18. June 2005 · Comments Off on OLD MEMORIES SMELL LIKE SMOKE, PART TWO · Categories: Ain't That America?, General Nonsense, Home Front, Local, Memoir, Working In A Salt Mine...

Being on the fire department in the small village of York, Maine, was really an experience, and for those who lived there, somewhat of a status symbol. If your origins were from somewhere other than York, it was nearly impossible, thus a statement of acceptance if you succeeded. I was really happy to have been accepted as a “probie,” the one-year probationary period.

It wasn’t all societal, it was serious business. I actually got involved because of a fire that included a fatality. Nurse Jenny, in those days, wasn’t a nurse, but a dispatcher on the York Public Safety Communications Center, and I was the Motorola Tech Rep for the area, involved with supplying the communications equipment and assuring that it all worked. The VFD probationary period was a time of a lot of learning. Fire technology, hydraulics, water pressure, fire ground operations, so many classes, and all that just to volunteer to fight fires.

Parenthetically, I would volunteer to fight fires on a number of departments after York, the last one being while back on Air Force AD, in Monument, Colorado. What I learned in York would make me a good firefighter, and some of it would save my life in some touchy situations.

The “white coat incident” mentioned in part one was really embarrassing, and it was a touchstone of ribbing for a long time afterwards. Well, you gotta have something!

One important aspect of fighting fires is speed. Getting there fast, getting set up fast, getting water on the fire as fast as you safely can. One day, about three months into my probie period, there was a small fire near my house, a situation in which I responded in my car, and got my coat and helmet off the truck. Engine. What am I thinking! Truck is ladder, engine is pumper, for the uninitiated! OK, got my gear on, and grabbing the nozzle, in I went. The fire was out quickly, and I quickly found out my big mistake. Someone told me to get that white coat off, unless I was really a chief in disguise. OOPS! Without thinking, I had grabbed a white coat, which is an officer’s garb. Now, they’re really serious about that. It was the deputy chief’s coat, and my putting it on was the source of so much ribbing and teasing for a long time. You can be assured, from that time on, I paid attention to the color of coats in the locker!

Fighting fires is fun, or at least it is something that gets in your blood. This -Vidalia, GA – is the only place that we’ve lived since York in the 70’s, that I haven’t served on a fire department. Just can’t do it, since getting injured on my job as a paramedic in 1995. I hate to have to stand still when I hear a siren, but we get old, and sometimes we have to ease up on the throttle!

But, as Elroy commented on the last post, those were great days, and the fire department folks in York were some of the finest people I’ve ever served with! York Volunteer Fire Department, I salute you every one!

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