Robin Jade Conde

PODCAST: Home Fire Safety (with Sue Gardner)

In this episode, Reuben and Tessa are joined by Sue Gardner, a retired firefighter, to discuss fire safety. They cover topics such as the causes of house fires, the difference in fire behavior in old and new houses, the importance of smoke alarms and fire escape plans, and the use of fire blankets and fire extinguishers. Sue also shares a story about pre-planning a fire and the importance of following established procedures. Overall, the conversation emphasizes the importance of fire prevention and preparedness in keeping homes and occupants safe. Please see link for the video of the comparison between legacy room and modern room during fire:


Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and ensure they are in working order.
Create and practice a fire escape plan with your family, including identifying a meeting place outside the home.
Consider having fire extinguishers and fire blankets in your home for added safety.
Be cautious with space heaters, ensuring they are not placed near flammable materials and are in good working condition.
Understand the fire behavior in different types of structures and take appropriate precautions.
Follow building codes and regulations to enhance firefighter safety and prevent fire incidents. Firefighters need to take their time and be cautious during firefighting operations.
Fire safety includes having an evacuation plan, checking smoke detectors, and having the right fire extinguishers.
Space heaters should be updated to avoid drawing too much power.
Listeners are encouraged to email the podcast with thoughts, questions, concerns, or show ideas.


00:00 Introduction and Listener Request
01:10 Introduction of Sue Gardner
02:12 Sue’s Career as a Firefighter
03:43 Difference in Fire Behavior in Old and New Houses
06:03 Causes of House Fires
07:07 Faster Fire Spread in Newer Construction
08:32 Impact of Building Codes on Firefighter Safety
10:55 Importance of Smoke Alarms
13:19 Types of Smoke Alarms
16:11 Importance of Fire Escape Plans
17:36 Fire Escape Ladders
19:03 Fire Extinguishers
20:06 Increased Fire Risk in Winter
22:27 Fire Behavior in Different Structures
24:00 Preventing Fires from Space Heaters
25:21 Fire Blankets
28:07 Chimney Fires
30:40 Sue’s Story: Pre-Planning a Fire
34:55 Firefighting experiences
35:28 Fire safety tips
36:10 Conclusion and closing remarks



The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.



Reuben Saltzman: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk podcast, a production of Structure Talk Home inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman. I’m your host alongside Building Science geek Tessa Murry. We help home inspectors up their game through education, and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019, and we are also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom. Welcome to another episode of the Structure Talk podcast. Today we’ve got a listener request. We had Richard write in when we were talking about ideas for what we want to talk about this year, and one of the requests we got was to talk about fire safety. Why not get a fire safety expert on the show? Talk about some of the concerns with newer houses, different building techniques, things that people could do to make their houses safer. And I think this is a great time of year to cover it. We’re in the dead of winter right now, and this is where people start using a lot more space heaters. I think now, maybe I’ll be corrected here, we got an expert on the show, I think you end up getting a lot more fires during this time of year. But, Tessa knows somebody from a previous life who is a great, great person to have on the show. Tessa, why don’t you introduce Sue? 

Tessa Murry: Okay. Thanks Reuben. I am so excited. Today we have on Sue Gardner. She is a longtime friend of mine that I met through Habitat for Humanity, doing builds. And she and I have worked together on several different houses for years now, and she is just one of the best humans I know. She’s got a huge heart, but she’s also one of the coolest people I know, too. So Sue, we’ll let you introduce yourself, but just a quick warmup so our listeners know. Sue was the first female firefighter for the City of New Brunswick. So congratulations, Sue. And you are recently retired.

RS: Yeah.

TM: But you spent how many years as a firefighter? 

Sue Gardner: 18 and a half years with the City of New Brunswick Fire Department.

TM: 18 and a half years. Okay.

RS: Wow.

TM: Long time. Long time.

SG: Yeah. We have have a department of about 95, firefighters. At one time we did have three females, but now they’re down to two ’cause I retired. So [chuckle] we gotta get those numbers up.

