Now, the thirteen of you that read my blog regularly probably know that I lean to the right side of most issues. But that doesn't make me heartless.
First the back story. I grew up watching Emergency! on Saturday evenings, then in reruns on weekday afternoons after school, then when we were the first on our block to own a VCR, I videotaped the reruns when they got shifted to 2:30 AM. I own Seasons 1 and 4 on DVD (Side note to family members; take the hint. I refuse to make a Christmas list) and I am now in syndicated heaven since Emergency! reruns are now being shown in Milwaukee on Channel 49.1 (or Channel 19 on Time Warner).
At the former West Milwaukee High School, they offered a Fire Internship program with the former West Milwaukee Fire Department. I participated in that program my senior year, and succeeding that I graduated from MATC with an Associate Degree in Fire Science and Technology in May 1988.
20 years ago, to get on a fire department you first had to pass a written exam. The top percentage were then to participate in a pass/fail physical agility exam. Those passing then had to interview with select members of the Fire and Police Commission. Ultimately, a list of 250 names was developed of the top 250 applicants. In 1988, I was 137th on that list, which expired in about 2-1/2 years.
Unfortunately, Mayor Norquist chose to eliminate some engine and ladder companies in that time, and he also created a list for minority and women to run concurrent with the general eligibility list - but this list was never to expire (In fairness, I do not know if there is still a separate list for non-white males). The bottom line is that the 1988 general eligibility list never got to #137 (my first taste of reverse discrimination). In 1990 I did not score high enough on the written test to even qualify for the physical agility exam. My dreams of being a firefighter died with the creation of that eligibility list for minority and women (Side note; with the recent Supreme Court ruling in which white male firefighters in New Haven were found to have been discriminated against, if anyone - ANYONE - wants to take me as a client in a suit against the City of Milwaukee, send me an E-mail).
File those nuggets in your mind for retrieval in a few minutes.
I love surfing the internet with an open mind, as you never know where it will lead to. This morning I was reading this favorite baseball site and read the comments about Monday's games. They commented about Gary Sheffield being booed Monday night, and since he last played for the Brewers 17 years ago, the blogger feels that it has been long enough. I responded with why I disagree (read my comments here. For some reason, the link I used is gone, but click this for a great trip down memory lane).
While composing that response, I "Googled" various search terms, hoping I could find some article about it, not ever dreaming that the entire September 27, 1990 Milwaukee Sentinel had been scanned.
(Now for the part about how my mind works).
Once I saw that Google has archived Milwaukee Sentinels, I started looking up older ones... just for the fun of it. In doing so, I came across a very dark three-week period in 1987. Unfortunately, I didn't find any Sentinels about this, but once I saw the subject, I started digging on it. My wanna-be-a-fireman-when-I-grow-up background hit me like a ton of bricks.
On September 30, 1987, 12 people (ten of them children) died in a house fire on about 26th & Walnut. The article stated that due to economic conditions, 15 people lived in this two story house, where the rental agreement only allowed for four adults. Those four adults were in the process of being evicted for being behind on the rent.
I was at MATC at the time, and many of the classes are firefighters that teach these classes for a few bucks on their off days. I remember hearing from one firefighter that was there, and he got very choked up at the number of children that perished.
I am not exaggerating when I say that the very morning - October 16, 1987 - after the firefighter told us about that fire first fire, another six children (out of 11 people sleeping in that house that night) died in a fire about a mile away - I think it was on 35th St. Even though the linked stories from the Toledo and Boca Raton papers were from the AP, the stories are different. The summary is that the gas had been turned off in this house due to nonpayment, and on a cool night a space heater was being used to warm the family. The mother of five of those children, by the way, was in the hospital after delivering another baby. This UPI account stated that that a witness heard a girl run out of the house saying that she "shouldn't have turned on the heat". The only surviving child - a ten year old boy - was apparently awake at the time, which afforded him time to escape.
Clearly, both tragedies were made worse by overcrowded living conditions in the poor section of Milwaukee. However, economic conditions right now are at least as bad as they were in 1987. It is not out of the realm of possibility that there are lots of families sharing living spaces. I am not saying that any government body should spend a nickel extra on this issue. But I do hope that everybody in that situation is aware of the dangers, and is taking steps - like working smoke detectors and exit plans - to mitigate risk of fire injuries and deaths.