(Missing) The Big One(s)

Busy Day in Fairfax

The news and Facebook, of course, were awash with stories of yesterday’s unusual spate of multiple-alarm fires in the western part of the County, including a couple of rows of town homes, a large apartment building and a bank.

Those back porches ablaze are reminiscent of Boston.

I left the active fire service awhile ago but I’m not sure it entirely left me.

Though I don’t pine when I hear or see a fire truck head down the street, it would be a hard-hearted person, indeed, that didn’t ache for a second and perhaps feel a nozzle or a hook in their hands when seeing those images.

After all, fires, at least for a firefighter, represent a blend of a complex problem to be solved, a unique personal challenge and finally, a good bit of fun in the bargain.

There is also the brushing up against danger for a minute or two as long as stupidity isn’t the controlling factor.

And yes, the opportunity to do some highly meaningful work as part of a close-knit team.

Much of the writing and speaking about firefighting is focused on tactics or techniques but from a more distant vantage point I hope my brothers and sisters exhibited a bit of poise as they went about their tasks yesterday.

Poise in the sense of grace, balance and equilibrium. 

Poise can only come through true mastery and when events are seen and experienced over time.

Grace and balance are elements of a calm mind and it is that calmness that keeps us safe.

Of course, all those images caused me to (once again) dream of firefighting last night when a form of mental time travel recreated “reality”, at least for a moment.

They say our most powerful sense is smell and for the next few days, at least, a bunch of firehouses and rigs will be smelling just the way they should–pungent and smoky, each with their own stories to tell.


(Photos courtesy of Brent Schnupp.)





  • Mike Schwartz says:

    Eric, it occurs to me that, to paraphrase, you can take yourself out of the fire but you can’t take the fire out of you. And, I mean that literally and metaphorically. You obviously left firefighting long ago but you have alway kept a fire burning to destroy corruption, mismanagement, arrogance, intolerance and misogyny. While some have been burned by you, most of us have been fired up to make a difference.

  • Bill Hand says:

    True Dat!

  • Scott Lawson says:

    I miss it more and more every day. It was an honor to “hold the light” for guys (and gals) like yourself!

  • HenryL says:

    I completely agree with Mike Schwartz.

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