Working in the creative world for a few years now, there has been a handful of projects I’ve worked on that have either changed the way I look at life or changed me as a person. ABC’s recent trip to the New York City area for the FDNY and First Responder’s Center for Excellence for a video shoot did both.
This project was a partnership with FRCE and the FDNY to educate firefighter about the dangers of fire ground contamination and the ways you can prevent contamination. While working with the FDNY and FRCE, we needed to shoot video for three videos to help spread awareness about contamination.
Our first production spot was at the mask services building, this is where a very hard-working group of people fix all of the FDNY’s SCBAs (respirators) and fill every air tank they use. It was crazy to see the amount of SCBAs these guys work on every day, there must have been over 500 in the repair shop we were in.
We gathered our shots and moved onto the next location, the mechanic shop. This is where any vehicle that bears the FDNY logo goes for repair or service. We struck up a great conversation with a mechanic working on an underside of what looked like an old fire truck. He told us that the reason why this truck is older and is being worked on is because it’s a training truck. This one happened to be in service at Ground Zero September 11, 2001. We were caught off guard by that, to the point we were silent for a few seconds.
Next up was the tower where firefighters train using controlled fires. Even before we could get the words out of our mouth about our concern about the smoke from the fire, our host got us suited up with an self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). This was quite the experience for the both of us and it took a few minutes to get the breathing technique down.
The highlight of the trip for me was our time at the Jackson Heights firehouse. We were brought inside to the kitchen to meet the dayshift crew. Immediately we felt welcomed like we were one of them.
On the menu for lunch that Monday was grilled chicken with avocado and tomato rice. We got our shots in quick of these firefighters all working in a kitchen to make this meal. It was truly amazing as they operated like a well-oiled machine. There is a person for every job: prep, cooking, grilling and clean up.
One thing that just about every firehouse has is a meal table, this is a special spot for firefighters. This is where they can relax, be around friends and eat amazing food. We both had a spot at this table along with 12 other FDNY firefighters, talking about one of the most humbling delicious meals I have ever had. The food and conversation were superb.
There was a joke one of the firefighters made to us, “this is a firefighter portion, if you finish it, you have what it takes.” We finished our plates. As we were just wrapping up lunch, we were talking about our jobs they wanted to know all about us, we did the same. It was ironic that as we were talking to a few of these guys about the spontaneity of the fire bell going off and what happens as you're eating ... what do you know, it goes off. Without any hesitation (some of these guys were still eating) six guys left for the call.
In about 10 minutes, the remaining firefighters had the table cleared of dishes and two guys on dish duty at the sink. From there ,we were brought into the garage area where we would begin recording things off our shot sheet for the “Clean 15” portion of our videos.
This video would cover 15 ways firefighters could prevent contamination. We cruised through the shots thanks to a healthy, power-fueled meal. Thanks to the FDNY crew at Jackson Heights, we captured some great video and had fun with it. The guys at this station were all like brothers, cracking jokes and giving each other a hard time. They made us feel included in all of that – sometimes we were the cause of the jokes. We wrapped with a video of everyone hanging out in front of the firehouse, truly an iconic scene.
Before we left, we took a picture with all of people at the East Farmingdale Fire Department that we also visited. It was our souvenir to remind us of how awesome this trip was. We felt like a team of Anthony Bourdains: We got to eat, drink and experience the local culture. It changed us.