Guys known by one name are usually pretty scary characters. Igor, Hitler, and Dracula are people you don’t want to bump into on a dark foggy night. The Detroit Fire department had its own boogieman. They called him Moe. Folklore tells us Moe was once a happy productive citizen raising a family in the city of Detroit. One night Moe fell asleep on the couch. He was awakened by screams for help from his wife and four children who were in the upstairs bedrooms. Some how a fire had started and Moe’s family was trapped. They needed help to escape. Moe called the fire department. The fire grew in intensity as Moe waited for help. The screams grew louder and Moe finally made an attempt to run through the flames to save his wife and kids. When Firefighters arrived the house was a roaring inferno. They were able to drag Moe out. He was unconscious and horribly burned. Moe’s family perished in the flames.

Moe survived. He was disfigured by his burns. His life was in shambles. He blamed the Fire Department for not arriving in time to save his family. He swore vengeance and began to act on his vows of retribution. The attacks on Firemen began shortly after Moe was released from the hospital. Moe would roam the city looking for a fire house that had left the doors unlocked after the Firefighters had gone to sleep in the upstairs dormitory. Moe would attack the man on watch who was alone at his post near the watch desk. The attacks were swift and brutal. The weapon of choice was a club with a nail driven through it. Moe was never caught. Over the years many men on watch were severely beaten. Moe even beat the hell out of a few fire house dogs. Over the decades the attacks lessened but the threat was always there.

This was the legend of Moe. Almost every trial Firefighter who was to stand his first night watch was told this story. Department veterans relished telling the story during the day to instill a tinge of fear into a new member of the Department. Before turning in for the night the rookie Firefighter would be given a huge baseball bat to defend himself in case Moe decided to make a visit. Each member would wish the kid good luck as they went upstairs for the night. A favorite trick was to hang a small bolt on a string from the upstairs window. When any member in the dorm went to the bathroom he would pull the string making it knock on the window near the watch desk. In the morning the discussion around the kitchen table would center on a red eyed trial man telling his story about how Moe was on the prowl during the night. It was a terrifying experience for a new man and a tale that brought belly laughs from the veteran Firefighters. It was a rite of passage for many of us. Was there really a Moe? Who knows?  The legend lives to this day.

Anyone who has a good Moe story is invited to share it on this site. I am curious if other Departments have a Moe.

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"Fire Horses" book authored by firefighter R.J. Haig.


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