Newest Review: ... a separate entity within the FDNY. The Rescues are seen as the elite of the department, the best of the best. Now, this review is ab... more
The elite of the FDNY.
The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse - Tom Downey
Member Name: Dexter01
The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse - Tom Downey
Advantages: A good historical account of the department and Rescue 2. A great read.
Disadvantages: Probably dull for those not interested in such things.
As this review is about a Rescue Company within the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), let me start with some information about how the FDNY operates to make things, hopefully, a little clearer for you.
The FDNY is in the top 3 of busiest and biggest Fire Services of the world. It covers the 5 boroughs of New York City. To aid the department, it is divided into the 5 boroughs and then within each borough, there are several divisions, which then have several battalions within. With me so far?
Unlike the UK Fire Service, the FDNY separates it's firefighters amongst it's different vehicles and there uses. The main vehicles are the Engine Company, who's main role is to put water onto the fire. You then have the Ladder Company, the role of which is to search fire building's for civilians and ventilate a building to aid the Engine Company. You also have a Squad Company, which is a cross between an Engine Company and a Rescue Company. Finally, you have the Rescue Company, the main role of which is to save fellow firefighters and keep them safe at incidents and locate trapped civilians. There are more specialised units, but these are the main ones.
Within the FDNY, there are a fair few Engine and Ladder Companies, these being the main workhorses of the service, so to speak. You then have 7 Squad Companies and 5 Rescue Companies. The Squad and Rescues come under the command of the Special Operations Command, which is near enough a separate entity within the FDNY. The Rescues are seen as the elite of the department, the best of the best.
Now, this review is about a book, which is about a Rescue Company, specifically Rescue 2, based in the borough of Brooklyn. We start out in 1995, following one firefighter on his journey into work, while listening to the radio for the FDNY. On his arrival at the firehouse, he finds out something terrible has happened and one of the Rescue firefighters has died in a fire, the first firefighter in Rescue 2 to die in the line of duty since the fifties.
The book then follows on from down the years, when the company gets a new Captain (Officer in charge of the company) and his rebuilding of the company following the death of their comrade. It follows his struggle to be accepted as the Captain.
After this initial beginning, the author takes us back to the seventies. A time when the FDNY was going through what is recognised as it's war years. The department went through a period of serious fires every night and every company was regularly attending more than 25 incidents a shift in the busiest areas. If anyone knows anything about New York, they will be led to believe that the area worst hit was the Bronx. This was the case at first, but the Bronx quickly run out places to burn and Brooklyn took over as being the area worst hit.
This is still the case today, although not as busy, Brooklyn is still the busiest area of the FDNY. In the seventies, we join Rescue 2 and their new Captain, Fred Gallagher. It is here that Rescue 2 starts it transition from being a Rescue Company that doesn't do alot of work to a Company that becomes the most hard working Company in the department. Gallagher transforms the firefighters from the ones who don't want to work and brings in firefighters who want to work and do the best they can. It tells us about Gallagher's style of leading his firefighters.
Following on from here, Gallagher is promoted and leaves the company and then comes the Companies most famous Captain. Ray Downey. Downey was world renowned for his Search and Rescue abilities. He became the go to man for most disasters in the US. Downey set about transforming the company from one that just attends fires, to one that attends every incident that could require their services. They started to run to car accidents, the wierd and wonderful jobs, people impaled on spikes and each incident would be a learning curve for them. It was from this time that Rescue 2 became famous within the Fire Department circles of the US.
The book goes into more detail about certain defining incidents within the FDNY that have occurred over the years. You learn about the Atlantic Avenue fire, a defining fire for the new Captain, Phil Ruvolo, a fire where 2 firefighters died and Rescue 2 utilised their skills to rescue others. It was an incident that represented exactly what the Rescue Companies were set up for.
The author of this book was writing this and staying with the Company on research in the months leading up to the terror attacks of 9/11. As this was a defining moment of the FDNY's history, this is mentioned within the book. All firefighters from Rescue 2 that attended the towers on that day perished in the collapses. 8 firefighters died that day from Rescue 2, which, when considered with the fact that the company only has 25 firefighters assigned to it, it is alot. The book follows the rebuilding of the Company following this moment in it's history.
The author of the book is Tom Downey, the nephew of the famous Ray Downey. It is due to this connection that he managed to get such access to Rescue 2. It is 320 pages long andd was published in June 2004. You can currently get a new copy on Amazon for £5.15, which isn't too shabby.
If the fire service interest you, specifically the FDNY, then this book is definitely for you. I could not put it down once I started, it gripped me from the very beginning. It is nice to get the history of a Company of the FDNY and also find out more about certain defining incidents.
If, however, none of that interests you, then I would imagine you may find it a bit boring and not to your taste, so give it a miss. It gives you some information about how the FDNY operates, but doesn't baffle the newbie to how it operates. It gives you enough to understand what is going on. I would recommend this, as I enjoy it so much and probably read this 3 times a year and still can't put it down each time I start it again.
Summary: A must for all who like things fire related.
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