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Want to know what New England firefighting is like? Check out the Discovery Channel's new show

By Andrew Pollack on 06/21/2005 at 12:57 PM EDT
A picture of the firehouse crew from the show

Discovery Channel wins big with their new “Firehouse USA: Boston”. This is a documentary series following the firefighters in Boston’s Huntington Station. They’re busy, so the show has lots of good stuff to work with.

What I really liked: The show does a fantastic job showing both the every day routine work and the big fun fire work that gets done. I liked how they showed the work of “overhaul” and explained why firefighters have to do so much “damage” to save a building. The routine calls – like a stuck elevator rescue, and a car accident – were as good as the fire scenes. The fire scenes themselves were great. The ride across town, the confusion finding the best route, the difficulty of negotiating traffic – and then the sound and confusion and mess at the scene was all shown very well. It did feel like being there.

I also enjoyed it particularly because the ‘style’ of firefighting in Boston is very much the same as what we do here in Cumberland. Sure, we do less of it -- A lot less of it. But its still New England fire fighting and Boston has set the standard for most of that. So much of modern firefighting started in New England its fascinating. The tools on the truck say it all – we use a “Boston Rake” to pull plaster and lathe ceilings. We use a “Jaffrey Valve” (from Jaffrey, New Hampshire) to control large diameter line couplings (there are always 42 turns from open to closed on a Jaffrey valve).

What I didn’t like: The PASS alarms going off were weird. What’s up with that? At all the fire scenes, in the background you could hear the constant din of the high pitched PASS alarms. Normally, these are active when you’re breathing air on a SCOTT pack. If you stop moving for 30 seconds, the alarm goes off. It is to help other firefighters find you if you’re down. On RIT, we’re trained to listen for that sound and move to it as fast as possible. Normally, you shut it off when you doff your pack after you’ve come out so that it doesn’t alarm when you’ve set the pack down or you’re just standing there. There were so many going off all the time, I almost wonder if it was a bit of a joke being played on the film crew. In any case, it kept making me want to get up and go looking for it.

Discovery Channel ran the first show as a preview/pilot -- I’m sure they’ll repeat it a hundred times between now and when the series starts in July. Look for it.

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