May the Bird of Paradise fly — over Lake Michigan?

It is the very crack of dawn.

I awake to the sound of birds.  They are attacking the sunflower seeds in the feeder just outside my open bedroom window.  Without opening my eyes I try and focus on where am I and what is the plan for today.

Saturday, I think.  June 21, 1984, the longest day of the year, first day of summer.  21 divided by 3 equals 7, makes it a Gold Shift # 3 day, so I need to go to the firehouse for a 24-hour tour.  Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, not sure which one, but I remembered to get a present.  It’s under the front seat of my truck, and I make a note to move it to her car just in case I have to work a 48-hour tour.

I open one eye, raise my head and squint at the alarm clock.  Ten more minutes before it goes off.   I lay my head back on the pillow, but it is too late, I am awake.  I might as well get going.

I slip my feet from the covers and stand up and stretch, close the window, walk around the bed, turn off the alarm. No sense letting Mommy and the 3 girls being jolted awake by Daddy’s alarm clock.

Let’s see.  About 5 extra minutes for the morning shower and shave.  Since it is Saturday, light traffic, shorter drive time, bright sunny day, sun in the eyes most of the way.  I check my jump bag and it is packed.  Thank you, my love.  She never sends me to work without lots of clean clothes, including ironed shorts, just in case I wind up in the ER today.  Four pressed white shirts on hangers and no Honey Do list.

Good to go.  To the garage, open the overhead door and there is a note taped to the rear view mirror of my truck.

I love you, take care, and come home to the girls and me. XXX

I move the gift from my truck and place it gently under the front seat of her car.  Take the note and write, I promise and then tape it to the rear-view mirror of her car.

I back out onto the street and stop at the first of many traffic devices along the 17-mile trip to the firehouse. At the first stoplight just as I am about to be forced to come to a complete stop. I get the green arrow in the left turn lane. Wow my lucky day. I am now headed southeast, and in the bright sun light I can see the 25 miles to downtown Chicago. The John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower are visible. What a great day to be alive and heading to my real job.

The first business of the day is get the travel mug filled at Drunken Donuts. Man is it every nice to be able to fill up and never leave the truck. Next is the butcher shop to pick up the meat order so that we will be able to eat well for the next 24 hrs.

Radio is on FM100 Country & Western and on comes Little Jimmy Dickens with the classic song; The Bird of Paradise. I laugh and sign along. Why Not?

“May the bird of paradise fly up your nose”
“May an elephant caress you with his toes”
“May your wife be plagued with runners in her hose”
“May the bird of paradise fly up your nose”

Into the bakery and I am still singing the words. Nancy laughs says “I see someone is in a very good mood this morning”. I reply, “WHY NOT, first day of summer, Duty Chief and the brass is not working today.”

I arrive at Station # 16 at 6:30am and no one is in the kitchen yet. I put the meat in the Frig. The bakery items on the back counter, go to my office, drop off my extra clothes and see that the off going Shift Commander is still in his bunk. Back to the kitchen, make 2 pots of coffee, turn on the TV and pour a refill and turn on the local news.

Several firefighters from my shift arrive early and the noise level gets to the point that some of the on duty shift begin to come alive and show up to get a morning coffee eye opener. My shift officers arrive and inform me the manpower is set for the entire shift. Time Check and then Roll Call and we are in business.

The daily routine begins with the Equipment Checklists, review of the previous days incident reports, drill schedule and the orders for the day.  Everything is in place and we are good to go for the 24 hrs ahead.

The morning coffee break, the shift meeting and the goals for the day Communicated. No problems on the horizon.

Let the Bird of Paradise fly.

Paperwork time and then the phone call from 9-1-1 Combined Dispatch.

9-1-1 “Capt. This is Mike Operator 3”

Me “Yes Mike, I guess we have a problem this fine morning.”

9-1-1 “ I got a man on the line and he is almost in tears. I told me at least 5 times we do not handle animal calls. I told him the animal warden is off today and there is nothing we can do for him, but he insisted on talking to the person in charge and that is you. Here he comes”

Me  “Good Morning Sir, you have the Shift Commander for the Fire Department, and how may I be of assistance.”

Caller  “Like I told the other guy, I am in deep trouble and I need some help in getting my wife’s parrot out of a tree in the back yard. I know you do not handle animal calls, but all I need is some water from a high pressure hose and everything will be OK.”

Me  “Water from a high pressure hose to do what?”

Caller  “Well to wet the birds feathers. When they get wet a bird cannot fly.

Me. ” Well I have never heard of that before, but then I do not have any birds”. “I have seen birds flying around in storms so I do not think that what you say is a true fact, but then again I have never owned a parrot.“

Caller “Please, my wife is very fond of this bird. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and I was trying to clip the wings on her pet and trying to save some money by doing it myself so that I could get her a nice present.”

Me “OK what is your address”

Caller  “9313 Kostner ”

Me “OK, I will come take a look and see what we can do to help, but I make no promises we can be of service.”

Just as I hang up the phone my other line rings.” Fire Station # 16 Captain INNY speaking.”

“Capt, this is Larry at 18. With your permission the squad is going to go for fuel.”

Me “OK Larry, but keep an ear on the radio because I may need you for a Special Duty at 9313 Kostner. I am going there to take a look first.”

I arrive on the location and the caller with about 10 other people meet me. Seems like everyone wants to talk at once. I ask,  “Where is the bird?” I get a wave of many hands in the direction of the rear yard. Around back and there he is sitting on a low branch in a Pear Tree, no really a Pear Tree and it is not even close to Christmas and the bird does not look like a partridge.

He is brightly colored, mostly Red, White Face, lots of Blue, Yellow and Orange feathers, he looks kind of regal.

