young couple lived in the house a week, a month, perhaps a year or more before
making the mysterious discovery.Inside
the closet door in the master bedroom, carefully concealed, was a white
circular button in a black vertical frame.It was inside the right door where a knowing hand could reach around the
casing and push it without looking.
it opens a hidden door to a secret room,” the woman said.The man rolled his eyes.
would be a secret compartment filled with cash,” the man said. (Dream on, kids)
read about those secret safe rooms.Wouldn’t that be cool?”The woman
watched a lot of television.
it sounded a buzzer in the kitchen for the wife to bring the husband a beer,”
the man grinned.
“You can dream
on,” his wife said.
real function was far more mundane but no less crazy.I told Dad I could hear this dialogue in my
mind; the future owners of his house having this conversation in the years to
come when they discovered his button.To
them, the button would likely remain a mystery forever, discussed on occasion when
a new theory for the whodunit arose.
button, an old fashioned door bell was connected to the garage door opener for
Dad’s car.Not willing to wait the five
seconds, maybe, for the door to go up once he reached the garage when
responding to a fire, he installed it when the house was built.When the Plectron went off (remember those?)
he would reach into the closet as he finished dressing, hand knowing the way,
and push the button.By the time he
reached the garage, the door was fully open.Speed and efficiency out of the house didn’t happen by accident.
it was a panic or emergency alarm, like the buttons in a bank,” the woman would
say, the mystery continuing.
still like the beer idea,” the man would offer.
Mayday! Firefighter Down is a great read
in the genre of Dennis Smith’s Steely
Blue and shouldn’t be missed. Ryman kept the firefighter in me interested
and the writer in me waiting to see what happens next.
Chief Michael “Mick” Mayers
hits one out of the park…. In Mayday!
Firefighter Down you will see life though a firefighters eyes, but with a
new twist. From the first dispatch, to the jaw dropping ending (or is it),
Ryman takes you on a thrilling journey as a Truck Officer in a busy fire
station, plagued by an arsonist.Mayday! Firefighter Down is a compelling
read; once you start you won’t want to put it down!
Bales, CFPS, CFI
Senior Fire/Public Safety Instructor
“Chief Gary Ryman’s latest book, Mayday! Firefighter Down
is an incredible read. Ryman has blended just about all of the elements
of a great American novel into this one including; Mystery, Murder, Greed, a
sexy love story and Great Fire Fighting Action. Once I started this book,
it was difficult putting it down. Gary has captured the essence of what a
firefighter does in a twenty-four hour shift, better than just about any
other…. The reality is non-fire service folks will be able to understand
what we do, without losing the interest of the Firehouse Jake’s and Firehouse
Jane's that take this amazing journey in Mayday! Firefighter Down.
I believe Gary has a best seller on his hands and maybe a Hollywood
script for a fire rescue drama…. This book should be required
reading for all aspiring and new fire fighters”.
Comfort zones are a wonderful thing.Avoid yours.One of the most
important, and difficult, things to do is get avoid simple acceptance of the
status quo.“We’ve always done it that
way” are some of the most dangerous words out there.On the flip side of the coin, change simply
for its own sake, can be just as problematic.The newest, latest, greatest, hottest change in tactics, tools, or
techniques, isn’t always.
Always what?Well it’s not
always great, or in some cases, actually new.Recycling
old ideas or techniques with new names and calling it progress has been part of
the culture for a long time.
So what is a new fire officer (or any fire officer for that matter) to
do?How about this for a radical
Think for yourself.Don’t
blindly accept either the status quo or the latest greatest.Examine both with a high degree of
rigor.I’m not suggesting blatant
disregard of standard operating procedures, whether existing or new, but
there’s nothing wrong with looking at them critically.
select articles, blogs, and authors to read with whom you inherently disagree,
and then try to read them with an open mind. Evaluate their arguments dispassionately.Look behind the data. How was it developed?Was the methodology valid or do you perceive
They may not change your mind, but you will better understand the
arguments others are making on a particular topic.Reading in this way also opens you up to the
possibility that in some cases, you might need to acknowledge your own
pre-conceived notions may not be correct.
