This article posted in the June issue of Men's Health Magazine, the cover story is about firefighter fitness.

Courage Under Fire

Denis Leary, star of FX's Rescue Me, plays a firefighter on TV. But he's learned firsthand what it really takes to do the job

By: Denis Leary


Here's something you may not know about firefighters: If these guys realize they're not going to get out alive, they put their badges deep inside their clothes so the metal will be protected--and the badge number can identify them if their body's incinerated. They also mark their individual axes with a personal sign, like a shamrock or initials. If you know you're not getting out, you stick that ax in a wooden stud near you--that way, after the fire's out, your buddies will know where to look for your teeth and whatever bones are left.

There are so many levels of heroism within the context of firefighting. The example that'll stick with me forever happened in '99--the big fire in Worcester, Massachusetts. My cousin Jerry Lucey was in the department, and his story alone constitutes being a "firefighter's firefighter." Because the fire was in the neighborhood where we grew up, Jerry knew the building--a really old warehouse with all its windows bricked up. Basically, an oven. But he knew that homeless people squatted in there. So Jerry and this guy Paul Brotherton ran in.

Later, when it just got too hot and the chief ordered everybody out, Jerry and Paul were missing. At that point--here's another level of what I like to call "extreme balls"--Tommy Spencer, a guy I'd known since grade school, stepped up. Knowing how impossible it was, but wanting those guys to have one last chance to come out alive, he tied three other guys to him with a rope and headed in. A minute later, the building went up. All six men died.

Now, it takes big balls to do this job anyway--to say, "We're going in, there are homeless people in there." But the level of courage it takes for four others to say, "We're going in to get our guys," and then tie themselves together and head into what's beyond an inferno . . . that's just unimaginable.

And when their buddies were going through the wreckage later, you know what they found? One guy's ax stuck in a wall, and another guy's badge.