Cantankerous Wisdom: Glove Boxes and Crotch Poles

By Bill Adams

When people get in the passenger’s seat of a vehicle, many have a tendency to look inside the glove box. Firefighters are no different. They could be inquisitive, curious, or just performing a routine rig check. Regardless, following is a compilation of strange things I’ve found in fire truck glove boxes over the years. They’re lumped together in the pretend glove box on fictitious Engine 4—an imaginary fire department’s not-too-active pumper.

  • On the very top is a two year old hazmat guidebook in pristine shape—seldom used with not one dog-eared page.
  • Do you remember the plastic containers that held rolled 35-mm camera film? One of them held spare O-rings for a manufacturer of pressure-demand air packs the department stopped using when the good Lord was a Corporal.
  • One broken grease pencil for the erasable accountability “white board” that was replaced years ago by one using preprinted name tags with hook-and-loop fasteners.
  • A half empty tube of pig putty—the stuff used for plugging small leaks in fuel tanks.
  • One broken half of a lead pencil (the half with the eraser). The pointed end was used to plug a small leak in a diesel fuel tank when they found the pig putty tube had set up like cured concrete.
  • Two nonworkable ball point pens.
  • Several spare 1½-inch and 2½-inch gaskets wire tied together—they were so brittle, you could snap them in two. The most important spare gasket to carry is probably one for the hard suction sleeves—you know for drafting, holding a vacuum, and so on. When asked why they didn’t carry one, one of the troops said they could take the one out of the blind steamer cap in the pump operator’s compartment. We checked it. That cap was removed when they bought LDH 20 years ago and installed a piston intake relief valve on the steamer. The gasket was permanently bonded to the cap. You needed a hammer and chisel to chip it off. I wonder how often hard suction gaskets today are “flipped” or even replaced. Do many departments carry spare LDH gaskets?
  • A half book of wet matches now dried out They must have been there when they still condoned smoking on the rigs. You could barely read the waitress’s name and phone number on the inside cover.
  • A red checkered handkerchief all wadded up—no doubt used. No one would touch it.
  • One latex glove turned inside out—not a pair, just one glove.
  • Both lens covers for the binoculars now stored under the passenger’s seat.
  • One loose lens for somebody’s sunglasses.
  • The right-hand glove from a pair of white dress gloves, probably left over from a parade.
  • Two bone dry antiseptic wipes for cleaning SCBA face pieces.
  • What looked like a spare bulb for a pump panel light and the broken glass shards from a second bulb.
  • One corroded 5/8-inch ratchet wrench for disconnecting battery cables.
  • One battery cable cutter with chipped blades, probably used on a pad lock or a chain.
  • Two dried-out band aides
  • On the very bottom was a mixture of dirt and grime that looked like an unidentifiable substance. The tones were set off for a hazmat response.

What does your rig’s glove box look like?

Want to play with a brand new lieutenant? Ask him if he prefers solid beam or truss ground ladders? Then, if he doesn’t appear too aggravated, ask him why. If the conversation continues, go for the gold, and ask his opinion of wood versus aluminum ground ladders. Proceed with caution—you may become the permanent hose roller for the rest of your career.

Crotch Poles

HELP. This is not a joke. On page 22 of the annual report of the City of Boston Fire Department, City Document No. 22, issued September 1, 1840, listed the equipment in service on the Warren Hook & Ladder Company #1. It included 15 ladders of different lengths, four hooks, four crotch poles, four axes, and four hatchets. I don’t know what a crotch pole is. They must have been good or useful, because the 1874 annual report shows seven out of the eight ladder companies in Boston were equipped with them. Does anybody know what they are or were used for?

BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

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