Make mine well done

From left, yours truly, and Nathan Alders at work in 1979.

I’ve been in my new apartment for a week and a half. I guess that begs the question: When does it stop being my new apartment and becomes just my apartment? I’ve only today been able to hang a couple of pictures and I’m not entirely sure they will stay in the same place for very long.

I figured I would put the above photo that was taken when I worked as a firefighter, somewhere. At least for now, and I’ve chosen a wall over the dining table in the kitchen. It’s kind of a reminder in my own bizarre way to be careful while cooking in the kitchen. That is because, if I am not mistaken, this house burned down because the old man who owned it left something unattended on the stove.

It has always been an interesting photo to me. It’s not just because I was in the picture. Rather, it is fascinating because it captures something I could not see even though I was much closer to the fire than the photographer.

All I could see that day was fire. Red, hot, searing, ass-burning, fire. I remember it was a hot day. Ron Eddings, who was keeping tabs on the pumper, had to spray Nathan and me down with another hose as we were fighting this fire. I guess it’s an odd choice of words, “fighting,” because we were extinguishing the fire. There really was nothing left to fight.

Hardy Meredith, with whom I later worked at the same newspaper, took this shot for the paper. I realized after the photo was published the next day that you could see the outline of the house in the fire. I guess that maybe it’s not a big deal but it is all a matter at how you view your objective. When this massive hunk of pine was burning in front of me, that is all that was before me. It wasn’t a house anymore, it was a big fire. But seeing the outline of the home gives more of a perspective as something that is on fire rather than just fire itself.

Does it make a difference? Not really. We probably could have safely let it just burn once we quickly determined that we were only going to save the slab. But strange job that firefighting is, we couldn’t do that. So Nathan, who was my lieutenant, had the bright idea that we should use a so-called “blitz” hose line on it. It was a hose 2 1/2 inches in diameter which carried considerably more power than the 1 1/2-inch hoses with which we normally fought house fires. I was all for using the blitz line. I guess it was a macho thing. But as you can probably tell in the photo, it wasn’t an easy task maneuvering that hose.

It was an interesting experience and as was the case with many fires it was one from which I learned something. The photo isn’t a bad reminder of just how easily something can go straight to hell. Whether it stays on my kitchen wall, well, we’ll see.

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