Around 2:30 this morning, a single car detached garage decided to catch on fire. The hows and the whys are the kinds of questions our fearless Fire Marshals are paid to answer; I am paid to keep the situation from escalating from “fire” to “raging inferno”. Along with Engine Co.2, the boys from Ladder Truck 2 LOVE a good house fire. Hell, that’s half the reason we want to work on the north side of Springburg. The other half is dealing with the mad-dog antics that many of our esteemed clientele engage in on a regular basis. I’m talking about our urban outdoorsmen who pass out in the alleys, brawl each other with the drunken vigor of fighting sloths and light their shopping carts on fire on a regular basis. It is in this kind of environment that we found ourselves facing a bread-and-butter burner.
We roll up and immediately hop out of the Truck to help the Engine boys put the liquid refreshment on the blazing garage. Not too big a thing, really. As we were working around the structure, I noticed that the garage wasn’t exactly being used as a place to store vehicles, but rather, to store the homeless in their off time. All the trappings necessary for a life on the streets were being consumed by fire as evidenced by the piss-stained couch going up in the center of it all. There was a random bale of hay, cardboard tables, endless alcoholic beverage containers, enough makeshift ashtrays filled up to have put one of the Marlboro Man’s kids through college and the ubiquitous nasty mattress, all turning to glowing embers before our eyes.
Just as the nozzle man was making his entry, I heard this weird high pitched cackle. What the bejeezus? I turned around to find a crazy-eyed wild man sitting on top of a doghouse, wearing a shirt as a kilt, and little else. I start to holler at him, through my air mask, so of course, we look like a pair of idiots yelling at each other. At least the news cameras were out on the street. When I got near enough to him to yank my mask and ask what in THE HELL he was doing, he just kept giggling and informed me that “I better get in there and get Granny.” WHAT? IS THERE SOMEONE IN THERE MISTER? “Yeah, Granny went in there to look for Elvis and say goodbye to God.” AGAIN, WHAT? AS IN WHAT THE F–K ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? The two firefighters continued to toss water at the situation and I informed them that there might be someone else in there. Great.
The boys knocked down the fire in short order and I drug kilt-dude out to the street and had him repeat his story to the head honchos on-scene, because this? is totally unbelievable if you didn’t witness it. He continued to rant and rave like a lunatic about Granny (who was across the street, by the way. On the sidewalk. In a lawn chair. At 2:30am) and Elvis, then shuffled down the street until the cops caught up with him and hauled him off to the pokey (where, I was told, he ripped off his kilt/shirt combo at the booking desk and basked in his nude glory; that’ll make him most popular in lockup). By this time, we were waiting on the Marshal to arrive and do his thing, so we took the time to check over the scene, and let me tell you one thing: this place is going on the Top 15 list of nastiest residences in our entire town.
Picture this: cobwebs hanging from ceiling to about 5ft. high on the walls, all colored brown from dirt and wayward cigarette smoke. A toilet falling through the floor with water running in it continually. Five gallon buckets throughout the house in case you didn’t feel like making the trip to aforementioned leaning stool of nastiness (a well utilized option, I might add). Several years worth of cigarette butts crammed into every available container strewn about. Rotting food scattered to every corner of the joint. Computer screens and monitors in various locations with a wireless router sitting on an overturned shopping cart in the erstwhile “living” room. Trash up to your knees throughout smelling like, well, old decaying trash. The smell. Oh, the smell. God, for the smell. I’d rather take up residence in the burned out garage than try to live in this environment.
And you want to know what was in the middle of all of this nasty, filth ridden squalor? A working smoke detector. Despite living in conditions that could be likened to a 900 square foot dumpster, these folks had the sense of mind to at LEAST have a smoke alarm in their sweet abode. When you compare that to the number of people I see on my side of town not wearing (and not making their kids wear) seat belts, it almost lends some sanity to the situation. Never mind that Granny’s son was screaming at her rudely about how if someone didn’t let him back in the house he was gonna “whip (my) d–k out and take a big giant piss right here, right now” (true statement). Never mind that we were secretly hoping the police would drop a taser shot on him for being such a turd as to yell at his Granny, calling her EVERY rude name I can think of, none of which I can print. I can only hope they eventually arrest him, if for nothing more than being a disrespectful asshole; no one should talk to their granny like that.
Certainly not one savvy enough to have both a functioning smoke detector and a relationship with Elvis.