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NOSE ART by Doris Dumrauf, January/February 2008, file size 228 KB

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24-hours with Allentown’s Central Fire Station

Text and photos by Cindy Ross

The living area in Allentown’s Central Firehouse feels like any bachelor or frat house. Men lounge on overstuffed chairs, watching sports on a wide-screen TV or playing computer games. In the kitchen, the cook throws spinning circles of dough into the air to make homemade strombolis.
Central Firehouse is one of six fire stations within the city limits that together serve 110,000 residents. That figure swells during the day when the city fills with transient workers. As the largest crehouse, Central has the most firefighting equipment, receives the most calls, and is centrally located “in the hood.”

Life doesn’t pick up in this neighborhood until after dark. In the warmer months, the firemen trade their easy chairs and wide screens for a bench chained to a post outside and watch the parade of humanity go by. It’s not uncommon to hear gunshots at some point from somewhere in the neighborhood.

For the next 12 hours, I will be joining the Central Firehouse as a “ride-along” and will accompany Battalion 3 on calls. I will see firsthand what life is like for inner-city professional firefighters. Capt. Joe Donmoyer, a friend of mine for many years, did the necessary paperwork to make tonight a reality for me.

The firefighters warn me that their shift is usually mysteriously dull whenever a ride-along is present. But in the next few hours, we would discover that what started out as a slow, routine night would quickly turn into the type of emergency response that crecghters only experience a few times in their careers.

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