By Hal Collier
The following story is true. I didn’t change the names because I never knew their names. If you remember, I spent most of my career at Hollywood Division.
Right behind Hollywood Police Station was Los Angeles Fire Station # 27. Fire station #27 is a battalion station, which means it has 2 engine trucks, a hook and ladder truck, 2 paramedic trucks, a haz-mat truck and a battalion chief. That’s as big as it gets in the inner city. I once heard that #27 was the busiest fire station in the world.
Remember Hollywood never sleeps. I use the term firemen because I’m not sure what’s the politically correct name for firepersons. No offense intended, I’m just a dinosaur.
Police officers and firemen are brothers in arms. When a policeman gets shot or hurt, it’s a fireman who saves his life. Our pay, benefit and contracts with the city, are usually fought together. Our pensions are similar but most important we have the same views of dirt bags and celebrities.
Firemen have taught me valuable lessons in life. If you’re at a fire, conducting crowd or traffic control and a fireman drops his fire hose and runs, try to keep up with him. If it’s a big fire and their cantina lunch truck shows up, it’s your lucky day. Firemen eat good.
Recently, there was big news about an L.A City fireman who sued his department because he said he was discriminated against, because he was black. He was fed dog food as a practical joke, because he claimed he was the “Big Dog”. After a civil trial he was awarded 1.5 million. During the trial he admitted he participated in practical jokes against other firemen. Firemen and police officers have been playing practical jokes since the earth cooled. I have some first-hand knowledge with firemen and their practical jokes.
The first incident I was not involved in but learned from other officers. There’s a fire station on Mulholland Drive near Laurel Canyon. It’s a small station and not that busy. A Hollywood Senior Lead Officer was known to frequent the station house and play ping pong with the firemen. He was usually accompanied by a rookie officer and showed up around lunch. The firemen would welcome the rookie into the fire station and usher the rookie into a seat at a table. The seat was rigged with a small waterline that would squirt water onto the crotch of whoever was sitting at the table. Your tax dollars at work!
The next incident involved a homeless man living in the hills in the Cahuenga Pass. He was preparing his dinner, BBQ pigeon over an open fire. A resident called the fire department, concerned about a brush fire. Fireman are fun loving people until you mess with them about fire. The homeless man was quite a ways up the hill and it was a hot day. The fire department has those water dropping helicopters and one just happened to be in the area. The helicopter told the homeless man over his loud speaker to put out the fire. Homeless are not your touchy-feely sort of people and generally men of few words. The homeless man gave the helicopter the one finger wave.
The helicopter again warned the man to put out his fire. The homeless man gave a two finger wave this time, one finger on each hand. The helicopter dropped thousands of gallons of water on the man and his camp. Fire out, campground closed due to flooding.
Have you ever noticed that all fire trucks have big numbers on them? Those numbers indicate which station the fire truck comes from. #27 comes from fire station 27, etc. Now, I spent a lot of time conducting traffic control at fires. See, firemen park anywhere they need to fight the fire. I understood that, but what bothered me was that it took them longer to pick up their hoses and clear the streets than to fight the fire. Sometimes they would stand around and BS with a friend from another station. I couldn’t leave until they did. Back to those numbers, they are metallic. You can change 27 to read 72 or put them upside down or sideways if you wish. Just don’t get caught. Firemen are obsessive about of their equipment.
I was walking past the rear gate to FD #27 one day and saw a firemen lying on his back. He was washing the underside of the fire truck. I guessed that only an unfortunate pedestrian would notice and remark, “Wow, the underside of that fire truck is clean.” I envy firemen’s equipment. I had to bribe our garage attendants to wash my police car once a month.
If the above seemed juvenile, let me tell you about the fishing pole. The new #27 fire station was a two story beauty right behind the back door to the police station. On warm summer evenings the firemen would sit up on the roof, smoking expensive cigars and watching the coming and goings of police officers. They especially liked nights when we ran prostitution task forces. They would sit up there with binoculars watching the girls as they were marched through the back door in their skimpy outfits.
OK, back to the fishing pole. There was a 10 foot wall that separated the police station from the fire station. On the police side, we had a carport and a narrow driveway. The firemen would tie a 3 inch rat-looking piece of material to the end of the line. They would then cast it over the wall between parked police cars and wait. When an unsuspecting officer walked toward the back door they would reel in the line until the rat ran across the officer’s feet. As the officer jumped around and sometimes screaming the firemen would burst out in laughter. They particularly liked female officers. They screamed the loudest and had the best moves.
Another variation was tying a $5 bill to the fishing line and when an officer attempted to pick up the bill they would reel it away. I once watched a young officer chase that $5 bill for 30 feet, 1 foot at a time. I made it a practice to check the roof top of the fire station when entering the police station parking lot.
And you thought I was slow. Again, your tax dollars at work.
As you saw at the beginning of this story, not all practical jokes turn out good. One night Fire Station #27 was assigned two female paramedics. They were classmates and it was their first shift together. It was during the midnight to dawn shift that they got bored. They were driving around Hollywood and spotted two Hollywood officers parked. They thought it would be fun to throw water balloons at the officers. Instead of balloons they threw saline IV bags. Everyone laughed and drove off in different directions. Only, the officers wanted revenge.
The officers contacted their Sergeant. A dozen eggs were bought and a deserted parking lot was found. A request for an ambulance was made and the two female paramedics arrived. Ok. Eggs were thrown and everyone agreed that payback was a bitch. At 3 A.M., the paramedics drove back to the station and began washing the ambulance. Unfortunately, the Battalion Chief woke up and wanted an investigation. The female paramedics admitted their guilt and were punished. The involved officers were never identified. Before any of my former partners check the statute of limitations, I was working that night but wasn’t there.
I love firemen, just like my fellow officers. Were different but very much the same. Police officers will run to gunfire but won’t go near a burning building.
In future stories, I will discuss the 3 days I spent with firemen during the riots. Yea, I said riots, I was there and trust me it wasn’t civil unrest!