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. 

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.

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Countdown to the fire house…

I’ve got a whole list of questions to ask the fire chief tomorrow, but I’m sure I’m missing something that will be crucially important.

Really, I just had to get some questions down on paper so I’m not sitting there like an idiot with a pen, stammering, “Um, so yeah, are fires hot?”

But seriously, I’m worried I’m forgetting something. Imagine you were me.

What questions would you ask?

And, hey, peanut gallery, I’m married, so I’m not asking if anyone’s single, ‘kay?

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