Try to find a few fellow officers, peers and superiors, with whom you
can have a wide ranging, non-judgmental dialogue on fire service issues.A few adult beverages (the operative word
being few) can sometimes help lubricate these discussions.The response “that’s #($*& stupid and so
are you,” is not the type of conversation you are shooting for.An open and respectful debate can sharpen
thought processes, expose unanticipated flaws in policies and procedures, and
overall, be valuable for all participants.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out; all of this is easier said
than done.Comfort zones are called that
for a reason.They’re nice enjoyable
places to stay where you don’t have to think.Critical thinking in this manner is one of the most important tools of
the fire officer and leader.Get out of
your comfort zone and try it.
More announcements in the upcoming months, but....here is the first shot of the cover of my new book the novel "Mayday! Firefighter Down" tentatively scheduled for release by October of this year. The publisher is thrilled and excited with the work they did on the cover, and I agree with them. Can't wait to hold the first copy in my hands.
"Strike the box" is a term from the not too-distant
past, used when fire fighters arrived at the scene of a reported car fire only
to discover that it's a house that' on fire, and a full "box assignment" of
three engines and a ladder truck is needed. Well, not only did Mr. Ryman strike
the box of my expectations when I began reading "Fire Men," he went right to the
second, third and fourth alarms.
Mr. Ryman begins his series of tales by
putting the reader into a comfortable bed, only to jar them awake with a blaring
alarm, getting them hurriedly attired in turn-out gear, and inside a house
that's on fire--only to amp it up when a backdraft threatens his life and that
of an already horribly-burned colleague. And I was right there alongside him,
not only because of his powerful narrative voice but also because I've been
there--as a fire fighter during the 1970s I was caught in a backdraft almost
identical to the one Mr. Ryman describes, and I can say with a certain degree of
authority that Ryman ain't lyin' about what it was like for him inside that
"Fire Men" has a tactile feel to it. As I read the various tales
he tells I could smell the smoke, feel the leather helmet on my head, could hear
the shrill screams of the mechanical 'Federal Q' sirens and the stutters of the
air horns. I also felt the fire's heat along with the fear. Mr. Ryman begins
with a literal bang and then falls into a series of random stories - and that
was what he should've done, because it evokes what being a fire fighter is all
about . . . of boredom one moment, empathy for the dead in the next, followed by
sheer terror when all around it seems that everything is coming down upon your
"Fire Men - Stories from Three Generations of a Fire Fighting
Family" is a well-crafted book that kept me turning the pages all the way until
I reached its very satisfying ending. Buy it, read it and above all, hang-on as
you ride the roller-coaster ride that "Fire Men" is.
many fire department tools and symbols still in use have historical origins,
the Maltese Cross goes back a bit further than most.Around 1113 AD, a Benedictine Monk founded
the Order of Knights Hospitaller, subsequently known as the Knights of St.
a charitable organization, the Knights were drawn into battle to defend their
city against attacking Saracens.The
Saracens hurled containers filled with flammable liquids onto the defenders, followed
by flaming torches.The Knights were
flamboyant in dress, wearing crimson capes over their armor.The knights rode among their burning
brethren, using their capes to extinguish the fires, demonstrating courage and
a reward, the Knights were given the Island of Malta and the eight pointed
symbol became known as the Maltese Cross, one of valor and protection.Regularly used on badges, patches, and
apparatus, the nearly thousand year old emblem has a lineage of honor.
General James Mattis, USMC (Ret.) would have made one
hell of a fire chief if he had so chosen.Revered by fighters from private to four stars and probably disliked as
much by those less aggressive, the forty-one year veteran was a lead from the
front commander who went out with patrols and got blood on his boots as a
General.His radio sign—“Chaos.”His command philosophies included sincere
concern for those he was tasked to protect and liberate and a consummate scorn
for our countries enemies.
Highly quotable, many of his pronouncements in the
area of leadership and others are applicable to the fire service.With just a few paraphrasing liberties, here
are some of my favorites.
“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential
for failure.I cannot even spell the
“Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit.”
“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the
brutal facts.If they start living in a
dream world, it’s going to be bad.”
“Powerpoint makes us stupid.”
And if you remember none of the others, keep in mind
the most valuable one.
“The most important six inches on the [fire ground]
is between…your ears.”
out of the station fast and first isn’t a new or even recent interest for
firefighters.It’s something the
brethren have worked on for over a century.In the 1800s, multi-floor stations were the rule rather than the
exception; a necessary configuration in the days of the horses.Fast and effective methods for harnessing the
teams, almost as quick as firing a diesel engine, had been developed.
hitch in the process of getting out the door as fast as possible remained, some
thought. Getting from the bunkroom on an upper floor to the apparatus was
slowed by the common use of circular stairs which were in place to keep the
horses from trying to leave the first floor.
