Firefighting: Boring, then 3 dead

No denying the excitement, the pure adrenaline rush that a firefighter feels enroute to a call. What a weird mix of feelings -- fear, excitement, maybe guilt for wanting the excitement instead of a ho-hum call that turns out to be a lot-of-get-up-and-go for something boringly minor. Until one night, it's not.

By telling me one story, Bill Anderson, a retired fire chief from Essington, provided a perfect illustration. Anderson is the president of the Cradle of Liberty chapter of Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America, (SPAAMFAA). I met him Saturday when I covered SPAAMFAA's national convention and muster at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken.

Anderson said that when he was a firefighter his company would get constant calls from the same house in Folsom, Delaware County. They'd go, put out a minor fire and leave. "We used to go there so many times that we knew the layout of the house," he said. Usually, it was because someone had smoked a cigarette and wasn't careful about putting it out.

"Then, the last time we went there, we found three family members dead," he said.

Rough story, and probably any firefighter with any time on the job has a similar one. But there has been a change. There are fewer household fires, Anderson said, caused by careless cigarette smoking, as societal norms have shifted.