The Force Keeping Us Safe While we Sleep: The FDNY
Firefighter’s work shifts are around the clock. The New York City Fire Department operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and inherently, has teams that serve overnight. A group of 11 firemen makes up the team working overnight winters in Queens reminds us that firefighters are alert for emergency calls, even while we are sound asleep.
The Fresh Meadows Engine 299/Ladder 152 company is one firehouse that covers Utopia, East Flushing, Auburndale, and Bayside.
Chris Olsen, 29, Firefighter or “New York’s Bravest” joining the force in 2016, starts his shift at 4 p.m., gets prepped, and gets energized for the night ahead that includes an anticipated dinner between 8–9 p.m. While usually open for tours for young children and even adults, he invited anyone with open arms to visit the fire station when approached for a casual visit. Although fare warned, if a call comes in while visitors are present, “Just get out.” says Chris. A memorial commemorating their 100th year in service hangs as a constant reminder of past firefighters.
The red doors lead out for a one-way-out exit. On high emergency alert calls, firefighters on the second floor would leap to grip and slide down the brass pole to get the trucks at the fastest times possible to get to an emergency call.
They called themselves “The Web” as a symbol of togetherness and keeping networks. These firefighters band together to overcome whatever obstacle they might face and protect everyone overnight.
This house operates two main apparatus, Ladder 152 is 95 feet long truck equipped with an extendable ladder with a bucket attached to the end. The second truck is smaller in size and holds up to 500 gallons of water that is capable to pressurize hose lines and extinguish fires.
Many overnight shifts elapse peacefully. The firefighters during this shift have the opportunity to sleep but are awaken by an alarm at any given moment. The overnight work shifts consist of 9 firefighters and 2 officers, and they call themselves “The Web.” Any firefighter that was temporarily detailed to the company had no desire to leave the outfit, which the other fight fighters call “getting caught in the web.” It symbolizes the link of “togetherness” and “keeping networks between community and firefighters.”
Chris curated this project of framing and laying out across four stairwell walls memorializing the history of the firehouse and archiving vivid past experiences. The veterans and older patrons cover the first and second flight of stairs, and the third and fourth stairwell are more photos of younger and more recent.
During quiet evenings, firefighters remain productive running drills and “studying previous emergencies and discussing standard operating procedures,” says Chris. Other duties necessary for optimal performance are excellent housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining physical fitness.
“We have one person always awake and monitoring the calls to communicate out the type emergency level to sound off throughout the fire station.” It takes 5 seconds to fully suit up from a comfortable uniform to a full fire-protected suit.
On calls that demand quick entries, they use an axe to hack and bludgeon doors, the halligan to wedge in door frames, lock bolts, and other material to gain access into a locked entryway during specific emergencies in burning buildings.
They are wake when many are not. This small company is the force watching and protecting over neighborhoods spanning west-central Queens consisted of hundreds of thousands of people. The Web clings to the safety of New York City residents during cold winter nights.