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-The following is the script of a two minute radio broadcast that happened twenty five years ago by the great Paul Harvey, on his hugely successful radio program, "News and Comments by Paul Harvey". My Harvey was a great broadcaster who had a tremendously kind spirit. He was know for taking the obscure and introducing it to the rest of us in a beautifully eloquent way. The challenge was made more difficult because, for you youngsters, Mr. Harvey was a radio broadcaster; no pictures. 

-For those of us old enough to remember listening to Mr. Harvey, it was a wonderful treat to hear that silky deep voice that pronounced everything so correctly and with so much feeling and emotion, painting pictures that were better than images captured with a camera. 

-If you have never had the privilege of listening to Mr. Harvey, google him and play some of the samplings. He was the kind of radio personality that came across as an old and trusted friend that made you feel as though he were talking right to you. This is the guy that you wanted to speak to people on your behalf. And one day almost thirty years ago, for just two minutes... he spoke for firefighters everywhere. 

-And now, using Mr. Paul Harvey's own words, "for the rest of the story".

Fire and Ice by Paul Harvey

Nobody knows why firefighters are firefighters. Not even they can tell you why. It's time somebody try.

Firefighting is the most risky of all dead end jobs and yet also the one where most workers are most likely to punch in early. It's hard enough to believe that; it's impossible to explain it. Fire and ice are uncomfortable separately or together. Wives hate the hours. Kids love the noise. Fire and ice.

 

Any day at the firehouse the bell from hell puts the dispatcher on the horn with a tenement tinderbox address. Into the bunker pants, turnout coat, grab the mask and go. Minutes later you're onsite. As others run out, you go in. You'll need all you can carry the six-pound axe, a six-foot rake, the Halligan bar. The ceiling concealing the smoldering has to come down and it's one of those stubborn tin ones. In the scary dark with the heat eating your ears, you're gouging out and tearing loose and pulling apart, gulping air and tasting black. Your windpipe is closing and you've lost track of which way is out. Is it worth it?

 

They've budget cut your ladder company from six to five, so now everything you do is 16.67 percent more difficult and more dangerous. Your air is low. Inside your mask you're throwing up. There's a searing ember down your neck. Torn gloves expose a smashed hand. Yet you emerge from the holocaust hugging, with your elbows, somebody's singed kitten. Fire and ice.

 

You've had minutes of exhilaration on the bouncing rear mount of a steaming hundred-foot Seagrave, hours of using all you've learned and learning more. Now you're back at the station house. You've unstuffed your nostrils with soapy fingers; you can almost breathe again. Next come the tedious hours as you and Brillo gang up on the grimy tools. The cleanup crew at the firehouse is you when windows need washing and toilets need cleaning and floors mopping and beds need making, you do it. Fire and ice, they both go with the job.

 

Then there's that night another engine company gets there first and you see this wet-eared rookie hot-dogging ahead; his academy boots still shiny. You lose him inside the crackling dark and you forget about him until your helmet warning bell says get out. The battalion chief is calling you off. You get out; the other guy didn't. He had heard a scream from the bottom of burning basement stairs and he headed down there, when on the bubbling tarpaper roof the three-ton compressor broke through, that day we lost two.

Oh, yes, firefighters cry, but only briefly because now comes the inevitable and evermore paperwork just in case OSHA complains or somebody sues. Is it worth it?

Your B crew pumper swapped his day shift so some family guy could be home for his kid's birthday and then, outbound toward a false alarm, your buddy gets blindsided by a hotrod driven by a drunk. Fire and ice.

 

The intercom barks again. This time it's a warehouse, a big, fast, multiple blaze, probably torched. Onsite engine men draped with icicles dragging an inch and three-quarter hose are waiting for your big line: ladder men can't make the building without you. Search, rescue, ventilate. Eventually it's over and out. You're smoke smudged and sleepless and wrung out, but you won. Behind graffiti-fouled walls you saved what you could. But the raging blaze that wanted to consume adjacent buildings did not because you were there.

 

Back at the firehouse before cleanup, you and the guys sit a spell, tired but stimulated, drinking coffee and laughing, and feeling good about one another. Nobody outside your world can ever quite know that feeling. In any other uniform you get streets named after you for killing people; in this one you risk your life to save people. Until one day you run out of chances and at one final fire, either you buy it or you don't. If you don't, it's only eventually to be brushed off with a puny pension. Yet there's no third way you'd ever leave this job and, you're doubting even God knows why.

You're out of the shower now; most of the grime and some of the cynicism are down the drain, when you hear a strangely familiar voice saying, "For salvaging things and people from flames, I have to rely on your hands." You look around, nobody there. But when you get over your incredulity, you feel better. Suddenly today's crew cook in the kitchen hollers chow. It's time to eat. It smells like roast beef today, and that'll be good. But you'll eat fast, for any next alarm you'll want to be ready.

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Comment by A Clouser on February 9, 2013 at 4:48pm

wonderful post..... nice reminder after a long week!

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 3, 2013 at 10:37pm

-If you watch anything, watch and listen to Paul Harvey speak about 9-11

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=TKDb4...

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 3, 2013 at 10:18pm
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 3, 2013 at 10:13pm

"We have become a nation where we try to upgrade our status, not by hard work, but by words. In recent years, even persons that win large amounts of money, or are very rich, feel they must either own or start a business just so they can give themselves a title. In social settings, it is no longer enough to be employed, supporting a family, and giving to the community.

"It used to be salesmen were respected for their ability to generate sales; now they have become account executives. With the title change has come more golf, more planning time, and less time actually doing what they were hired to do, see potential buyers and sell the company products. With the change of title from stewardess to flight attendant, those who serve us in the air forgot how to smile and to truly help the flying public. Waiters and waitresses are now servers. Bricklayers and electricians are now "in the construction trade," and policemen who used to have our respect have changed their title to law enforcement officers and are no longer as respected as they once were.

"Thousands of jobs are begging to be filled in our nation, where a person could easily earn $500 a week or more. Unfortunately, those jobs are for plumbers, mechanics and no new titles have been found for those jobs. We used to have panhandlers, now we have the homeless and it is now society`s problem to house and feed them instead of their own responsibility.

"There are only two jobs left in our nation that remain unchanged in title and respect. They both work hard, take care of their families, help their communities, command respect from us all. Thank God for our farmers and firefighters." Paul Harvey

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 3, 2013 at 9:55pm

Here is a good sample of Mr Harvey's work.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3Az0okaHig

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