TM: Okay. So one thing that, we’re hoping to cover, Reuben, kind of you set it up nicely, some of the topics we wanna talk about today, but hoping that you can just kind of give us some insights and some tips and tricks to make us safer in our own homes and things that we can do, to try and avoid fires or if there is a fire, what we can do to make sure we can get out safely. So that’s some of the stuff we’re hoping to talk about today. But one thing, Sue, just to start this off, can you tell us a little bit kind of career and what you did for the fire department, what your job looked like? 

SG: Sure. Like anybody who first enters the fire department, we’re all probies our first year. So we get to ride on all of the different apparatus. There’s a… New Brunswick had three engines, a ladder truck and a rescue. So, what they try to do your first year is rotate you to train on each one of those apparatus so that way you know what to do when you’re on that apparatus during your scheduled shift. We have three engines and two of them are standalone companies, which means that all they have is an engine inside the house. And they’re spread throughout the city. New Brunswick’s, about five square miles. So we try to position them so that there’s always an engine responding to a call within and getting to a call within five minutes. So, ’cause as we know with fire, time is of the essence, so the faster you can get there, the less damage that’s done and, the more property you can preserve. So, having an engine company in various areas of the city is really important. We only have one ladder truck, and they do a lot of the heavy lifting, if you will. They do the search and rescue. They’ll do heavy machinery if there’s a motor vehicle accidents. They carry the tools, not excavation, but…

RS: Excavation? Is that it? 

SG: Extrication? [laughter]

RS: Extrication.

SG: Yes, it’s an ex…

RS: Thank you.

SG: Yeah, one of those ex’s the heavy, the jaws of life, the spreaders, the cutters, airbags, stabilizers, all that stuff is on. That’s all ladder work. I didn’t do too much on ladder work. A lot of it was… You want your bigger, taller people doing that, and I’m only 5′2″, so, a lot of the shorter people just by chance, tend to spend most of their careers on engines. We’re a little more effective. We get into little tighter spaces and things like that. In New Brunswick, we have a lot of old houses, so there’s basements that are low ceilings and crawl spaces and things like that. So, I spent just about all of my career on engine. I drove for about 15 years of my 18 years. So yeah, that’s what, I mostly pump fires more so than I went in them.

TM: Okay. So you’ve seen a lot of fires over the years. And to follow up on Reuben’s question, would you say that this time of year, winter is when you see more house fires? 

SG: Yep. Yeah. He’s correct on that, because of people using space heaters, even fireplaces, but more so the space heaters become an issue and due to overload of outlets, people don’t realize how much they draw, when you’re using them or locations next to beds, next to curtains, people don’t realize that the radiant heat actually can ignite bedspreads, curtains and also, I remember we went to a call where we had an extension cord, had so many things, it wasn’t the right gauge. So people think an extension cord can do anything, it doesn’t matter the gauge, but you know, the draw on the extension cord, obviously the appliance does make a difference. And I don’t know if people understand that you can’t just use the orange yellow cord for everything. I mean, the orange cord for every appliance. So, yeah. But you’re right, Reuben, we do see more fires in the winter, and also abandoned houses where homeless people are trying to keep warm. They just set fires to keep warm. So, that’s also an issue.

RS: Sure. Sure.

TM: What would you say are the main causes for house fires, Sue? So, space heaters would be one, but what are some other ones? 

SG: Even candles. Candles, actually light them and forget that they’re there or they leave and they think it’s no big deal or knock them over. Candles are a big one. Kitchen fires, if you’re gonna say overall, probably where a lot of fires will start is in the kitchen, just because of cooking. There’s more of an opportunity for a fire to start there. But I believe it’s the candles. People don’t, aren’t aware of that.

TM: Okay. And this was something that was really interesting, you were kind of sharing with me. We were talking a little bit before the show about the difference in how houses burn based on when they were built.

SG: Yeah. When I was in the academy, they showed us this video of a room with old contents or just regular wood versus a synthetic material that’s out there now, all the foam and vinyl and things like that. Even the siding on a house that melts and ignites rather than, wooden shingles or anything like that. So, things, break down chemically a lot quicker and create gases, which then really ignite the fire and get it rolling really quickly. So in this video, you can see that the contents of an old house or old room furniture, like 20 minutes before the room’s completely involved. Whereas if you go into a room today, within five minutes, that room can be completely involved, which is why time is so important when you’re fighting fire, at least nowadays.