It will take about a 10-foot ladder to reach him, I ask about a ladder and they show me an old wood ladder that looks unsafe to climb. I ask the group of people if anyone has a better ladder and there is no answer from them.

OK plan “B” it is.

“Dispatch from 1602”

“1602 Go”

“Dispatch Special Duty for Rescue Squad #18–9313 Kostner on my orders.”

“Your message received 1602”

I ask about the wetting of feathers and this is the tale so to speak. Someone he talked to on the phone at a pet shop told him a sure way to catch the bird is just wet his wing feathers and he will not be able to fly any great distance.

OK,while we wait for the boys to arrive how about we try something involving water. I ask which of the people are the direct neighbors and get a show of three hands. Good deal got one from each side yard.

The plan is to use 3 garden hoses, one from the front yard and one each from left and right side yards. Fire Tactics 101, hit it from all sides at once.

I have the two side yard hose close in first very slowly as not to spook the bird and then I approach the bird with the owner behind me with my fire coat to cover the bird when he falls to the ground.

“Ready? On the count of 3”    “one” “two” “three”  Water flows toward the bird from 3 directions. As the first drops of water touch him, he is, up, up and away.

I motion to shut down the hoses and I receive a round of applause from the members of the Rescue Squad. “Nice Job Capt, you should be in the circus” is the loud cry.

The parrot is now perched in a tree along the alley and is about 25 feet off the ground.

Lieutenant Larry says. “Capt do you want me to call for the Truck”

Me  “Nope we are in deep enough already” “Time for Plan “B” boys”

Take the Squad around the back and come down the alley, remove the Fog nozzle and put on the stack tips with the 1” on top. We will do a BLITZ Attack from the West.

The rig carries 1000 gals of water on board and it is a simple matter to put out a large volume of water in a matter of seconds. This plan is in the drill manual as an Exterior BLITZ Attack.

“Dispatch from 1602”

“1602 Go”

“Squad 18 is 10-7 for a EBA drill at 9313 Kostner authority of 1602, will advise when they are 10-8”

“Your Message Receive 1602— Squad 18 is 10-7 on a EBA.”

Driver Norm mas the pump controls, F.F. Terry on the mounted water cannon, F.F. Bruce to direct the stream, Lt. Larry as the forward observer and Capt. INNY as the Safety Officer. Mr Parrot Owner standing by with my fire coat to catch the bird as he falls to the ground

Everything by the book and no one gets hurt.

Driver Norm sets the rigs brakes. Places the transmission in Pump. Opens the valve to the Water Cannon. Increases the engine pump speed. Opens the tank to pump valve.

Water begins to flow from the Water Cannon.I click my stopwatch, we have only 1 minute of water at this pressure.

Driver Norm increases the pump pressure.F.F. Terry moves the stream higher as directed by F.F. Bruce.

As the first drops of water hit the Parrot, he flies away.

Lt. Larry using hand signals, motions to Driver Norm to shut down the pump.The flow cuts off and I click my stopwatch. 15 seconds. Well we still have more then ½ a tank of water.

I ask the gathered crowd. “Which way did he go?” Many fingers point in the direction of the next street east.

The Parrot owner comes over to me and hands over my fire coat and asks “well what’s next.”

“Well I do not see what else we can do. Apparently that bird can fly, even with wet feathers. We are returning to quarters.”

I tell Lt. Larry to pick up, find a hydrant and fill the booster tank. “Tell me when you are ready to go back in service. I will take the report so you do not have more paperwork to do on this incident. Just do a SIMP Report.”

I go to the Incident Van to start the full report.

My portable radio sounds off.

“Squad 18 to 1602”

“1602 Go”

“Capt. can you come over to 9330 Lowell”

“10-4 Squad 18”

I head south and then east and at the next street turn north on Lowell to where the Squad is parked. I exit the van and walk over to where Lt. Larry is standing and he points to a very large tree and a brightly colored bird sitting about 30 feet up on a large branch. A clear shot for the water cannon.

“Well what do you think Capt.” “OK but this is the last try, when you run out of water we are done.”

As we get ready to do another EBA some of the crowd has follow us over to this location and are waiting to see what we will do next. Mr. Parrot owner shows up and I hand him my fire coat and tell him the same drill, but this is the last one.

Water on, pressure up, water on bird, knocks him off the branch and before he falls 3 feet he is airborne and headed off in the direction of Lake Michigan never to be seen again.

The squad pulls up to a fire hydrant and fills the booster tank while I get the necessary information for the Incident Report.

Lessons learned and facts confirmed

Parrots can fly with wet feathers

The EBA is no match for a bird that has his freedom

Rewrite EBA section to include this incident. In fact this drill is now in the book, No Really—the joke book.

“Dispatch from 1602”


“Squad #18 is 10-8—back in full service and returning to their quarters.1602 is in service in route to Station #17”

“10-4 1602 is in service–Squad # 18 is returning to Quarters”

As I drive the short distance to Station # 17 there are several times on the fire radio that the calling of a CROW is heard. Over the next month or so, I get phone calls and all I heard is Caw, Caw, Caw. There are the same sounds over the fire radio when I go in service on the air.

The loudest, longest cheer was when I approached the speaker’s stand at the monthly meeting on the Fire Investigator Luncheon.  I was to give my report on the training status of the group to 50 of my fellow investigators and I received the cheer. It is nice to be noticed for your service to the general pubic.

May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.

1602 is in service on the air

1 Comment »

  1. Mike, not a happy ending. We get used to that and then the macaw takes wing headed towards who knows where? Nice to hear from you. Public service must sometimes demand that souls like you and I take to story telling. I have a writing group you may be interested in. Let me know. It meets once a month and we kinda bounce ideas off one another at the Austin Public Library.

    Comment by Curt Rude — November 28, 2012 @ 10:19 pm | Reply

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