The Dragons Lair: Engine 20, Ladder 23 & Medic 01.
Today was one of those days that you remember for the rest of your career. My five-year assignment in Chinatown has come to an end. In the Philadelphia Fire Department, officers rotate every three years. Through a series of staffing and personnel situations I ended up staying five years. For two years I was the Captain of Engine 20. When the Ladder Captain took ill and transferred to a staff job I took over Ladder 23 and the duties of the station Captain where I spent the last three years. Looking back I could have never imagined the great run I had there. Leaving is bittersweet at best. My new assignment will be on the other side of Center City and for now I’m leaving the details for another day.
But me leaving today is only part of the story. All four of the ladder officers, myself and my three Lieutenants are all leaving. Two are rotating to new assignments and one is retiring. Lieutenant John “Bounce” Wilson walked out of the station for the last time today. He will be sadly missed.
Bounce with local reporter babe and all around hottie Dorthy Krysiuck.
To know Bounce was to know one of those people who are just plain special. Bounce has a disarming charm and casual way about him that people just connect with. If five of us are standing in front of the station and a lost tourist walks up and asks for directions, the ensuing half hour comedy routine would have everyone in stitches, the tourist laughing and quite possibly kissing Bounce. In any event they would always end up posing for pictures with him in front of our famous wall. He would often send them to the best restaurant with a smile and a photo memory. Irreverent and cheeky to a fault, EVERYONE knows and loves bounce. He probably knows two phrases in Chinese but says them to everyone who walks by. He’s the kind of guy who could find himself in an english as a second language class and have everyone doing the Electric Slide within fifteen minutes.
As a fire officer he inspired calm confidence in his crew and was hands down the best public relations officer I ever worked with. The Department lost one of the best today. I wish him the best in his retirement as he deserves it.
The proud dad in an action shot. Clearly I don’t know how to change the date code on my camera.
But the story doesn’t end there. One of my firefighters and his wife welcomed their first child around noon today. Baby Jackson arrived in time for lunch just like his dad. *Snark* As luck would have it the hospital is in our local and I’m almost sure one of the first sounds he ever heard was a fire truck siren! In any event mom and baby are doing fine.
As I was packing my junk and getting ready to leave for the last time, the fellas were called out as multiple fires broke out around the city. It’s going to be a tough night as we are in the midst of a severe cold spell here on the east coast. This is firefighter weather and you earn your pay at this time of the year. The companies are stretched way too thin and are being sent all over the city.
I will miss the guys and the station. We were able to do some really great things. We had some awesome times and I can’t thank them enough for the help and support they gave me. I like to think we were able to continue the pride and sense of tradition the station has. During my time there, no firefighter was seriously injured fighting a fire and there were no fire deaths in my local.
That’s where I have to hang my hat.