Days into Nights

0800

I miss getting to work an hour early, picking up the paper from the ramp, the apparatus floor ghostly quiet, entering

Morning after a multi-alarm Thanksgiving Day fire in Salem, Massachusetts

the boot room, smoke mixed with sweat and leather, gear lined up, squared away, waiting for bodies to fill it.

I miss signing the accountability sheet, seeing who was already there, climbing the stairs and entering the day room, hot coffee ready, quiet now, before the banter begins.

I miss telling the person I relieved they’re “all set,” telling my officer, “I’m with you,” then catching up on the night’s events as the sun breaks the horizon and a new day begins.

It’s the mundane things I miss, almost as much as the fires and rescues. The routine, familiar things that made up my days on duty; the 0800 time signal, housework, washing the truck, checking the equipment, starting the generators and saws, fuelling up, district inspections and yes, even drilling.

There is an ebb and flow in the fire service; routine interrupted by chaos. The chaos gets the glory, but the routine keeps us sane. There is something timeless about that, the firefighters come and go, vehicles get replaced, but the spirit of the station never changes.

Yeah, I miss it, but every day I am grateful that I am aware it exists, and I was once a part of it.

Image Courtesy of Andrew Sievert

 

1800 hrs.

Night shift started at 1800 hrs. but most of us came in an hour early. The ones who didn’t came in even earlier. Didn’t want to miss anything. After turning in the pack, relieving your man and telling your officer, “I’m with you,” we would gather in the day room and talk. It never took long for things to go downhill, and our favorite targets were the slobs going home and the slackers relieving us in the morning. When we grew tired of picking on people who weren’t there we would pick on each other.

Never have I laughed so hard, or so freely as I did at those tables, when grown adults tasked with keeping our community safe were behind closed doors where nobody could hear us, and we were able to just be ourselves, and do what people who knew all to well how quickly it all could change do.

We kept it light, and waited for the bell to tip, made dinner, made fun of dinner but ate it all anyway, cleaned up after ourselves until one by one the group moved on, some to call home, some to call it a day, others to stand on the ramp and solve the problems of the world.

When it was time, we all got back together, put on our gear and out the door in less than a minute, ready for whatever waited. When whatever it was that called was done, no matter how difficult, we came back home, sometimes talked a little, sometimes just went back to the rack to wait for the next one.

Or morning. Whatever came first.

Life in the firehouse is a life like no other. To experience it is to experience how to live.

Really live.

The Mount Pleasant Avenue Station, home of Engine Co. 15, The Highlanders.

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