Zoo in the 7th


It seems like I have a fixation on animals living in the 7th Battalion. We have talked about horses, dogs, goats, and cats. Firefighters and animals usually do not mix well. Crawling down a long smoke filled hallway, being protected by an angry Rottweiler, can be a frightening situation. Stepping on a cat in a darkened basement can take years off your life. A race for safety, when being chased from a junkyard by a grease-smeared, wild-eyed billy-goat can scare the hell out of you.

A retired firefighter told me he once responded to an alarm of fire in the Delray section of the 7th Battalion. There was no smoke showing and he was ordered to check out the basement of a  run-down four flat. It was a real slumlord special. The electricity was turned off and the place was full of litter. He used his flashlight as he moved through the piles of junk and debris. Flashing his light along the wall he saw a mounted wolf’s head. he said it was a good mount. Very realistic. He moved to the rear wall and checked the gas shut off. Finding no fire he decided to leave. He wanted to get a closer look at the wolf’s head so he followed the wall back on his way out. He put his light on the mount and saw the eyes move. That’s odd he thought and moved closer for a better look.  He was about two feet away when the mounted wolf’s head exploded into a frenzy of snarling, snapping and barking. It was so startling that he dropped his flash light  and the room went dark. He broke into a run for the door. He tripped and fell, chipping a tooth.

Once outside he discovered the German shepherd next door had a found a hole in the basement wall where he could stick his head through to watch for intruders. The firefighter was upset about the chipped tooth, but told me he was happy he didn’t try to pet mounted wolf's head.

I was discussing these things with my son Joe, who is a Lieutenant on the Detroit Fire Department. Joe told me a hair raising tale about his last tour of duty in the 7th Battalion.

Joe said he responded to a fire in the Mexican Village area. It was a two story dwelling. Outside the smoke was ankle deep and fire had vented through the roof. People were yelling that someone was trapped inside the burning building. Horrifying screams were coming from the building. The pipe-man on engine 27 dropped both bundles as the pumper roared toward the nearest hydrant. Everyone else masked up and rushed inside to attempt a rescue. With a red line from the truck, Joe and another man went upstairs to search the bedrooms. The screaming of a person being burned to death filled their ears. It was hot and difficult, but they worked their way though the sleeping rooms and ended up on an upstairs porch. They found no victims. Joe said the screaming was getting weaker when he looked down from the porch and saw another man had made the rescue. It looked like he was carrying an ugly baby in his arms, but it turned out to be a small pig who was trapped in a cage near a burning kitchen. Joe said he learned later, the  pig survived his burns. Joe said it was amazing how human the pig's cries  were. I told Joe the pig was probably related to some of the bar flies who frequented the 7th Battalion bars.

Stay safe my brothers and sisters.

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


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