The Stories Behind The Stories Part 2

Harvey Eisner recalls major incidents covered by Firehouse® Magazine and shares recollections of how the information was obtained.


Hackensack Firefighter Fatalities. Five Hackensack, NJ, firefighters were killed while battling a fire in an automobile dealership on July 1, 1988. A wooden bowstring truss collapsed 36 minutes after receipt of the first alarm. I did not learn of the fire until the 5 o'clock TV news. I went to...


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Hackensack Firefighter Fatalities.

While at one of the funerals, I met a friend, Keith Cullom, who is a Firehouse® contributor and photographer who was visiting from California. He introduced me to one of the Hackensack firefighters. I didn't think I knew anyone in Hackensack, but the firefighter said he had met me 10 years earlier in the Bronx at FDNY Rescue 3. It was like old home week.

I interviewed many of the firefighters who were on duty or came in on recall for the fire. I also interviewed the fire chief. Some firefighters told me things they never told their wives. I spent many hours interviewing the members and wound up writing three stories.

Norwich. I traveled to eastern Connecticut to cover a fire that occurred in a block of buildings in downtown Norwich. After interviewing several chiefs, officers and firefighters, I was ready to leave. I was talking with a dispatcher when an alarm came in. They asked whether I would like to ride with them. I said sure and hopped into jump seat of a tractor-drawn aerial ladder. The driver told me to climb into the cab. I did so and moved to the middle of the front seat. I thought an officer was going to get in, but the driver said move over and close the door. Off we went with the driver, myself riding in the officer's seat and the tillerman. The alarm, at a nursing home, turned out to be nothing.

Malibu Fires. A series of wildland fires struck Southern California during the fall of 1993. A fire that began on Nov. 2, 1993, eventually required the response of more than 950 engines from all over the state. The fire destroyed numerous houses and traveled many miles, fanned by high Santa Ana winds all the way to the coast.

I interviewed firefighters, officers and chiefs from Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. When I was with Chief Don Anthony, he asked if I would like to take a ride in an LAFD helicopter to survey the damage from the air. I said it was OK with me if it was OK with him. He said when we visit with Chief Engineer Don Manning, we'll ask him. (I had already made arrangements to interview the helicopter pilots to get their view on the fire.) The chief engineer said it was all right to fly. When Anthony introduced me to the pilots, he told them "Harvey makes us look good, give him a good ride."

Off we went, lifting off the roof of the City Hall annex. We flew over the hills and I was directed to view the brush problems, mountains and steep terrain. The pilot I was with was the pilot who spotted the man in the window at the First Interstate Bank Building fire reported on earlier. I told him I had interviewed the company that he had dropped off on the roof to remove the man from 12 floor below the roof. We landed, refueled and he took me back to the fire department headquarters.

Indianapolis Military Jet Crash. A military jet lost power to its engine and was making an emergency landing into the Indianapolis airport on Oct. 20, 1987. The jet was coming in too high and too fast, so the pilot tried to come around for another landing. He was too low and bailed out. The jet hit the roof of a bank building and skidded across the street, crashing into the main entrance of a hotel across the street from the airport. Crash trucks responded off the airport and arrived at the scene. Several people in the lobby were killed. Foam was applied and the Wayne Township Fire Department was notified of the incident. WTFD had just had a drill with the airport and supplied the crash units with water and foam.

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Photo by Harvey Eisner
Three volunteer firefighters were killed during a training session in this house in Milford, MI.
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