Future First Responders
Paddy was an Oak Park, (near Chicago) Illinois boy who moved to Queens Village, NY (near NYC) when he was one. As a young boy Paddy spent his life at the local firehouse. Running after fires was all Paddy knew. He had a scanner tucked away in his bedroom positioned perfectly to hear the city’s fire calls day or night. When the scanner went off, Paddy and his fire dog SMUDGE would race to see who could make it to the fire scene first. The winner was usually determined by who could get all their fire gear on fastest. (Sometimes SMUDGE got mischievous and hid Paddy’s gear. Other times SMUDGE would hog the masking tape which was essential in holding their make-shift gear together). The most challenging part of preparation was the water can supply stashed in Paddy’s bedroom closet under a pile of clean clothes. The cans were filled with a water/dish detergent mixture (40/60), a trick Paddy and SMUDGE learned from observing many fires. It seemed to help increase firefighting output.
SMUDGE shared Paddy’s firefighting passion. While Paddy was in school during the day, SMUDGE would sneak off and explore new shortcuts to different parts of town so he could keep is 51-49 lead over Paddy as the first fireman to reach the scene. Paddy got smart to SMUDGE’s tactics. He fixed up his tricycle, transforming it into a super stealth, light weight racing bike to compete. After years of racing to the fire, Paddy finally took up marathon running and got a very short fire dog collar so SMUDGE had to run alongside, not ahead.
No matter who won the race to respond first, all was forgotten when they reached the fire. Paddy and SMUDGE intently watched the firefighters in order to learn what to do. SMUDGE always seemed to have an advantage as he could sneak in, under the perimeter and snoop around first hand until spotted and shooed out. Upon returning home after FDNY left the scene, SMUDGE loved to roll in the ash on the ground practicing the Stop-Drop and Roll maneuver with Paddy. That’s how SMUDGE earned his name.
But Stop-Drop and Roll was not the only firefighting maneuver the duo practiced. They had a fire boot camp set up in the back yard. It was nothing short of mini LEGO cities complete with tunnels dug with old garden shovels. Over 100 feet of green garden hose hung in every tree. The hose allowed Paddy and SMUDGE to fight fires that broke out on the top floors of skyscrapers. “Practice Makes Perfect” was their motto because when you’re a FDNY Firefighter “wanna-be” you have to be ready for everything as well as the unknown. Most evenings and weekends Paddy and SMUDGE wore out their welcome with the neighbors: Those loud, piercing practice fire drills in Queens Village, NY!!