RS: Yeah. You sent us a video beforehand, before doing this. Tessa and I both had a chance to watch it. We’ll put a link to that in our show notes, but with the newer materials, I think it reached Flashover. And I think that flashover, correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t that the point where everything in the room starts on fire? 

SG: That is correct. Yeah.

RS: I think it reached flashover in like three and a half minutes. But then for comparison, you had the other room and it took like almost a half hour for older construction to reach flashover. I mean, what a dramatic difference that makes.

SG: Yeah. And you know that…

TM: I mean, you may not know the details, but is that a lot of that, because like just the, not even the furnishings, I mean, the furnishings are different and like you said, the newer furnishings ignite faster, but the actual construction of like the old growth lumber in the walls versus like a Buffalo board or OSB and and all of that too, does that play into effect? 

SG: Yeah, yeah. I mean, they’ve tried to be more fire conscious with different types of ratings for sheetrock and where fire stops and things like that within the construction of the walls so it doesn’t travel so quickly and things like that. But I think when it comes to that kind, it’s the contents that really, set everything going and the room can still be intact. It’s the contents that really make it hot and flashover quickly more so than the actual structure of the room.

RS: Now I got a question for you about that, Sue, because you may or may not be aware, I don’t know how familiar you are with building codes, but there was a big change that happened in the building code at a national level. We adopted it in Minnesota where they no longer allowed thin little pieces of lumber to be used as floor joists. In the past you could use a thin little webbing. It would be called like a manufactured floor joist or a truss joist, something like that, where you’ve got basically just a half inch piece of plywood sandwiched with a couple of pieces of wood at the top and bottom, and you can’t have those exposed anymore. Now if you’re building a new house, the only way you can use those is if you cover the entire basement ceiling, or at least most of the basement ceiling. You got to cover that all with drywall. It’s either that or you use traditional lumber. And the purpose for this change was to protect firefighters. ‘Cause the concern is that they go into a house and the flames would eat this stuff up so fast that you would have firefighters going in, and then the floor would collapse underneath them.

SG:: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

RS: So this was a huge change. Have you ever had any experience with that or known any coworkers, I don’t know if you call your fellow firefighters, coworkers, whatever you call them? Have you ever known anyone who’s experienced something like that where the floor drops out on them? 

SG: Yeah, we’ve had guys that were on the job before me that… I mean, the thing about firefighting is you take calculated risks. So, I was telling Tessa a little earlier about truss roofs and truss floors and they’re solid construction and they’re sturdy. However, they’re not fire friendly at all. And gusset plates will fail within minutes of them being exposed to heat and fire. So then causes a collapse which for us, response time is really important. And also knowing when a call comes in, a call comes in at like 10:20. If we get there at 10:25, we know that that fire’s been burning for five minutes. Truss roofs usually will collapse, like within 20 minutes of them burning. So we know we don’t go on a roof or we know if we have truss floors, we’re not going inside, things like that. But yeah.

SG: And it’s funny you should mention that, because on one of my habitat builds, because they didn’t use the correct, I think we’re supposed to use, a 2 by 10, and they used a 2 by 8. We had to then, sheetrock the entire basement ceiling because it wasn’t fire rated. So we do have some codes here that they’re trying to be better with it. And also we also got, denied a CO because we didn’t have the fire rated fiberglass insulation around the duct work. So, they’re trying, but it’s a slow process. We always say that if they just sprinkled everything, things to everybody is expensive. And it’s cold climates.

RS: So expensive.

SG: Exactly.

TM: Yeah. Very expensive.

RS: All right. So shifting gears a little. I wanna ask you about smoke alarms. We’ve talked about those extensively on the show. I wanna hear what you have to say about them and different types. I mean, as a firefighter, I’ve never really heard a lot of firefighters get into the difference between ionization and photoelectric. Usually the approach is have smoke alarms. It’s not so much concern about which type but just make sure that you have them. Do you have any solid opinions on this? 

SG: I think it’s always appropriate to have whatever smoke detector you have depending on whatever that room or floor is going to be used for. We always, okay, something is better than nothing. I do believe that as well. And sometimes when, instead of doing like okay smoke detector and then a CO detector get a combo, what’s the harm? Right. Overkill is never gonna hurt you there. I don’t have it an opinion about, types being the, photoelectric or the ionic whatever.

