Researching a novel is fun (a.k.a, My Trip to the Firehouse)

This ladder truck was massive. I stood right next to it.

First off, let’s just get this out of the way: I didn’t get to ride on a fire truck.

I live three blocks from the fire station, so I hear fire trucks go out all the time. Before noon? Three different calls. My husband joked to me, “See, you’re missing all the action.”

He was right. After noon? No calls.

Watch, while I’m writing this post, I’ll probably hear a fire truck go rocketing by.

So I didn’t get to ride on a fire truck, but I did get to see inside of one, and I got to see all the gear. The local fire chief was a fantastic subject for my first professional writer interview. He told lots of good stories, shared lots of good data, and seemed like a generally good guy.

He made fun of that movie Backdraft, too.Ā 

I mostly tried to avoid looking like an idiot.

I learned a bunch of things I didn’t know. Like how the fire department goes on pretty much every call there is. They’re the first responders for just about everything. He said they’ve gotten calls for sparking outlets, for ducks stuck in some guy’s gutter, for people getting trapped on the ice, everything. (I live right off the Chesapeake Bay, so there’s water all over the place.)

Some of what he had to tell me was really sad. I asked if they get most of their calls around Christmas, and he said yes, which I expected. Then he said, “A lot of suicides.”

He told me about his first house fire, when he was sixteen (you can be a firefighter at sixteen in Maryland), and not only was it his first time in a full-on house fire, but they found a dead body in the bedroom.

He talked about how much noise goes on in a house fire. Like anything you have in a jar or an aerosol can is going to explode. How lightbulbs are drawn to heat, and they’ll pull in the direction of the greatest heat. (So they’ll see lightbulbs bent sideways.)

I’m so glad I went. I’m trying to think if there were any good stories. One was about a guy who called because he was bleeding. It turns out he was trying to . . . ah, have a good time, using a Sawz-All, and he cut off his . . . ah, member. (Trying to keep it clean here, and failing.)

What’s funny is that the fire chief is telling me this story, and I didn’t know what was coming, and he said, “Oh, how do I put this delicately?”

And I waved a hand and said, “Don’t worry about offending me. I’m constantly surrounded by men, so I’m tough to offend.”

Then he said, completely deadpan, “Okay, well, he was masturbating with a Sawz-All, and he cut his male part off.”

(If you highlight that last bit, you’ll see what it says. Again, trying to keep it clean, folks.)

So yeah, suffice it to say, I wasn’t expecting that.

Overall, an educational day at the firehouse.

~~

7 thoughts on “Researching a novel is fun (a.k.a, My Trip to the Firehouse)

  1. Now I have to find out what a “Sawz-All” is, because based on the name, I can’t imagine that anyone would think, “Wow, this was just made for a good time!”

    Ok, I looked it up, and I still can’t imagine any way in which that would be attractive.

  2. Yeah, I don’t understand why someone would use that either. The only thing I can think of is that maybe he wanted the vibrations, and it slipped?

    Okay, now I’m getting too close to a mental image.

  3. Haha! That fire chief is amazing! I’m so glad it was a learning experience. Kinda sad you didn’t get to ride in a truck. šŸ™

    Also, lightbulbs? Do they bend toward the heat because they’re melting? Or is it due to the electric parts in them?

  4. Re: the lightbulbs, I think it must be due to the electric parts inside them, plus the gas in there. I don’t know. He mentioned it because I was asking about arson, and he said when they’re looking for the source of a fire, sometimes they’ll look at the lightbulbs to see which way they’re pointing.

  5. Pingback: Reader Question Friday: How do you write about a situation you’ve never experienced? | Brigid Kemmerer

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