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"A Firefighter's Story" (standard:non fiction, 4220 words)
Author: AnonymousAdded: Oct 30 2001Views/Reads: 3349/2217Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
My memoirs as a member of the NY City Fire Department from 1962-1985

A Firefighter's Story By Charles F. Farrell 

It's nineteen-forty-eight at Our Lady of Good Council Parochial School
in Brooklyn New York. A tall Franciscan Brother is writing on the 
blackboard. A white rope tied around his waist and draped down the side 
of his long brown robe, a hood resting gently on his shoulders. 

The attention of the class of twelve-year-old students is broken by the
sound of sirens that came from the open schoolhouse window. The sound 
of the sirens grows louder and louder than lower and lower as it fades 
away as fast as it had stolen their attention. "Take a moment of silent 
prayer for the firemen" the Brother says, than continues with his math 

So You Want to Be a Fireman 

My father was a member of the Fire Department during the great
depression. "I was the only one in my neighborhood with a steady job" 
he would constantly remind the family. He eventually worked in the Fire 
Commissioners Office in charge of transfers. If there was a better way 
to make a living he didn't know it. In June nineteen-fifty-four I 
stated in my highschool yearbook that I wanted to be a fireman. 
Following my Dad and brother Matt seemed to be the natural choice. 

I was twenty-two years of age and five feet, ten inches in height when I
was eligible to apply for the Fire Department.  The tough part was that 
my weight, soaked wet, and was all of one-hundred twenty-nine pounds. I 
looked like Barney Fife. 

Passing the written exam was not easy and, passing the physical exam,
next too impossible. Remember I told you my dad was in charge of 
transfers? My dad assigned most of the men who worked at the medical 
office. They were all anxiously waiting for me to show for my physical 
exam. Show was the operative word. We had to strip down naked to take 
the physical. 

The candidates on line looked like they were trying out for the Mr.
Universe Contest. When it came time for me to get on the scale, I gave 
my name, "It's him, it's him" they whispered. I watched the needle on 
the scale strain to reach 129 pounds as the guy in charge yelled out, 
for everyone to hear. "160 pounds". The Mr. Universe candidates all 
watched in bewilderment as Barney, I mean I stepped off the scale. On 
December 8, nineteen-sixty-two, I was sworn into, as they say, "The 
Job". It was special as I received my father's original fireman's 
badge. It first went to my father, than to my brother and eventually to 

When I finally made lieutenant they saved the badge for my nephew. Talk
about pressure, the badge would not be passed on unless you were 
promoted from fireman to lieutenant. My father was a lieutenant in 
charge of transfers. My brother was a lieutenant at that time on his 
way to Manhattan Borough Commander, Assistant Chief of the Department. 

Training School 

The day I was sworn in, I quickly found out the disadvantages of having
a father in charge of transfers. The class of 60 recruits stood as 
close as they thought was attention. It was our first day at training 
school. We were still in civilian clothes. The Lieutenant shouted 
"ATTENTION." He looked directly at me and said one step forward." 

He ordered the men "Left Face, FORWARD MARCH." He put his arm around my
shoulder, as we walked along side the brothers marching. He said, "I 
understand your father is in charge of transfers, I really would 
appreciate a transfer to Queens."  It took a long time before I could 
get the trust of my fellow recruits. Often, things are not as they 
appear. One of the brothers was a six foot four inches Ex-Marine. 
Unfortunately, he had a fear of heights and froze half way up the Tower 
Ladder. Conversely, I was climbing the outside of a five-story building 
with what we called a Scaling Ladder. As I reached the top, I heard the 
instructor say "This kid is a lightweight, but he's all balls." 

My father said he was going to take better care of me than he did my
brother by sending me to a slower company. My brother started out 
immediately in a busy company. "After all, your wife has a heart 

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