TM: Ionization.

RS: Yeah.

SG: Ionization. That’s it. Yeah.

TM: So you always try to make sure that people have smoke alarms that are up to date, they’re not expired, they’re installed in the locations They should be but then you also wanna make sure that that family has like an escape plan, right? 

SG: Absolutely.

TM: And they know how to get out and where to meet.

SG: Yeah, absolutely. And when you’re on a ranch or a one story escape isn’t as crucial ’cause you can get out a window, You’re only gonna go down a couple of feet. But when you are on second and third stories, you really need to have a plan. And some of the things that you can do, we have ladders that can go and drop down, have them in bedrooms, ’cause people assume that well, we’ll be able to get out. But if there’s a fire in the hallway of an upstairs place in the hallway, you’re not getting out through the stairs. So you’re gonna have to have a different method of egress which would probably just be a window. And if you are prepared with, a ladder that you can just throw down outside your window, it’s definitely, it’s not gonna hurt you to have it, and.

TM: Do you have any recommendations for types of ladders to use? ‘Cause I’m not, I mean, as a home inspector, I’m familiar with your typical ladders that are not collapsible or maybe one that is but they’re not convenient for something like this. So what would you recommend that a homeowner keeps in their house upstairs and bedrooms if they’ve got two spare houses? 

SG: At Home Depot or Lowe’s, They have First Alert has these ladders with the hooks that just hook right onto the window sill and just drop down. And they’re just basically a strap and it just falls down. And they will vary in price from, $35 to $100. The $100 being, if you have to get a third story like a one that’s a little bigger than ’cause getting a two story, ladder in a three story home is, it’s gonna leave you a little short from the bottom. So, and teaching your kids how to use them and also making sure that the weight that they’re able to handle the weight, if in case you can’t help them that they can do it. And practicing is important.

SG: Because no one wants to have to figure out how to do it when you have to do it. It’s just okay, we’ve done this before. This is what’s happened. I mean, in the fire service that’s all we do is practice, practice, practice. So, it becomes just routine when we pull up to a fire. Okay. We’re grabbing a line, we’re going in or we have to do this. We grab the tools we need when we see a situation. So same thing in your home. You always wanna know, okay, if this happens then I can do this. So fire extinguishers, I don’t, it’s never bad to have them in rooms. I mean, everybody thinks oh, well, by code you have to have them in the kitchens. Right? Or, but it’s always good to have them upstairs on every floor because a little candle starts somewhere in a bedroom, you have it, you don’t gotta run down to the kitchen or where did I put it? 

TM: Yeah.

SG: Most people put them in closet, throw one in there, it’s not gonna hurt you. Things like that. I would stay away from anyone that’s made of a rope only because if you don’t use it they can start to deteriorate. Most have metal rungs, and just check them like you would do anything else, inspect them. But I think the most important thing is, is to, practice and go over that with family members so that they know. I mean, if you’re in a town with a volunteer fire department, it’s gonna take a little bit longer to get there, because they still have to get to a house, get on a rig and then respond to the call. If you’re lucky enough to be in a town with a paid department, we’re coming as soon as we get that call. So, that’s another thing to consider if you’re in somewhere out in a rural area, you definitely wanna be able to get out of your house.

RS: But, oh man. Talk about how fast it happens. I mean, I’m in a town where we have a paid fire department, large municipality, and there was a house, it was about a little over a year ago where they had these solar lights in the yard and something went wrong with one of the solar lights, like the battery charging thing went wrong. You can’t have lithium ion batteries on planes and whatnot, and they had something go wrong. It was a super windy day. It caught the wood chips on fire in the yard, and it spread to the house. And my son got home from school at like 3:15 in the afternoon, got dropped off on the bus, and then maybe five, 10 minutes later, I see this commotion in my street. We go outside and the back of the house is engulfed in flames and it’s vinyl siding.

SG: There you go.

RS: You talk about how fast that goes up. It was unbelievable. I mean, we saw it. It kind of went to the deck and from there it just engulfed the entire backside of the house. Quickly went inside, there’s flames coming out of the roof and I mean, the fire department was on their way immediately but by the time they got there I the whole house was engulfed.

