View of the stairway and one of the fellas knee deep in debris.

Well my first day at the new station turned out to be a quiet day. I spent it doing a lot of administrative stuff that fills your “to do” list whenever you take over a new assignment. I was going through old files, putting my equipment away and inspecting the station as well as getting to know the guys. It was a beautiful Sunday in Philly and the PA was quiet most of the day. I was just about to go home, about one minute until five. Shift change was in full swing and I was talking with the fellas out in the apparatus bay when the bells started going off.

Are you kidding? was the only thing I could think. It was kind of funny actually. I looked toward the back of the station expecting to see my relief running up ready to knock me out-of-the-way. But he was nowhere to be seen. Yippee! I climbed into the cab of the ladder and in another minute we were flying toward this reported apartment fire. Half way there they filled out the box (added two more engines) and everyone in the truck started strapping on equipment and buckling their coats.

As we cruised down Aramingo Ave. I could the dirty brown smoke swirling around the rooftops and knew we were going to work. As the second ladder on this assignment our assignment is the rear. It’s never glamorous and always dirty. Tight alleys, dog crap, chain link fences, six-foot retaining walls ans all the debris people don’t know what else to do with ends up in the rear alley way. The guys went right to work and in no time had the building laddered and ventilated. Engine 25 even showed up with a hand line. Pretty good stuff as most of the time if the engine thinks they can get away with going through the front…they will.

As the smoke lifted we climbed in through the back windows. That’s when we found out what we all hate to hear “It’s a PAK RAT house”. Sure enough just like that A&E show “Hoarders” we were in one of those homes. Debris of every sort packed every inch of the third floor. The fire was in the second floor, middle room and spread into the walls. We had a tough time just walking. One dead give away was the hundreds of cans of cat food strewn everywhere. People with this type of disorder often have dozens if not more, cats and even dogs running freely throughout their property. It quickly becomes uninhabitable.

The other ladder company on the job got someone out through the front of the house. Making it even more difficult were the rigid sun awnings installed over every window. They are a nightmare as they keep air from moving through the windows and effectively keep the smoke from lifting. Usually there is only one way to deal with them and that’s break them. As tough as it was we had the fire contained fairly quickly and after about an hour we were headed back to the station for a proper relief. My relief was kicking himself pleading his case to me. He got in at five after. Oh well too bad.

Talk about an awesome start: one run, one job!


8 Responses to SHOP TALK: PAK RATS

  1. Bob G. says:

    I know that area well…
    Some of those “alleys” are barely wide enough for TWO people to walk down, let alone anyone with some gear on.
    Others are almost passable.
    Those are the WORST kind of places to hoard.
    (not that single standing dwellings are any better inside)
    Be happy it wasn’t a medical call for a 400 lb person on the THIRD floor!
    (always fun)
    Aramingo has changed a lot over time.
    Used to be known ONLY for “that wonderful smell” from the slaughter houses nearby…LOL

    LOL on your relief…’ya snooze, ‘ya lose.

    Stay safe out there.

  2. Dustoff says:

    Bob G.

    You nailed it. I had a few medical calls where we can hardly fit threw the door and forget about bring in the gurney. My guys spend more time moving junk out of the way so we can carry the person to the gurney. )-:

    One person was around 300+ pounds. My back still hurts just thinking about it.

  3. C/A says:

    Why is it the sick and dying seek higher ground????

  4. Dustoff says:



  5. Bob G. says:

    We used to have a “theory” about that…
    It took longer (and farther) to get SIX FEET UNDER!
    (and now ‘ya know)


    Stay safe.

  6. Mrs. Crankipants says:

    Sounds like the 1975 documentary “Grey Gardens”. It’s worth renting.

  7. Old NFO says:

    Good way to start! And yeah, pack rats are SCARY… imagine a house FILLED with newspapers/magazines except for ‘trails’…/shudder/

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