My blog post on March 1st described the first ride I ever had on a fire engine in Cedarville, New Jersey as a three-year old boy. The article laid the foundation of describing my passion, enthusiasm, and excitement for the fire service.
A year after my first ride on the fire engine, there was a large fire in Fortescue, New Jersey along the Delaware Bay. My dad didn’t take me to the fire to see the action, but every time we heard the siren on one of the rigs heading to the fire, we ran to the street and waved to the firefighters as they passed by.
Following one of those trips to the curb, my Dad took me inside and told me to wait while he went for something. Returning to the kitchen, he gave me his badge from his time as a firefighter in Mauricetown, New Jersey. The badge has been a precious item ever since, and is in a shadow box in my living room along with other badges from my career as a firefighter.
Fueling the passion and enthusiasm
Growing up in Cedarville, everyone knew when there was a fire because a siren on top of a tower adjacent to the firehouse sent the signal to all who could hear. When I was home, I’d run outside to watch the trucks pull out of the firehouse two blocks away, hoping that they would come by the house. Sometimes my Dad would put us in the car and we’d follow the trail of spilled water until we saw the smoke from the fire which guided us the remainder of the way to the action.
Last month I introduced Frenchie who was a volunteer firefighter. Periodically he sent fire equipment catalogs home with my aunt to pass on to me. He also made arrangements for my dad to take me to the firehouse on drill nights so I could sit in the rigs.
In 1972, NBC debuted the television show Emergency and my passion and enthusiasm about firefighting grew even more. That was also the year that I found my Dad on the floor when I came home from school. He had died from his fifth heart attack. When I watched the firefighters load his lifeless body into the back of a 1960’s Cadillac ambulance, I vowed that one day I would become a firefighter.
Not long afterwards, I began hanging out at the firehouse when there was a fire in town. Eventually, Frenchie allowed me to answer the phone, sweep the floor, help wash hose, and even talk on the radio. That was a big deal for a teenage boy who wanted to be a firefighter.
I bought a scanner and began monitoring fire department radio traffic across South Jersey and the Philadelphia Fire Department. When the atmospheric conditions were right, I could hear both the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Fire Department’s as well. I began collecting memorabilia from fire departments and started attending the various fire department parades in South Jersey and Pennsylvania, collecting the wide variety of ceramic mugs and glasses that each department was selling.
My passion for the fire service was further fueled by Dennis Smith’s book, Report From Engine Co. 82. Smith was a firefighter on FDNY Engine 82 in the South Bronx, and I was mesmerized by his accounts of fighting fire in New York City.
The continuing passion for the fire service
I was still in high school, and my two primary goals were to be in the military and to become a firefighter. Through a publication called The Visiting Fireman, I made friends with firefighters throughout the country and in Philadelphia. All of them were kind enough to give their time to a teenage boy who wanted to be on the job.
Why am I telling my story?
My reason for writing this series of blogs is to lay a foundation for rebranding my business. Through the month of March, I will build on this story and when I’m through, you will see the passion that I have for the fire service and my desire to work with and develop fire officers. At the end of this series, I will reveal the new name of my business and the URL of my new website.