SG: Yeah.

RS: It was crazy. Wow. So, I mean even when you got a paid department that with the speed of these fires today. It’s just crazy.

SG: Absolutely.

RS: How fast you can have a total loss for a house.

SG: And you know… And here in New Brunswick, we have houses that we’ll say exposure problems, right? They’re either connected or there’s like a foot between each house. So if the house, even if your house isn’t the one that’s on fire, it soon could be. So it is amazing. And that’s one of the concerns. And sometimes we have to pull up, you pull up and you go, okay, the house that’s on fire is the house that’s on fire. We have to stop it from getting to the other houses. But, it is amazing, from the time you get a call, it’ll be smoke showing and you call up and it’s like, the house is completely engulfed. And, it’s funny, in older structures, like an old church, fires can be burning for hours before they actually… But because of its pure wood and the diameter of that wood, it takes so much longer for it to actually show itself.

RS: Sure.

TM: Yeah.

SG: But look at the construction we have now, it’s very thin wood or particle, there’s a lot of stuff that… I saw I-beams that are made of just like, it looked like, OSB board.

TM: Chips.

SG: Yeah. And the glue heats. That’s it. That I-beam is done.

RS: Yeah. No you talk about…

TM: I bet there’s a lot of houses… Oh, sorry. I was just gonna say, I bet there’s a lot of houses that you go to, Sue, it’s a newer construction and you just, you can’t go in, you can’t. There’s nothing really you can do, but if it’s an older house, there’s a chance you can save it still.

SG: Yeah. I’ve seen… Fires we’ve had in old houses where you go back the next year and they have rebuilt them because they’re still good bones. The bones are really good and the damage is not as bad. But the newer construction, you’ll see the roof’s cave in so quickly, and that’s it. Once that does, and then that’s just fire damage. Forget about the copious amounts of water that we pour on there.

RS: Oh, my goodness yeah.

SG: That we used to say, we make parking lots and swimming pools. If you don’t get there quick enough, you’re gonna have one or the other.

RS: Yeah. I can see that. What other tips would you have for people just on fire prevention? We talked about space heaters. If you’re gonna use the space heater, obviously follow the instructions on the space heater to a T. I think most of them say like nothing within three feet of the front of the space heater, but what else do you got on that? 

SG: I would say if you have a space heater that’s 10 years or older, consider replacing it, especially if it’s older.

RS: Okay.

SG: I was telling Tessa, I have, an old, old space heater that draws so much when I plug it in. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t, so, depending on what you have as far as, available, amps for it, it can trip things. And a lot of them now just have so many safety mechanisms. It tips over, it shuts off. Some are on timers, so people can’t fall asleep and Oh, I didn’t know, they’ll shut off if it’s, not attended to in a couple of hours. So I would definitely say that, yeah, spacing is a big one. And also if you have anything that’s super old, just get rid of it and get something that’s more current, ’cause, just like smoke detectors, they try to make them so that it’s idiot proof. Only because, not that people are idiots, but accidents happen.

RS: Sure.

SG: And I think that’s a big one. As far as I…

TM: Distinguishes… What do you think about, those fire blankets that… I’ve been seeing like a lot of commercials for those recently where you, they’re used to smother a fire. What do you think about those? Are those good to have? 

SG: Yeah, I have a bunch actually. So these are good…

TM: Oh, do you? 

SG: Yeah. These are good for kitchen, kitchen fires because, people will think right away throw water, and we know that’s the biggest mistake. And if you can keep away from using a dry chem, because now your stove is… When we had restaurant fires, the board of health has to come in, everything has to get recertified when you use a dry chem on those things. So the fire blanket is made of like a Nomex, which is what the turnout gear is made of. And if you can, take this, you can see it’s kind of, it’s really kinda large and it’s good in the kitchen, something’s happening, throw it over, it completely covers. Or you can also use it as something that if you’ve gotta get by an area, down a hallway, you can use it as a shield to, protect yourself to get by an area that may be, on fire or, I would say completely run through fire, but just, a room where, ’cause it’s not necessarily the fire that’s gonna get you, it’s the heat and smoke.

