A new guy had a fat chance of grabbing
overtime on the 4th of July, most of the spots were taken by the senior firefighters. Provdence used to man two task forces then, each consisting of two engine companies and a ladder truck. Ten or twelve men, one engine to pump, one to feed and the laddermen to force entry, get roofs, search and rescue and vent. It was firefighting at its most basic, six, seven, eight or more jobs a night the norm.
The night began and ended on the ramp, where the task force mingled with the assigned members, cooking on the grill and waiting. Scanners cracked in the background, a fire call every thirty seconds, EMS rigs ran nonstop, smoke filled the city and the engines and ladders rolled, came back and rolled again.
In the morning, when the rest of the world slept in their beds, after the tools were cleaned, feeder lines scrubbed and hung to dry, hose beds repacked and our gear- soaked with sweat and water- put away, we would crack some cold ones, finish what food was left and bask in the brotherhood, exhausted, fulfilled and the happiest people on earth.
Because we were firemen, and it felt great to be alive.