Sunday, September 19, 2010


And on the third Saturday of September, the Wildwoods throw the parade of every little boy's dreams. (And not a few of the big boys' and quite a few gals', judging by the crowd.)

Fire trucks: all fire trucks, just fire trucks, only fire trucks. (Okay, there were a couple of pipe—bagpipe—and drum corps, a handful of high school marching bands—what’s a parade without a marching band?—and an honor guard or three thrown in for good measure.)

(Blimey, but that's a big truck.)

Guess I don't need to mention that the annual New Jersey State Firemen's Convention was held this weekend? They have seminars and such (and even an appearance this year by the Governor—during which he was roundly booed), vendors and demonstrations, but the most visible aspect surely is the parade. No longer the most audible aspect, by the by; horn blowing was banned some years back. (Now if we could only get the hogs muffled during the motorcycle rally the weekend before…)

The parade consists, as I said, of fire fighting trucks. Over an hour and a half of fire trucks. That's a lot of fire trucks. (Really makes you wonder who was minding the shop…)

Old ones.

Really old ones. (Atlantic City's self-proclaimed First Fire Engine, 1854.)

Hand drawn.

(Water) Jet-powered!

No hydrants? No problem.

"Only you can prevent forest fires…" Given the scope of out-of-control fires in this country that weren't started by natural causes such as lightning, one can't help but wonder if perhaps not everyone knows this bear? Forest fire prevention through safe campfire practices and common sense is a great message to promote. But total suppression of all wildfires is another matter entirely... I can't help but wonder if the endearing mascot helped the catchy slogan gain the connotation that all wildfires were bad and had to be suppressed as quickly as possible, or if "forest fires are bad" was already a part of the forest service psyche of the time. (I believe a bit of research is called for!)

Whichever came first, it seems to have taken us an overly-long time to realize that fires are not only beneficial but necessary in many natural areas. Some plants can only germinate where fire has been (the extreme heat is needed to open seed cones). Fires knock back vegetative succession (thereby keeping plains open instead of growing up into forests). Regularly occurring fires keep fuel from building up to excessive levels, effectively limiting their own potential power. (The Yellowstone fires of the eighties likely would not have been what they were if natural fires hadn't been suppressed for so long.)

Luckily, the whole study of fire ecology has been widely accepted in the past few decades, and controlled burns are more and more a component of habitat management everywhere.

That's not to say we shouldn't listen to Smokey: I passed a fresh burn in the median of the Garden State Parkway just the other week… (Given how many cigarettes I see tossed out car windows on a regular basis, it's a miracle we don't have more, or worse, fires.)

Fire engine red---… Er, yellow?

Fire engine re---… Uh, green?

Fire Engine Re---… Aah, chartreuse!

Fire Engine RE---… Blue??? (But such a very lovely shade of blue.)

I missed the white ones. It was, after all, a workday.

And finally…

A fire engine that looks like… a bug!