The Firehouse Diaries

August 6, 1854

I write these lines late at night. The men sleep like so many beasts. Rain beats against the windowpanes. Millie, the firehouse dog, whimpers in a corner. Black-spotted, with white hair, she is a bitch of an exotic, excitable breed—I forget its name, although I believe it originates in the distant territory of Dalmatia.

On such lonesome nights, I cannot help but ponder what I have come to think of as “my fanciful notion.” It is my belief that a pole, made, perhaps, of brass, and leading from our upstairs room at a steep incline to the garage below, would give us a chance to reach the carriages more quickly, resulting, I would hope, in our saving a few of the wretched souls who would otherwise perish in the flames.

My fellows see no need for such a pole. They call me mad, and worse, arguing that it is just as well to make our way down the stairs at a brisk pace. I have countered that some of them have taken to sliding down the banister in their efforts to reach the garage in greater haste, but to no avail.

Johnson averred that some choose the banister only because the staircase is so crowded with running men at the time of the alarm. What we require, he claimed icily, is a wider staircase and not some newfangled apparatus. At this, the men laughed and hooted. Even Rodriguez, the Spaniard, joined in the general merriment. What will become of me in this place?

November 9, 1854

Progress! The Captain has requested that I set down what he calls my “notion” in a formal letter. Is it foolish of me to hope he will not be of the same low opinion as Johnson and his ilk?

December 24, 1854

The Captain has, at last, stated his view on the matter. He believes that while a firehouse pole may save an individual man some time in his journey from the upstairs rooms to the garage below, it would have the opposite effect for an entire group of men. That is, as he sees it, the men would crowd round the pole at the sound of the alarm, each waiting his turn, thus slowing, rather than hastening, our collective progress.

I had not thought of that, I must admit. Perhaps two poles would do the trick, or even three. When I made mention of multiple poles, however, the Captain unveiled a look which he seems to keep in stock especially for me. It manages to combine weariness and contempt. A merry Christmas it will be for me. A merry Christmas indeed.

January 20, 1855

The new hats arrived today, with long “bills” in the back. I find them to be magnificent. Johnson proclaimed that he will wear his backward, the better to shield his eyes from the blinding flames. At this, all the men laughed, even the Spaniard. All but me. I am alone here. Desperation.

The Firehouse Diaries