we were in. The fire had started in a rear bedroom, the flames now rolled over the ceiling, toward us.
“Stay low,” said the Lieutenant, who
keyed the mike, placed it it the corner of his mask where sound got through and gave the command, “Engine 2, charge my line.” We were in position, the line filled, Wayne was at the pipe, he opened the gate, and blackness descended upon us. I thought my ears would melt into my helmet. Lt. Quetta moved us forward, deeper in, looking for more fire. We found plenty. And we put it out.
Later that day, when lunch was over and the cleanup began, he ordered me away from the sink where the stack of pots and pans needed to feed eleven hungry firefighters nearly reached the ceiling. “You cooked, sit down,” he said, and took over. Twenty minutes later he finished with the dishes and went into his office.
I worked with him dozens of times after that, mostly overtime shifts. I was never part of his regular crew, there was a long line of senior guys ahead of me. I learned more from him in the hundred words he spoke to me than I did in the hundreds of textbooks we are required to study.
Rest in Peace, Chief Quetta.
January 6, 2009