I joined the Lindenhurst Fire Department in June of 2011. More specifically Liberty Hose company #1. Hose company is a somewhat archaic term, referring to the horse and buggy days but the term is still used for tradition’s sake. Most fire departments are steeped in tradition and pride.
My company are the ones who go in and actually put water on the fire. Interior attack as it is called. We hit the hydrant, haul the hose through a structure, and extinguish the fire. Hook and ladder companies (the big trucks with the big ladders) do what’s called vent-enter-search. They open the roof and break windows to let smoke and heat out. They are also tasked with victim removal (though any firefighter in any company will remove a victim if need be). Quite an experience being in a room at 500 degrees, smoke obscuring any kind of vision, pumping out 125 gallons per minute through a hose.
My brother and sister firefighters are a unique bunch. We have a retired corrections officer, a painter, a school teacher, village workers, NYPD ESU officer (retired), a plumber, all walks of life. Young and old. Men and women. All family. There is a bond forged in each of the members as strong as blood (some more so) that is difficult to describe in words. We bicker, get on each others nerves, argue, but on the fireground we will lay our life on the line for another member.
As members of a fire department, we see the stuff of nightmares. We are there during the worst time of someone’s life. If you call us, it’s not because you are having a good day. Grave bodily injuries, massive property loss, impending death, we come to do everything in our power to alleviate danger and pain. Often at the expense of our own well being. Some of my friends have seen things unimaginable to the general public. I’ve heard harrowing stories that would crush a normal persons mind. I won’t go into details of any of the stories as they are not my stories to tell.
I personally have not experienced such horrors yet, I often wonder if I could cope. Will I rise to the occasion? I feel like I am untested. Not that I want anything horrible to happen, I just want to live up to the standard set forth by my forebears. I want to know that I earned that shield on my helmet. Most say that I have and I really appreciate it. I strive to be the best I can, trying to set a good example for the newer members but now my job keeps my away from home and the firehouse. I am not the asset I want to be. I feel like a ghost now. I miss having the time to wax the truck, to respond to calls, make drills. I see no solution as yet and it is killing me. I miss all of you so much.