SG: So, and if you can somehow get out there before it gets too hot or too smokey, you got a better chance of, surviving. And sometimes, and if you’ve ever just put your hand over a candle, that’s hot. So imagine just trying to run by a fire in a house, with no protection and your clothes, it’ll stop your clothes from possibly catching, things like that. So, a fire blanket, it’s a newer thing that’s out there. Some people will probably dispute its, efficiency, but I think it’s not a bad thing again to have. And I think it’s about $25 or $30 for one. And if you’re buying them in bulk, they drop down a little bit. They were Christmas presents for my family.

TM: Nice.

SG: So, I just think, if you don’t have an extinguisher or some people don’t think about, they have them in these couches that you can hang on the wall. So it’s always in your eyesight. So, definitely good for a grease fire. If you can’t find the bacon soda or the lid to the pot, but…

TM: Use the blanket. Yep.

SG: Yeah, exactly.

RS: Okay, so you’re a fan of those? 

SG: Yeah, I haven’t get to use it, but, I’m hoping, I don’t have to to be honest, but I think I am gonna try a little test thing outside just to see, you know, even I get a little controlled fire and throw it on there and I can keep you updated as to if its efficiency.

TM: Yeah. Take a little video for us. Yeah.

SG: Okay. Will do. Will do.

RS: Now, how many garages have you found on fire? Because they were trying to deep fry a turkey and it was too windy. I deep fried a turkey once in my backyard and it was so windy that it would never get hot enough. The oil wouldn’t get hot enough and all of a sudden it clicked for me. I was like, oh, this is why people put them in their garage.

SG: Yeah. [laughter]

RS: And then it gets too hot. Then it sets the garage on fire. I mean, for me, I ended up putting… I made like a plywood barrier around it to keep the wind away, but…

TM: Of course, you did.


RS: But I could see why people put them in their garage. How many times have you seen that happen? 

SG: Actually, not a lot. There aren’t too many people that use the deep fryers here in News Brunswick…

TM: That sounds like a Midwestern thing.

RS: Maybe.


SG: What happens with us is that people decide they wanna have Thanksgiving dinner and they haven’t used their stove or their oven, like all year. So you’ve got dust in there. Kids stick their toys in there.


SG: I mean, and they just turn it on to, you know, preheat. And next thing you know, you got this, this smoke condition and plastics burning in the oven. And that…

RS: Sure.

SG: We’ve come across a little bit more and, you know, the big thing about… It’s funny ’cause you were very persistent with, you know, you’re thinking, okay, it’s too windy, no, it’s too windy, I can’t do my turkey. Right.


SG: Right. They’re gonna bring it in the garage. You’re gonna find a way or the wind barrier…

RS: Yeah, you got family coming over, you need to eat. Yeah. It’s big deal.

SG: But people also don’t know that you can’t stick a frozen turkey in those things. You know, they think like, oh, we’ll just, you know, drop a frozen turkey…

RS: Oh, yeah.

SG: In the hot oven and that causes it to overflow into the fire. There you go.

RS: Sure, okay.

SG: So, that’s another one if you don’t think about that. But, and you know, most people, yeah.

TM: Oh, my God.

SG: I don’t think people think ahead like, you know, the what ifs, you know, you guys being in the field that you do, you see a lot of stuff that happens if people don’t think about what ifs. So, you share really good in helping people kind of just be aware of, and right down to, you know, I’ve listened to you guys your what kind of tools, what you should have. I really liked that you did the episode on the must have tools because my dad was a mechanic, so my dad’s thought was, I have to have every tool.


SG: You know.


TM: It sounds like Reuben.

RS: Love it. Love it. Yeah.

SG: Like, you know, the drill and the ladders it was great, you know.

RS: Oh, thank you.

TM: Okay. We should probably be wrapping this up soon, but I wanted to ask you, Sue, if there was, if you have a really good story that you wanna share with us, and it could be about anything, a crazy fire, a, you know, a miracle or a good learning experience. Anything that strikes you. I know you’ve got 1,000,001 stories. I’ve heard some of them.

RS: Oh man, you’ve put me on the spot. I gotta think of one idea…


TM: So sorry to put you on the spot, but leave our listeners with, with one good story.

