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GEORGE, THE FIRE FIGHTER

Story ID:10076
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Middleburgh New York USA
Year:1979
Person:George
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GEORGE THE FIRE FIGHTER
By Fred Wickert


I was working for a pair of companies outside Middleburgh, New York. The parent company was a mobile home park and the other company. owned by the first, was a trucking company.

It was in the winter time. The garage was intended for one car. The door was wide open. The driveway and the garage floor were covered with ice. It was a mild sunny day and some of the ice had melted. There were small places in the ice where the ice had melted all the way to the ground and water from melting surface ice was running in little streams through them.

A flatbed truck was parked in the driveway and the rear of the truck was about twenty feet away from the garage door. I was just inside the garage door. The gas tank on the side of one of the dump trucks had sprung a leak. We had taken the tank off the truck and emptied the gas from it. It was a fifty gallon tank with two steps welded right in to the side of it. The steps were for climbing in to the cab of the truck. We had found the leak right where the support for one of the steps was attached to the tank. I was sitting straddle of the tank and using sand paper all around the area where the leak was. It had to be clean and down to bare metal before attempting to repair it with epoxy. While I was working on it a small amount of gasoline remaining in the tank ran out on the ground and floated on top of the little rivulets of water running everywhere.

While I was doing that, my friend George was working on the truck that was parked there. It was a large flatbed truck with two rear axles making it a ten wheeler. The rack had been built with steel struts coming up from the ends of the front bumper to support additional cargo space that was built out over the roof of the cab of the truck. It had a wide tail gate the width of the truck. The tail gate could be supported with chains and held level with the floor giving the effect of a three feet extension of cargo space beyond the end of the bed of the truck. The hinges had broken on the tail gate and George was in the process of repairing them.

He was going to weld the broken areas and then weld supporting strap iron to the repairs to strengthen them. Like the tank and the epoxy, the areas to be welded had to be clean first. To do that an offset grinder was used to grind away the paint and rust so it was down to clean shiny metal. George was good with the welder and he was using the offset grinder to clean the metal before welding it. As he did, sparks flew off the metal like a shower all over the tail gate.

Suddenly for me it was panic time. The gas tank I was sitting on had flames all around it. Flames were coming out a vent hole from the tank itself and there were rivulets of fire from the gas tank to the rear of the truck. I yelled loudly to George. At the same time I jumped off the tank and ran outside. I told George to run because it was going to explode!

George calmly but quickly laid the grinder on the bed of the truck, walked to the tank and dragged it away from the garage. I was scared! I admit it. I was scared. I just knew that gas tank was going to explode from that fire and George was going to get killed. He was trying to save the garage because it had cases of motor oil and grease for the fleet of trucks stored in it. If that stuff caught fire the whole thing was going to be lost.

I was screaming at George to let it go. I told him it wasn’t worth it and that he was going to get killed. It was going to explode! I didn’t understand why it had not already exploded. George ignored me. After he dragged the tank out of the garage he calmly, but quickly went to the cab of the truck. I thought he was going to drive the truck away to save it from catching fire. I was wrong.

George opened the door to the truck, reached inside and grabbed the fire extinguisher. Each of our trucks had one. He walked back to the garage and proceeded to put out the fire. When the fire was all out he put down the fire extinguisher, looked over at me and said, “What’s the matter Fred? You’re getting a little carried away there aren’t you?”

I proceeded to chew him out. I told him he was crazy and the only reason he got away with it was pure luck and that God was watching over him. I told him he could have been killed and no garage or truck was worth getting killed for. He just laughed and told me he knew the tank was not going to explode.

George had been a volunteer fireman for years and still was. He had been to a number of training schools and was an officer in the fire department. He explained the tank was not going to explode because it was vented. It was best to get it out of the garage and away from the garage, but there was no danger of explosion. There was danger of the oil and grease catching fire in the garage, in addition to a number of spare truck tires, so as soon as he got the tank outside it was necessary to put out the fire before we had a real problem on our hands.

As soon as I realized there had not been anywhere near the danger I thought there was, I was relieved and calmed down. Then I thanked him for saving the garage from burning down. That night we told the boss what had transpired and we all got a good laugh out of it as well as some of the truck drivers. Every one of them knew they, if faced with the same circumstances might still be running. To a man, they expressed how sorry they were that they did not get to witness that tank bursting in to flames while I was sitting on it.

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