Engine 21 in Chicago, Captain David Kenyon saw one of his firefighters slide a
wooden binding pole, typically used on a hay wagon during transport, which had
been temporarily stored vertically in the loading area of the hayloft, when a
call was received while he was working in the third floor loft.Recognizing a great idea when he saw it,
Captain Kenyon arranged for a hole from the second floor bunk room to the
apparatus floor, and the crew took a Georgia pine beam and rounded and sanded
it to 3 inch diameter.Varnished and
coated with paraffin wax, it was ready for service.
at the other stations laughed until they saw Engine 21beating them to fires,
and eventually the Chief decided to have poles installed in all Chicago
stations.In 1880, the Boston Fire
Department installed the first brass pole, which became the standard going
poles became part of fire department heritage, memorialized on television and
in movies—think Batman and Ghostbusters.Now gone from most stations, another of the classic era trappings fading
from use, the pole remains a memory of an important period which will hopefully
not be forgotten.
Arson is considered by most, and
particularly firefighters, to be a serious crime. Pennsylvania treats it as a
first degree felony.Federal sentencing
guidelines call for as little as five years in prison.States vary, but things were a bit different
in the old days.
Here in my area, just a generation ago,
but long enough for the statute of limitations to expire, a local fire chief
was reliably rumored to have taken a fire setter back behind the station and
administered an “attitude adjustment” to the offender which was probably more
painful than what the judge ultimately meted out.If our current crop of politicians believe
laws and punishment for arson are stringent today, they are not students of
history.The first such law in
Pennsylvania was passed in 1700, and stated “Whosover shall be convicted of
willfully firing another man’s house, warehouse, outhouse, barn, or stable,
shall forfeit his or her own estate to the party suffering, and be imprisoned
all their lives in the House of Correction at hard labor to the behoof of the
said party suffering.”Apparently life
with hard labor wasn’t a sufficient punishment as in 1718, the penalty was
increased to death, and in 1767, they took away the condemned’s access to a
clergyman before execution.
As tough as the old Pennsylvanians were,
they had nothing on the Babylonians in the days of Hammurabi, around 2000
BC.“If in a man’s house, a fire has
been kindled, and a man who has come to extinguish the fire has lifted up his
eyes to the property of the house, and has taken the property of the owner of
the house, that man shall be thrown into that fire.”In both Japan and early Edwardian England,
the older Babylonian concepts were continued; the penalty for incendiarism
being death by fire, a rather poetic form of justice.
While societal norms and our
jurisprudence have evolved over time, most can probably think of a few
incidents where we wouldn’t have minded taking a fire setter on a Marty McFly
time travel journey back to meet one the judges from these time periods.So if anyone knows where to find an old
The once common Snorkel long ago became
the fire service “Xerox” of articulating platforms.If it bent in the middle, that’s what it was
called.One normally thinks of design, particularly
of something as complex as aerial fire apparatus, as a long process involving
engineering calculations and the development of sophisticated plans.Didn’t happen that way…
Back in 1958, Chicago Fire Commissioner
Robert Quinn borrowed a tree trimming truck with a 50 ft. articulating boom and
platform and attached a monitor nozzle to the basket.A three inch hose line was strapped to the
booms to feed it, and a new piece of firefighting apparatus was born.Load and stability testing was done on the
tree trimmer, and when found to work, the rig was painted red and placed in
service.Known in the “Windy City” as
“Quinn’s Snorkel,” reputedly because the firefighter’s got so wet in the bucket
and thought it resembled the diving device—I don’t see the resemblance
myself—the name stuck.
The original tree trimming truck was
built by the Missouri based Pitman Manufacturing Company.In 1959, a stockholder by the name of Art
Moore acquired the Snorkel product line and established the Snorkel Fire
The first Snorkel was retired in 1968,
and subsequently acquired by the Snorkel Company and restored at their St.
Joseph, Missouri manufacturing facility.While less common elsewhere, snorkel type apparatus remains in service
in Chicago to this day.
The author flying a circa 1970 American LaFrance "Aero-Chief" articulating platform in the early 1980s.