SG: It was when I first got on, we do these things called pre-plans, right? So you go around the neighborhood and you look at different structures that might be iffy or, you know, abandoned especially. And that, okay, if a fire’s gonna start here what’s our plan of attack? And we had this, it was my first fire actually, so it was this old dry cleaner. It was called New Systems. And I remember that we had gone out like a, my shift before and we preplanned. So, and what that is, is okay, this is in engine one’s area, so they’re gonna be the most likely the engine that’s gonna be putting water on the fire. They call that first due. So you’re gonna be the first due engine, then ladder’s gonna come in and they’re gonna come in from here, and then you got engine five where they’re gonna come in and where engine two’s gonna come in.

SG: So we do that. So it’s kind of like, almost like a dance, right? So everybody kind of knows where you’re gonna be and you can count on them being there and water supply, manpower, that kind of stuff. So it’s just about shift change, 6:30 we get this alarm and we hear possible structure fire. So the bay doors go up and we just see the smoke. So we’re like, Oh boy, we know we’re going. So it’s not far from the firehouse. So we go out and we’re going the way we sit ’cause it was the building that we actually pre-planned.

TM: Crazy.

SG: That was the ironic thing, right? So we go and our driver, I was hanging on the time and usually what happens is the two guy, you have your driver, your officer and then your third man or fourth man and your third man or fourth man are usually the people that are gonna, the two guys that are gonna take the line inside with the officer or one will get off and hit a hydrant and then catch up with the guys.

SG: ‘Cause the hydrant’s usually about a block away or so. So being that was gonna be my first fire I was supposed to go in with my officer, but we had stopped and our fourth guy who, he was gonna hit the hydrant, he thought we were at the hydrant. So he jumps off and then we continue to go and then, but there’s no hydrant there. So…


TM: He didn’t practice that part.

SG: So then as we’re pulling down the street the officer turns around and he goes, you know, where’s Kenny? I said, Kenny’s over, he’s running after the rig because he had gotten off too soon. So now I have to hit the hydrant…


SG: ‘Cause now we’re stopped to hit the hydrant. And so then I hit the hydrant and then we and then I just sort of follow the line back down. But yeah, that was probably, you know, things that are not supposed to happen that happened. But we made do hit the hydrant and then I went down and caught up with my officer and because it was a building that actually had burned before. It was completely involved. It was surround and drown, so nobody was gonna go in anyway. But yeah, that’s what happened at my first real fire. So…

TM: You look back in the rear view mirror and there’s Kenny sprinting down the sidewalk.


SG: Yeah, yeah.


TM: Oh yeah, Mr. Kenny.

SG: And he looked like rocket man with the pack on and everything and…

RS: Oh, yeah.

SG: Yeah. [laughter] So, yeah, I don’t know if that, I mean, I don’t have a scary story ’cause like I said, I put out more fires than I actually went in. Had a few good ones. My first one I remember being very nervous that I was gonna mess that up. But, you know it’s about taking your time and to reiterate with fire safety, with the practicing of having an evacuation plan, having the equipment to execute the evacuation plan, having a meeting place, checking your smoke detectors, making sure you have extinguishers in the right places and the right class.

SG: If you’re have a metal shop you don’t wanna use, you know, you want to use one that’s for metal, things like that.

TM: True.

SG: Yeah, just those things. So I don’t know if that…

TM: Don’t use space heaters from the 1950s.

SG: Right, exactly. Yes. Yes. You definitely wanna update your space heater situation there.

TM: Yeah.

SG: You know, make sure it doesn’t draw too much on that line.

TM: Yeah.

SG: So.

TM: Okay. Well, perfect. Thank you so much, Sue, for coming on the podcast on Structure Talk.

SG: Thanks for having me.

TM: It was really great having you on, and thanks for sharing some tips and tricks too.

RS: Yeah, thank you so much, Sue. Great to meet you. Thanks for coming on the show.

SG: Likewise. Now I can put a face to the voice, so it’s awesome. And you guys keep doing, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s good stuff.

RS: We will. And for any listeners out there, if you got any thoughts, questions, concerns, show ideas, please email us. We read them all, it’s And, I’m Reuben, for Tessa Murry, saying thanks for tuning in. We’ll catch you next week.