New York City’s Finest

by Ryan Edwards

Photos by Eddie Aung

In 1648, New York City founded its first official fire-fighting department. Prior to this, fire fighting was strictly a volunteer service. Despite this change a long time ago , volunteer fire fighters still outnumber the paid. In the 353 years of the New York fire department, thousands of men and women have worked hard to save lives on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to interview one of them. Captain John Newell of the 58th Engine in East Harlem has been fighting fires for the last 20 years. Captain Newell, now 50 years old, attended Suffolk Community College, majoring in General Studies, but he always knew he wanted to be a fire fighter. Being the son of a volunteer fire fighter, Newell felt a special calling to the civil service. He began fighting fires at the 45th Engine in the Bronx.

In 1648, New York City founded its first official fire-fighting department. Prior to this, fire fighting was strictly a volunteer service. Despite this change a long time ago , volunteer fire fighters still outnumber the paid. In the 353 years of the New York fire department, thousands of men and women have worked hard to save lives on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to interview one of them. Captain John Newell of the 58th Engine in East Harlem has been fighting fires for the last 20 years. Captain Newell, now 50 years old, attended Suffolk Community College, majoring in General Studies, but he always knew he wanted to be a fire fighter. Being the son of a volunteer fire fighter, Newell felt a special calling to the civil service. He began fighting fires at the 45th Engine in the Bronx.

When I asked the Captain how he feels about his job, he answered “I love my job.Sometimes I drive my friends crazy talking about my work.” Even though Newell is ecstatic about fire fighting, he does not want his daughters in the same line of work. “It’s too dangerous,” says Newell. Newell told me about many close calls, including a time when he was in a building and his superior officer pulled him out seconds before the building collapsed. The test to become a firefighter is very different now from how it was in 1977(the year Captain Newell took the test). The old test started with a written portion, “Out of the 40,000 who took it, only 10,000 of us made it on to the physical part of the test, that’s how competitive it was ” boasts Newell. The physical portion of the test consisted of an obstacle course, a “bar hang” (similar to pull-ups, minus the pulling), and a mile run. The test that is given to today’s recruits is a lot different .” It’s more job related,” says Newell. Today’s test still consists of a written portion, but the physical section is different, including a hook test, (in which candidates have to throw up a hook that actual fire fighters use) .As another part of their test they have to carry a 140 lb dummy up and down stairs.

As much fun as his work is, Cpt. Newell does have a life outside of the firehouse. In his spare time he coaches his daughter’s softball team, and he also likes to boat and fish. Cpt. Newell showed me that fire fighting is not only rewarding, but also a fun and interesting line of work. In addition, Cpt. Newell made me realize that firefighters are an extremely important part of our society. We owe a lot to them, for they selflessly put their lives on the line to save ours, everyday. We should thank and honor Cpt. Newell and others like him.

Read more about fire relative stores and tips

• New York Fire Department

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *