I didn't have to travel far to the firefighter party in Little Italy's Firehouse Museum, but firefighters came from all over the U.S. and other countries to attend this party. I was told there were several firefighter parties around town. They were in town for a few days of training at the Convention Center. I heard Australian accents and listened as three Aussies talked about how 30 percent of their firefighters are female, up from 10 percent years earlier.
It was a nice start to the party when I saw a variety of expensive cigars being sold near the entrance. There was an antique fire engine parked out front. The smell of cigars wafted down Columbia Street.
I bought a stogie and lit it up. I asked one guy why cops and firemen have mustaches. One lady said, "I don't have one!" Her friend said, "It's my cigar duster." As the lady walked inside, he then said, "It's because women don't just like to ride on the fire trucks."
A band called Dumb Luck was playing, making it difficult to talk, so I hung out in front of the museum. On display were a variety of hydrants, badges, and firefighting equipment that went back a hundred years. One room held some of the first fire trucks, which looked like big carriages.
I asked a few firefighters what the strangest thing they've seen on duty was.
One said, "It was my first maternity-type call. This woman had no family, and she was on the floor when we got there. We propped her up. She insisted her water broke earlier, and as I got down there, well...she farted in my face." He laughs as he continues, "She got so mad...she kicked us out of the house."
A guy from Oakland told me, "We have lots of strange...local prostitutes. But they're nice ladies, and I don't want to talk bad about them."
I walked around to look at the relics on the wall. I noticed that the antique firehose looks a lot like the firehoses that are used today.
I saw two dogs running around. Neither were dalmatians and neither did anything to the fire hydrants around the party.
I overheard a few guys talking about their shift schedules, which sounded unusual. I was told they work for two days and then take three days off. I asked why they don't work normal eight-hour shifts, and they went into detail about how they don't have to transfer as much information and something about "equipment check teams."
This party was raising money for the museum. There were tip jars set up near the bartenders and that money would go to the museum fund. I crashed, but there was an admission charge to get in. Someone told me they expected to raise about $3,500.
It was interesting looking at the different shirts the firefighters wore from the cities they worked in or with funny phrases related to firefighting. There were, as always, a few guys in their 50s wearing Hawaiian shirts.
I ran into a firefighter from Chula Vista and asked him about the strangest thing he'd seen on the job. He said, "There was a 9-1-1 call. With those calls, we are usually the first dispatched to the scene. This guy had something...very large...stuck in his butt. He said it had been there from the night before, and he couldn't get it out."
I was laughing at the visual of firefighters standing around with hard hats and gloves on. "We just got him in an ambulance and he went to the hospital."
I heard a lot of noise upstairs so ventured up the spiral staircase. There was a bar and a pool table but not a lot of room to move around. When I heard the band take a break, I headed back downstairs.
A DJ was playing, and I asked him if he was going to play any "fire" songs. I rattled off several titles. He smiled and showed me his list. All the fire songs I mentioned were on the list, as well as about 15 others. I was determined to think of a few songs he didn't list. He didn't believe me when I told him that a guy named Arthur Brown had a hit in 1968 called "Fire."
As we were discussing songs, a firefighter yelled from the dance floor, "Play 'Pyromania,' and turn it louder! If it's too quiet, the girls stop dancing."
There were several guys with tattoos. I tell my brother that he looks stupid with flames tattooed on his arm, but seeing flames on somebody who fights fires for a living seemed appropriate.
One guy showed me to the kitchen and offered me pizza. They ordered ten, so I grabbed a slice and a drink of punch, which was labeled "Firefighter Brand, EMS, HydroEnergy." Firefighting might be the only profession with its own beverage.
A crew from San Bernardino County was out on the back patio smoking. I asked them about the strangest thing they had experienced on the job. They took time to ponder it, and then a guy said, "Okay, here it goes. A woman had a ring in her belly button. Somehow, as she was sleeping, her dog's leg got stuck in it. We attempted to cut the ring, but it was stainless steel, which our cutters wouldn't slice. As one guy tried moving the dog's leg, he got bit in the arm. Another guy was peed on by the dog. They finally took her to the ER."
The band started up again and seemed to be louder than before, so I headed out. As I was leaving I asked one more firefighter for a strange story. This guy worked in National City. "It was around 2:30 a.m. We got a call about an accident on the 54 freeway. We came off of the I-5 and saw a tire in the road and a minivan a little farther up. There were three black guys fixing the tire. They said there was no accident; they just got a flat that they were fixing. We drove back to see what the other tire was from and we see another car that is missing a tire. And there's a couple having sex. Right there on the side of the road. We knock on the window, and they just continue. I guess the guy who was drunk and was going to be taken in figured he'd have some fun before being arrested."
Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.