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Bryan Ratushniak,

Captain, Toronto Fire Services


The first time I got excited about a fire was almost as thrilling as when as 7 year old boys, my best friend, let's call him Jim, because Charlie Bolleau doesn't want his real name used, showed me a cure for insomnia by telling me to rub a wool blanket on the end of my dink.

It was a fire during the middle of a hot summer day around 1969 when Ball Motors went up in flames. I had dragged my little brother Adrian out to see it along with half the town - (More people than when we got our first Zamboni and it drove the length of the town on main street, much like a visiting Pope, complete with the arena guy Charlie Kelner waving to the throngs as only a local hero could.)

The smoke covered the sky in the form of a black mushroom cloud. Stuff inside exploded and moaned. People watching, exploded and moaned. After all, this was Ball Motors. The coolest cars with the fattest tires were sold at Ball Motors.

The scene was chaos. The firemen were dragging hose and running here and there. Since this was a tiny mining town, the fire department was made up of volunteers, some of whom actually worked at this business engulfed in flames. I heard the word ‘shit’ used a lot as a complete sentence for the first time in my life. I was engrossed. Adrian cried a lot. I don’t know if it was his fear of the huge imposing plume of acrid smoke and the futile attempts by Mr. Cunningham who lived across the road from Ball Motors to water bomb the building with his ancient float plane that did Adrian in, or maybe the fact that the fire got so hot and we stood so close that our polyester bell bottoms were melting that got to me but man, at that moment I was hooked.

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