Thursday, February 21, 2008

House Fire


Bergen Street House Fire / 19Feb08

The bell hit at 2104 hours, alerting us of a reported building fire at 23 Bergen Street. The three of us on Engine 15 that night knew that we had better be quick in getting out the door on this one or the 14’s (Engine 14) would beat us in to our fire. Bergen Street is right on the border of our respective first-in districts. We stepped into the boots and bunker pants that were neatly placed on the apparatus floor beside the truck just waiting to be put to use. As we pulled the suspenders over our shoulders we stepped into the truck and began donning our fire coats.Brian pushed the ignition button, which brought the diesel engine to life, switched on the emergency lights, and headed out into the cold dark night.

Nothing had to be spoken between us. We all knew just what to do, and we each began our own mental preparations for the job ahead. Brian whipped the truck to a hard left onto Mt. Pleasant Ave. as I jotted down the address on the small notepad mounted on the dash in front of me and then turned on the siren.Kenny was in the back jump seat. As the ‘rear-step man’ it would be his job to immediately grab the hoseline from the rear of the truck and stretch it into position to enter the fire building. With absolutely no time to waste upon arrival at a working fire, he needed to make sure he ‘dressed’ completely on the way – fire coat buttoned, gloves and helmet on, and air pack strapped to his shoulders so that it would release from the frame in the jump seat as he dismounted the truck.

When Brian guided the truck down the hill on Chalkstone Ave. I could see a column of heavy dark smoke in the direction of Bergen Street even against the winedark sky. I picked up the microphone, “Engine 15 to fire Alarm, heavy smoke in the area”. I now knew that we had a working fire and had successfully related this information to the other companies responding to the call. The adrenaline level instantly rose in all of us.

Firefighters have different levels of excitement than the general public. Extreme excitement, and the adrenaline rush that accompanies it, can be put to good use on the fireground. It allows us to enter places and do things that we might not ordinarily be capable of doing in a more relaxed state. The long term physical effects, however, of a constant high level of excitement would take a tremendous toll on a person’s nervous system. Therefore, we quickly learn not to allow ourselves to reach that high level of excitement for the mere ‘report’ of an emergency. Too many times what appeared to be a true emergency to the caller screaming through the phone lines at our dispatchers turns out to be a false alarm or a minor emergency when we arrive at the scene. A report of heavy smoke from a responding company confirms that we are indeed going to face a real job. Now we can allow the adrenaline to flow freely.

We were all preparing ourselves to spring into action immediately upon arrival. People’s lives and property depend on us to do just that. Things can change in an instant, however, and we need to be able to adjust to an ever changing set of dynamics without missing a beat. On a call to an area where two different companies are capable of arriving first, you prepare for the most likely situation but keep a different set of tasks in the back of your mind – just in case.

When we turned onto Bergen Street there was large amount of heavy smoke hanging ominously close to the ground, but no visible flame. There were a number of neighborhood residents gathered in the middle of the street frantically waving at us as we approached, but no one was pointing to the fire. It was very difficult to determine which house was on fire. As we began to slow down near the heaviest smoke, a Providence Police Officer waved to us and pointed toward the back of the house on our right. Before I stepped out of the truck I transmitted a message over the truck radio, “Engine 15 on the scene, heavy smoke from the rear of the building, apparent Code Red, keep you advised.” (When the first-in officer reports “Code Red” he sets in motion a number of events that are not necessary for an auto fire or a non-structure fire, therefore you “don’t call it, ‘til you see it”)

I stepped from the cab, grabbed my air-pac and swung it over my shoulder as I walked to the narrow driveway on the side of the house toward the police officer. He told me that the building that was on fire was actually a house directly behind the one that abutted the street and that everyone was out of the building. When I reached the end of the driveway another building ever-so-slowly came into view through the puffing smoke. It was a two-story building set back about twenty feet from the front dwelling and there was heavy fire showing from the front doorway. As I approached the doorway to determine our best options for knocking this down as quickly as possible I transmitted a message via my portable radio, “Code Red, 2-story, wood-frame, occupied, heavy fire showing first floor, all occupants reported out of the building. Be advised, the fire building is located in the rear of the street building.” As I continued my size-up and awaited Kenny’s arrival with our hoseline, I could see that fire was venting from the windows on the left side and beginning to melt the vinyl siding of a three-story dwelling located about fifteen feet to the left of the fire building. “Engine 15 to Fire Alarm, heavy fire venting and threatening an exposure on Side 2, give me 2 more engines and a ladder”.

By this time (in actuality it had probably been about 30 seconds since I stepped out of the cab of Engine 15) Kenny had arrived with the hoseline and began to flake it out on the ground (to prevent kinks in the line from blocking the flow of the water), position himself, and don his mask. Again there was no need for us to talk, we both just did what we knew had to be done. I checked the hose again for kinks or knots, checked that Kenny was in position and ready, and radioed, “15 – charge our line!” I donned my mask as we waited for the arrival of the water through the 200 feet of hose.

