1. #1
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    Default Jewish Holiday Lag BaOmer

    Having spent the last 18 years in East London Ghetto's I thought I had just about seen every religious festival and its associated Fire Raising known to man.

    I have always almost worked in an are populated with Indian/Pakistani/Bangladashi's that are Hindu's, Sikh, Muslims etc...

    During the Autumn, just as things begin to calm down after summer, we start getting lots of House fires caused by candles, Fireworks and all they cause, Generally more fires and they are used as missiles... all realted to these religious festivals (Notwithstanding our own Bonfire night on NOvember 5th)

    The Muslim Gangs usually roam around setting light to everything, rubbish, cars derelict Buildings...occupied Buildings.

    I have got used to this and to be honest it keeps the work rate up although the associated Violence toward us is always a pain.

    Anyway, last November, I moved to another Borough, a little further North of where I was in East London mainly poplulated with with White & Afro Carribean Christians.

    Apart from one area of the Borough...Clapton/Stamford Hill...(for those with a passing Interest). The area is full of wide roads with Big old Houses and home to a large Orthdox Jewish Community.

    Today is Lag BaOmer, a celebration of 33 days of Mourning for Students of Raabi Akiva. In short this is celebrated by Picnics, weddings and Bonfires...

    I don't mean small Bonfires, I mean Big Bonfires...in the road, at the side of Buildings, 30 x 30 Bonfires in 40 x 40 Gardens with 300 spectators.

    The two Fire Stations covering this area attended 54 calls to 'Bonfires out of control' from dusk last Night until just after Lunchtime today.

    The People were very co-operative about us putting their fires out ( a first in my experience...this usually results in Bricks, bottles and Fireworks coming our way). But the potential for spread and with 100's of people pushed against such a big fire the potential for injury was enormous....

    Upon receipt of multiple calls to one of these fires today I was informed whilst sitting in my office. I decided to get in the car and go have a look. It is a beautiful day in London today... just touching 90 degrees and unbroken sun. As I drove up Lower Clapton road, I was reminded of the Blitz in London or the Bronx in the 1970's... (despite persistent rumours I wasn't born for the former and was a kid 3000 miles away for the latter )... The deep Blue sky had not one, not even two but four Grey/Black palls of smoke rising into the sky ahead of me.

    I drove past two of them and stopped at the third...the one my information related to...and found a single Pumps crews doing their best to 'hold' the growing Fire with an inch and three Quarter line while the Driver and Officer struggled to get a Hydrant. The fire was soon doused and hundreds of little faces under wide brimmed Black Hats were enquiring was I a Policeman or a Fireman? why did I dress like a Policeman and not like the Fire Crews? how much did my car cost? will we have to pay for the fire being put out?...etc...etc...

    It was then, concerned for the saftey of the people and the potential for spread, I made some enquiries among the elders gave some advice and told them of my concerns. At this point I departed and did an internet search, coming up with the info I did about the celebration.

    Anyway, during my search, I read that this may also problem for Fire Crews in areas of the USA with large Orthodix Jewish Communities...particularly in NYC.

    Has anyone on here, in particular from FDNY had any experience with htis...and if so what is put in place? Is there any Community Liason? Did any advice given work?

    Thanks in anticipation.
    Steve Dude
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    Well as someone who is jewish...I found a bit of offence to some of your post!

    I especially noticed the money and cost comments.

    I would say you should be ashamed of yourself!

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    Angry HOW DARE YOU!!!

    Hey...who ever you are....go back, count to 10 and try reading it again.

    I have spent the past 18 years of my life working in a diverse community. Nothing I have ever done or ever will do would compromise my professional standards of equality when dealing with multi faith, multi ethnic groups. People like me, all over the World go out of our way to help people in other communities survive in their adoptive community and have the best time they can.

    Despite my Crews coming under attack, being treated like 'free help' for every problem people encounter...even lost keys and busted light bulbs we come back every day and never complain.

    Like I said, I don't know who you are or where you come from but don't EVER doubt my integrity or my professional standards.

    This post was made with a desire to learn more about the Celebration of Lag BaOmer... to help that community to reduce a very real risk of fire spread or injury. I simply told an anecodtal story about the amusing inquisitive questions that these youngsters were asking...opposed to the abuse & violence us Ghetto Firefighters usually meet with.

    IT IS YOUR OWN SICK PREJUDICED MIND THAT FOUND OFFENCE IN THE POST.

    It would have been very easy for me to do nothing at the end of yesterday's holiday, instead I took time out to research another Culture to equip me and then my Personnel to be better able to deal with this in the future. Come over to the UK and walk a few miles in my shoes before passing ignorant comments like that.

    I hope you find it within yourself to apologise for your slur on my character. Or I will report this post to the Management of these forums by start of Business Monday.
    Last edited by SteveDude; 05-28-2005 at 06:13 AM.
    Steve Dude
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    ksfireman82,
    Way to go... that was real "professional"!

