Somebody’s Tryin’ To Kill Me. Or, How Russel Crowe Saved My Butt!

A couple of years ago, when I was still working as a smoke-diver, my pager alarmed me a little after midnight.

“Oh cool,” I thought, “It’s winter and I’m going to be freezing my butt off in an exercise in the middle of the night, way to go Chief!” (Boy was I wrong)

Half way to the fire engine (which was a train BTW, with three hermetically separated coaches called LRZ. 1.) ER/infirmary, 2.) the fire-engine with a 44’000 Liter tank, and 3.) the mobile machine room.) With the infirmary being airlocked and sealed from the exterior, these units could be detached and pulled out of burning tunnels, etc (which we got to do a couple of times, but that’s another story). I realized that the red glaze above my town was not an exercise and that I would probably NOT be freezing that night.

What was burning, was an abandoned tyre storage facility, three stories high, on the edge of an industrial zone. On its left, there were two huge raw oil tanks with 5 Million Liters in each one. On the right stood two skyscrapers with condos full of sleeping people. We were on the middle of the train tracks and above us stood the main freeway connecting the eastern from the western part of my country on stilts.

The storage was due to be cleared a few days later, and the owner thought a “warm demolition” might be cheaper, so he set fire to the darn thing in a few different corners and stories of the building.
 By blowing out the water from both ends of the fire engine through the monitor, our tanks would be empty within 12 minutes. It took three (!) normal size fire trucks, two external pumps in a nearby little stream and a pond to fill us up in time. But the water in the hoses still turned warm. After about two hours we were standing ankle deep in a pitch-black gooey melted rubber sauce leaving me very happy to be wearing my full gear. But it still went through the clothing and the boots. It took me a couple of days to get rid of the tar in my leg pores and I looked like a grossly tattooed chicken, sweating out licorice.


There I was, tightly wrapped in my cozy equipment, wearing my self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with my cute little B pressure hose and I started feeling like a 75-year old man with prostate problems trying to piss out a bush-fire! Rather inadequate so I’m told…

All of a sudden a muffled “boom” pushed me forwards, not like Hollywood, more like someone heavily pushing you in the back. We stumbled, turned around and found that the car that had been parked not 5 meters from me and my backupbro’ was gone. It had caught fire, and the secondary unit had not been able to restrain the fire, so the car just “jumped” into the little slope underneath the tracks. Bummer!

I looked back up at the flames in front of me, which by now had reached the lower edge of the freeway, and I asked myself, “What the hell are you doing here?! Are you one fry short of a happy meal?
” And for the second time in my life, I thought I was gonna die. And I froze! I felt the blood pulsating in my temples, my hands got wet, my mouth was drying up, my whole body was getting really hard…

When suddenly my “inner-music/brain-soundtrack” started giving me that guitar riff…

… and I hear Russell Crowe’s voice singing to me: “Somebody’s trying to kill me, It could be myself, I have it on the highest authority, I’m just no good, For my own health. Indifference under my skin, Gets my veins a rippling, Oh concentrate you stupid man, It becomes your best friend.” YEAH…

And TOFOG magic happened: I snapped right out of it. From laughter. At myself. I must have sounded like a psychotic Darth Vader having an asthma attack, snorting with laughter in my SCBA. When I turned to apologize to my Backupbro’ all I could see were his saucer sized eyes staring at me through his mask. The poor thing, I knew exactly what he was thinking: not only am I stuck with the only firefighter without a biologically integrated fire hose in this country, but now she’s rowing with only one paddle…

But we went on, and after more than 12 hours on scene, I knew that this was the job for me, and that I LOVED it!

My backupbro’ BTW, always demanded to be teamed up with me afterwards. He said I was the coolest FF he’d ever met and fought the beast with. Because while he was scared senseless, I obviously laughed at danger and went on doing my job.

Yeah! Right! Little did he know.

It was all Russel Crowe’s merit.
So, cheers mate, you made me look GOOD!