This is always one of the most surreal moments. The quiet of the night seems strange in the midst of such apparent chaos. The sounds are all muted - but distinct. The arriving sirens seem far off, as if they’re running away from you as opposed to getting closer. There’s a slight presence of radio chatter from the fireground radio that seems barely audible over the sucking sounds emanating from the ebb and flow of air through the regulators of our face masks. The hiss of air flowing through the nozzle of the hoseline as it’s being forced out by the flowing water begins to get a little louder as the water nears. Muffled words that can only be likened to that of Darth Vader are exchanged between Kenny and I through our masks as we position ourselves and get ready to attack the fire. Through it all, however, the loudest sound of all – which seems to grow louder and more ominous as the seconds go by – is that of the fire itself. The crackling and popping of the fire as it burns through the wood and releases the pockets of air and moisture long trapped in the timbers seems to take on a life of its own. Glass shattering from the heat and falling to the ground cuts through the trance-like sound of a campfire to add another layer of sound that reminds me of the danger we are facing.

Finally the water rushes through the nozzle with a heavy jerk and begins to cool the fire and darken it down. The effect is almost immediate – where it had just been like daylight in the area we were working, it is now dark and foggy. Visibility reduces to about six inches in about six seconds as the flames begin to die and the smoke gets thicker. I pat Kenny on the shoulder and we enter the front hallway toward the kitchen. He has knocked down the bulk of the fire in the doorway, but I can still make out a bright glow through the haze indicating heavy fire in front of us. As we near the top of the three stairs to the kitchen doorway I catch a glimpse of heavy flames still venting from the left side of the building through a small window just to my left. “Go slow, stay low,” I say to Kenny as he inches forward fighting the heat. I keep right on his tail as we crawl together toward the glow, keeping contact at all times to assure him that I’m right behind him. As he makes his way just over the threshold of the kitchen and begins to attack the flames with his hoseline, the ceiling collapses and forces a rush of super-heated air and fire right into his face. He falls backward, right into my chest. I immediately grab him and try to push our way back a couple of feet. By this time a couple of ladder men are behind me and when they see what’s going on they pull me toward them.

We’ve only been pushed back about a foot or two, but the immediate danger has passed – we regroup. I ask Kenny if he’s okay and we begin to push forward once again. In what seems like only a minute or two (but in actuality closer to 7 or 8) after we fight our way into the kitchen once again, we both run out of air and are forced to retreat. The men from Ladder 3, who have not used as much air to this point, take over our handline as we quickly return to the truck to change air bottles so that we can reclaim our line. An engine man hates to relinquish his line to anyone! When we return and take the line back we continue to fight our way deeper into the building and believe we’re making good progress in knocking the fire down. What we were not aware of, however, was that the fire had taken hold of the second floor and was burning its way through the roof.

Conditions began to worsen very quickly, just as the Chief was transmitting an order to evacuate the building. The airhorns of the trucks on the scene began to blare in unison to signal an evacuation. It always seems to be easier to enter the building than to make a hasty exit. Tonight was no exception. As companies reluctantly began to pull out of the building the smoke seemed to grow hotter and more dense, the debris on the floor seemed to get thicker, and the exits seemed to disappear. As things deteriorated some men were forced to exit via windows to avoid thermal burns. When at last we were all out of the building a roll call of all the companies on the scene was initiated by Fire Alarm. This is standard procedure after an evacuation of an emergency area. After an initial scare that one of our members was still in the building which proved false, the roll call was successfully completed and we began a defensive attack on the remainder of the fire – attacking the fire with large amounts of water applied from the outside of the building.

We eventually returned to an interior attack to fully extinguish the remainder of the fire, but by that time we were drenched and tired, and anxious to get back to a warm fire station. Unfortunately for us, even after the last hoseline is shut down and the fire is declared out, there is still the back-breaking, tedious work of breaking down the hoses and repacking them in the trucks. This is made tougher in the winter by the cold. After being drenched from sweat from the inside and water from the hoses on the outside, it’s impossible to dry off and this just leaves you more susceptible to the cold.

I’m happy to report that there were no injuries to the family of six who were living there at the time, or to any firefighters. The fire was confined to the fire building and not allowed to spread to either of the other two building that were threatened – a couple of sheets of vinyl siding were the only victims outside of the original building. To me, this was a success.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Letter-to-the-Editor, ProJo, Feb 8, 2008


Stop using government workers as scapegoats

I usually write to The Providence Journal in defense of the Providence firefighters and our union when some politician or taxpayer writes and complains that we are too greedy or privileged. I defend the job we do as Providence firefighters and point out the hazards we face on a daily basis. I point out the fact that we are understaffed and underpaid for the type of work we do. I show that many of the popular beliefs regarding firefighters in general, and Providence firefighters in particular, are simply negative stereotypes placed on us by these same politicians and disgruntled taxpayers.