    Does everyone get offended by everything now?

    I could clearly see what he was asking. Steve is a fine and upstanding person that would help anyone at the drop of a dime! I think you need to re-evaulate what you said and really look into what he was asking.

    Open your mind just a bit and listen and learn before you go half cocked and make a fool of yourself. You have not even been on this site for a year nor made nearly enough posts to qualify yourself as someone who could even remotely chastize someone on these forum boards.

    Steve, Thanks for all you have done for me in the past. I look forward to meeting you one day when I cross the pond... or vice versa.
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    Originally posted by ksfireman82
    Well as someone who is jewish...I found a bit of offence to some of your post!

    I especially noticed the money and cost comments.

    I would say you should be ashamed of yourself!
    Your comments were definitely "non Kosher".
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Originally posted by ksfireman82
    Well as someone who is jewish...I found a bit of offence to some of your post!

    I especially noticed the money and cost comments.

    I would say you should be ashamed of yourself!
    -----------------

    You were way off base here. Steve presented his thoughts and questions in a very respectful and intelligent manner.

    Frankly, if there weren't some type of religious observance involved here and the bonfire setters were just a bunch of Joe Average folks, we'd be throwing political correctness aside and talking about the blatant stupidity of their actions.

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    Default Thank You

    Gang, thanks to you all for your support, as ever the arm of solidarity and Brotherhood knows no Boundaries or distance.

    KS Fireman,
    I apologise for my immediate angry reply...having read your comment I saw red and should have counted 10 myself. Notwithstanding that, I stick by what I said. The whole post was about information gathering to enable me to better understand what is behind the ceremony and to gather information from other Fire Departments as to the best way to deal with this safely, without ruining the celebrations for the community.

    I know there have been cruel jokes before about Jewish people being careful about their money...like the jokes that the Irish are Stupid, the British are stuck-up...we have heard them all.

    In this case, the youngsters were no doubt enquiring after the price of my car out of interest, it is Brand New...this question is often asked by people when someone has a new 'anything' As for paying for the service; Sadly, the community know so little about us, that they must have assumed that we would 'charge' for extinguishing an out of control fire.

    Now, can we all just get on???
    Steve Dude
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    Great post Steve and there is no way your comments are out of line! I was up in this area just three weeks ago and understand fully your concerns for the people who live there. As a fire officer who constantly, day in day out, has to face the challenges of protecting London's multi-racial societies you have my deepest respect.

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    Hi.

    1st off, let me appologize. I was indeed out of line for my post. I have been living in "redneckville" Kansas and i guess I got too used to things being intended to be racist.

    As far as info on Lag B'Omer...

    It's pretty much exactly as you described it (and I'm impressed with your info you got). As far as the fires go, think of it as no different then any time you or anyone else would have a bon fire.

    My best suggestion for making it a safer event for everyone would be to contact the Rabbi of each congregation and talk to them about the safety concerns you have and see if you can come up with a plan that works for both you and the community to try and avert any possible disasters. Whether you try and find a couple safer locations in the neighborhood or just have your crews be told where each fire will be and maybe go inspect the site and make sure it is setup as safe as possible and that some water source is standing by. I don't know what will work best, but talking to the congregational rabbi's will definatly be the best 1st step.

    Again, sorry for my original post. I was not taking things they way they were intended.

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    Thanks,
    and is it forgotten. The advice you give is good regular advice we give to anyone in the community that is celebrating any event whether religious or otherwise.

    I spoke to my Opposite number in the Police and he put me in touch with a local Raabi. There seemed to be a resistance to us getting involved and giving the type of advice we always give...again... I mean nothing derogatory by this, but the community are very insular and self reliant...just a fact as it presents itself.

    I just wondered what others have done to get the Fire Safety Message in and understood. Unlike lots of others of all Nationalities in these poor inner city areas, the Orthodox Jewish have very few fires. The Houses are large and well maintained...so we have hardly any ineraction at all.

    We have an extensive Community liason network...The Greater London Authority (of which LFB is a part) is very large and influential... probably more so than many small Countries. There isn't much we can't resourse. I just wanted to go in with some idea of the specifics of what I am dealing with.

    Instead of re-inventing the wheel I could say for example that in NYC, FDNY do this and that...that worked so we can try that or that was a disaster so we'll not even go there.... Whatever, We'll meet with the Raabi who is well known to the Police and maybe 'Hatzola' the First Responder service who we find very useful when dealing with Car accidents etc involving their people.
    Steve Dude
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    Steve,

    I did a bit of asking around down here in the areas with Jewish populations, but nobody in the fire service here could recall ever being called to bonfires celebrating this event, so I can't help you much unfortunately. Maybe we've "Australianised" them and they just have BBQ's instead?
    Busy polishing the stacked tips on the deckgun of I.A.C.O.J. Engine#1

    ...and before you ask - YES I have done a Bloody SEARCH!

