On the Book Shelf
By John M. Malecky June, 2017
Stories of Fire
By Paul Hashagen
FSP Books & Videos
188 Central Street, Suite #4
Hudson, MA 01749-1330
This is a soft cover book measuring six-inches by nine-inches, with 246 pages. It is another great work put together by Paul, who is retired from the New York City Fire Department. This is his seventh book and by all means, it is one that is a page turner.
It has 30 chapters in addition to an introduction and glossary, and reports on fires starting from the Colonia America era up until 2015. Most of the stories take place in New York, but let’s face it, no matter how spectacular or unusual events can be, they usually happen here. It’s just too large a city with much diversification. But New York is not the only city written about in the book.
Incidents in Milwaukee, Kansas and even Scotland are reported on. A number of the chapters focus in on individual firefighters who distinguished themselves with heroism. Many of the descriptions of the feats of heroism are so unbelievable that it's surprising the victims and firefighters survived the predicaments they were in. All of the incidents however, were not happy endings. A number were very tragic, like the 1960 plane crash where two airliners collided, one landing in Staten Island and the other in Brooklyn; or the Constellation ship fire, also in the Brooklyn Navy Yard that same year!
Some historic fires are written about, such as the General Slocum excursion vessel, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the Chicago Stockyards and the Normandie to name a few. Some chapters explain about equipment, such as the development of breathing apparatus, scaling ladders and the first rescue rig.
A number of these hair-raising rescues involved scaling ladders. They were not much to look at and were constructed differently from standard ladders, but they were however used many times to ascend above the rear of aerial ladders. With their large hooks, they could be used to reach upper floors or even swing horizontally from one window to another. We used them when I was in firefighter training to build confidence. They were also called “Pompier” ladders and were used with a Pompier belt, which secured the firefighter to the ladder if he had to work off of it.
There is a four page glossary of terms, which may or may not be familiar to the reader, as some of the terms are New York versions. Also, there are 20 pages of black and white photos of the fires, some of the heroes and the equipment. This book is a must if you like to read about fires that made history and those that didn’t but should have!