Legends of the 7th Battalion 23


He was blessed from the beginning. His dad was a railroad Engineer back in the days of steam locomotives. In those days that was like being an airline pilot. He grew up in a tough exciting part of Detroit in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge. Little did he know that one day he would become a Firefighter and ride Engine 4 in the 7th Battalion. He was a wild kid who loved speed. In those days speed meant going fast.

He fit in perfectly with the crew of Engine 4. That engine house was only a step above Engine 29 for having a reputation of getting into trouble or pulling off odd ball stunts. He quickly established himself as a good Firefighter. They called him Ankie. He was someone you could rely on when things got tough. He was just the type of person Chief 7 was looking for when he needed a new driver.

Ankie was made for the Chief Driver position. He used to race motorcycles so his judgment when driving at high speeds was flawless. Many times a Chief would come back from a run with Ankie and need a good shot of black coffee.

One time they had a run down Lafayette Avenue. Ankie had it floored and was weaving expertly in and out of traffic. As they approached Clark Park the street does a quick jog around the playground. Ankie was in complete control as he whizzed around the turn with wheels squealing and the siren wailing. Suddenly a little old lady decided to make a left turn. She was oblivious to Chief 7s car bearing down on her. Not ever touching the brake, Ankie turned towards the park, bounced off the curb and became airborne. Witnesses said you could hear Chief 7s scream above the sound of the siren. When they came down Ankie was headed for a big clump of bushes. There was a cloud of dust, twigs, bird feathers and leaves as they hurdled through the foliage and bounced back on to Lafayette Avenue. Ankie used to laugh when telling the story. He said he took a quick glance in his rearview mirror and saw two hobos running wild eyed with a bottle of wine from the bushes that Ankie and the Chief just came through. Ankie had a great career with many episodes like his ride through the park. Amazingly he never had an accident as a Chiefs driver. He told me the only times he was ever frightened on a run was after he became Chief 7 and had to let someone else do the driving. That’s when he started to drink black coffee.

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


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