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    quoted from different sources on the internet:

    According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), we are obligated to count the days from the second night of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, seven full weeks. This period is known as the Counting of the Omer. An omer is a unit of measure. On the second day of Passover, in the days of the Temple, an omer of barley was cut down and brought to the Temple as an offering.

    Every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavu'ot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the omer in both weeks and days. So on the 16th day, you would say "Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer."

    The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavu'ot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.

    This period is a time of partial mourning, during which weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing are not conducted, in memory of a plague during the lifetime of Rabbi Akiba. Haircuts during this time are also forbidden. The 33rd day of the Omer (the eighteenth of Iyar) is a minor holiday commemorating a break in the plague. The holiday is known as Lag b'Omer. The mourning practices of the omer period are lifted on that date. The word "Lag" is not really a word; it is the number 33 in Hebrew, as if you were to call the Fourth of July "Iv July" (IV being 4 in Roman numerals). See Hebrew Alphabet for more information about using letters as numbers.

    In Israel, people flock to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the city of Meron. There is dancing, singing, bonfires are lit. Many people wait until their son is three before cutting his hair, and on the Lag B'omer of his third year, they cut the boy's hair. There is also a custom that children play with bows ("keshet" in Hebrew) on Lag B'omer. A reason given for this is that in all the days of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's life, a rainbow was never seen. A rainbow is a sign that the world was due for a flood of the proportion of that in Noach's time. However, beacuse Hashem promised Noach that such a flood would never be brought again, Hashem lets us know when we are deservant of such punishment by placing a rainbow ("Keshet" in Hebrew) in the sky. In the merit of Rabbi Shimon, the world was never deservant of such punishment in his generation, and the appearance of a rainbow was never necessary. Therefore, children play with bows, which in Hebrew share the same word as rainbow.

    end of quotations
    I also did research a few years ago on this subject, as I live in an area with many Orthodox families. Our neighboring department went to more than 30 fires that day this year, including one that spread to a shed, that was not meant to be burnt.

    I will probably again be called anti-semetic, but I believe that these celebrations should take place in a SAFE place, with an engine and manpower standing by. Instead, the departments are run ragged going from one fire to the next putting both the community and the brothers at risk.
    9/11/01 Never forget Never forgive

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    A lot of my family are orthodox jews, and you are correct...they are a very isolated community and don't like to be told what to do from the outside.

    Again, my best suggestion would be to find a way into the community, either by meeting with the rabbi's or just from some other means (maybe someone on a nearby dept or other city dept is somehow related to the jewish community in question).

    Once you can get that far, that should help.

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    I have been living in "redneckville" Kansas
    I wonder if anyone living in Kansas would find this statement offensive?
    B Holmes

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    I wonder if anyone living in Kansas would find this statement offensive?
    Both me and my Wife, Sister & Cousin truly find that there generalization to be offensive!!!

    On a serious note.. Steve, does the GLA require permits for outdoor bonfires (or if they're 30' x 30' small structure fires)? One wonders if such a requirement were made then some pre fire education could perhaps be imparted, or at least no permits issued if they were too close to exposures etc.

    Of course would be a nightmare (PR or otherwise) for any fire brigade official given the task of inspecting & enforcing.

    Just wondering....

    like the jokes that the Irish are Stupid, the British are stuck-up...we have heard them all
    Uh oh, watch out for Georgy CFI-III.. he doesn't like you to be stereotyping them Irish boyo!!!

    Interesting post Steve, thanks.

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    Im not too sure about this holiday in particular, but I know that on some of the days where religious festivals were to take place the FDNY relocates a few additional engine companies to areas of the city that tend to do the burning. (Mostly Brooklyn).

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    On a serious note.. Steve, does the GLA require permits for outdoor bonfires
    Fawlty, under environmental and clean air acts, bonfires are generally not permitted....although this would tend to be enforced by the Local Authority more for Commercial concerns (they can fine them more...not that its about the money.

    As ever LFB are run ragged with rubbish and outdoor fires, anyone who tried to enforce against a religious celebration before we got the high rate of fire related crime under control would be coming from a very weak position.

    I think community liaison is the way here before we trod into the arena of enforcement that would naturally breed resentment and further isolate communities we are trying to engage.

    We are running at about 50,000 reported fires Per year now in London, roughly 27,000 in property and 23,000 rubbish/outdoor/car fires. Almost all of the latter are deliberate and a fair precentage of the property fires are also deliberate. If you take accidental fires in the home out...the 'bread and butter' of our job, the typical one to three room BA job that is synonymous with City Firefighting, then the remainder (Schools, Commercial Property, Hospitals etc), tend to be deliberate.

    The problem is much worse in some other areas of the UK, the Government has now set up an 'Arson Reduction Task Force' to look at the problem. In London, every Borough now has an Arson Reduction team, who do an analysis of the high arson areas and try working with those responsible...getting rubbish cleared, buildings boarded up or kids into 'Diversionalry' schemes.
    Steve Dude
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