“CIVILIAN IN QUARTERS …” echoed through out the cavernous truck bay and expansive headquarters of Engine 9 and Ladder 2 in East Boston, yesterday, Superbowl Sunday, “CIVILIAN IN QUARTERS.” It had been quite a while since I had heard those words, broadcast by the firefighter on watch over an internal PA system whenever a non-firefighter entered past the front office, but the echo brought back fond memories from an earlier time. While working for the Boston Herald some 15 odd years ago, I spent a lot of time in Dorchester at Engine 17 Ladder 7, and I was in “Eastie,” to see an old friend from back in those days.
Lieutenant Bill Gaylord, “Liu” as the guys in the white shirts are known, was a fixture at Meeting House Hill’s Ladder 7 when I was cruising for news during my time at The Boston Herald back in the day. Although Bill has switched from a Ladder to an Engine, (Engines generally bring water to fires and put them out, Truck companies bring ladders and generally focus on rescues and ventilation – there is a friendly rivalry between them in case you wondered), he remains an important part of his group, serving as “chef de cuisine,” cooking for group four’s Maverick Square Firehouse, and he invited me over for dinner.
I figured what better day to spend inside a firehouse than Superbowl Sunday, and given that Susan isn’t a huge fan of football – sorry Mr. Kraft – it was a win-win so to speak, for our family anyway. I showed up at the Jeffries Point firehouse, across the street from the original location of Engine Company 40, and was introduced to the members of E9 and L2. The firehouse, built in the late 70′s and very similar to E41/L14 in Allston where I’ve also spent some time, is expansive because at one point, it also housed Engine Company 40, until it was put out of service in 1981.
Firefighters in Boston work a 24 hour shift, so each night in the 34 different firehouses across the city, dinner is being created for at least four and as many as 12 or 13 by the firefighters themselves. Lt. Gaylord had decided that given the circumstances of the game, he’d prepare a selection of “snacks” for pre-game and the first half, and follow that up with dinner of Pulled Pork sandwiches and a Southwest Chili and beans. We headed out to Shaw’s in Maverick Square to pick up groceries, and for a quick stop at Oliveira’s Restaurant to pick up lunch. East Boston, a neighborhood where recent immigrants to the area have traditionally found a foothold in the past, is presently dominated by Hispanic, Latin American and Brazilian interests, and Oliveira’s provided for some tasty Brazilian meats and salads.
After arriving back at quarters, getting the pork loin into the over and finishing lunch, Ladder 2 was toned out for a “Lock Out” – “LADDER TWO, LADDER TWO ONLY, 1-8-5 LEXINGTON, LADDER TWO ONLY” booms out over the PA, “FOR A LOCK OUT.” Lt. Gaylord was on the phone, but I grabbed my gear and followed Lieutenant Dougherty, the officer of L2 to the Truck for a ride. One of the many things firefighters do besides fight fires, are medical and public service calls, always doing their best to help the community. This particular call was for a vacant building where water was reported to be flowing from, and Boston Sewer and Water needed to gain access to turn the water off.
Rather than simply forcing the door – something Truck companies specialize in when life threatening danger is behind it, Ladder 2 investigated a bit and found an open window in the back second floor, and just as they were about to unload a ground ladder and gain entry, the owner showed up with the key, and we returned to quarters, a CODE 551, “Assisted police or other government agency.” Not too much after our return, and just after pulling the pork loin out of the oven, Engine 9 was called out for “A person passed out in a van,” which ultimately ended up the same way after a woman was found and referred to EMS for evaluation.
“SNACKS IN THE KITCHEN, SNACKS IN THE KITCHEN” calls out Firefighter John Pagnani from the watch room, as Lt. Gaylord brings out Buffalo Chicken dip, crackers, cheese and some veggies for the beginning of the game. FF Pagnani, originally from close to my hometown in Connecticut, served a number of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the US. Army with the 10th Mountain Division prior to coming to the Boston Fire Department. In addition to working with BFD, Pagnani is currently a student at Harvard University’s extension school, studying for a masters degree.
After one of the strangest starts to a Superbowl game … a touch back really … we were briefly interrupted by tones when Engine 9 was called to respond to Logan Airport, but by the time I ran down the spiral staircase, and a couple of Engine 9′s members took the faster route via fire pole, our response was cancelled and we settled in to focus on eating and the game. The pulled pork sandwich and corn inside the Southwest Chili were the highlights of dinner, and although the game didn’t go to the Patriots, it was nice to watch one that came down to the last minute rather than a blow out.
I’ve hung around firehouses since I was a kid, and It’s been over 15 years since I met Lt. Gaylord. In that time I’ve learned a lot about the fire service, about the people willing to put their lives on the line every day for our communities, and about the brotherhood that these people share everyday. Right after 9/11 firefighters came out of the smoke and terror of that day and were held up as heroes, but what everyone needs to be sure and remember is that they are there everyday, doing what they do. For every call, no matter how dangerous, how small, how meaningless it may seem, they are there to respond and give aide however best they can.
I really appreciate Lt. Gaylord inviting me over for dinner, and for all the folks at Engine 9 and Ladder 2 in East Boston for hosting me for the evening. Thanks for reading along.
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