I need to state that I am tired of the abuse put upon us by these vocal opponents. As for their taxes going up as a result of our pay raises and benefits — so what? I don’t mean that in an uncaring or “in your face” type of way, but rather in a true question of why that makes us any different than the rest of the working population. The same taxpayer who complains about public unions causing a rise in his taxes may very well work for Coca-Cola or some other soft drink manufacturer for example. He/she may have just received a 5-percent raise and an increase in company benefits that cause the company to raise their prices to distributors. He/she may work for Wal-Mart and may have just received a raise due to the raising of the minimum wage or have just qualified for company benefits because they’ve begun to work over 20 hours per week. Either way, when enough of these workers have their compensation elevated it begins to cut into corporate profits, causing the company to raise prices for the products the rest of us have to purchase. This is the way our economy works.

He/she may be a retired person who supplements his/her retirement income with money earned from dividends and investments. This person follows his investments very carefully and dumps any assets that are not earning him the maximum profit. These are the shareholders that corporate executives claim are the reason that justifies corporate greed. He/she may very well be an overpaid and incredibly over-compensated editor for The Providence Journal writing about the Providence firefighters’ burden on the city’s taxpayers while sailing on his private yacht to Long Island or the Caribbean. Then, after putting us in our place, he dictates a memo to the appropriate department at ProJo stating that the newspaper is going to discontinue printing obituaries for free — corporate profits have been under-performing.

Why is it that the only people who get blamed for the rising cost of living are government employees? People seem to notice that when a firefighter or policeman or teacher gets a raise because the politicians talk about raising taxes. They fail to tell the taxpayers that all the other costs of providing those services have also risen and that is a major reason that the costs are up— heating fuel, gasoline, electricity, vehicles, equipment, etc. Why isn’t the public up in arms when their oil company driver gets a dollar-an-hour raise and their oil company raises their price a penny a gallon? Utility prices rise because of many different factors — employee raises and corporate greed among them. These increased prices force a landlord of a strip mall to raise his rent to the four or five small businesses eking out a living there. These businesses are forced to raise their prices to keep up with their increased fees. The consumers ultimately pick up the tab for all increases. Every increase of business expense has a reciprocal effect — such is the case with government expenses, also.

It’s time for politicians and taxpayers and editors to stop accusing government employees of being the cause of all our financial problems. Governmental wasteful spending should be sought out and eliminated. No one wants to have to pay for patronage jobs or unnecessary positions, but it is not good policy to cut spending at the expense of hard-working, dedicated employees. Especially when these people are the ones that are shouldering the daily duties that are necessary to keep the rest of us safe from harm.

Tom Kenney

Wednesday, February 6, 2008




My how things do change
As we grow, we become more sure
At the same time, however
We need each other more

I once sought everyone’s approval
Though I claimed I needed no one
On a constant quest for validation
Those wretched days are done!

Over time as we mature
We gain the wisdom of age
Use a different set of standards
To objectively gauge…

To gauge our self-reliance
As well as our self-worth
For these are important qualities
Not bestowed upon us at birth

We need to search for these things
Deep within ourselves
A quest that takes a lifetime
And one that often delves

Into places that we fear to tread
For fear of exposing our traits
Not all of which we own up to
As we wrestle with our fates

I’m no longer afraid of what people think
I seek no one’s approval
But I readily acknowledge the fact
That I do need other people

I need at least one who’s on my side
No matter what may be
And now that I’ve found her, I’m at ease
For she’s watching out for me

Tom Kenney - 2006


If only I could…
If only I had…
If I…
If You…

Many of us are burdened by these questions
These doubts
Many of us are burdened by emotions
We can’t sort out

Most of us have some sort of regrets
Of which we can’t let go
Most of us have some sort of remorse
For things only we know

Some of us are caught up in a depression
That’s entirely self-imposed
Some of us spend our days searching in vain
For a door we’ve already closed

We’re trapped by our past
These mistakes we’ve amassed
Lead to being swallowed
By the shadows they cast

All of us need help to understand
That it’s okay
All of us need to let go of our fears
If we’re to find our way


Tom Kenney - 2006


You speak to me
Get no reply
You get angry
And ask me why
Still no response
Now you sigh…
Are you even listening

You need conversation
Not a blank stare
You look at me wondering
Is he even aware
I’ve been talking to him
Silently you swear…
I can’t take it anymore

The number of times
This scene is played out
Increases over time
Getting worse, no doubt
One day without warning
You hear yourself shout…
Talk to me, just talk to me!

I snap to attention
And only slightly perceive
I’ve pushed you to the point
You feel the need to leave
To preserve your own sanity
And you just can’t believe…
I don’t notice your frustration

So you shift your attention
To your personal dreams
But this only magnifies
Just how separate we seem
Drifting further apart
You just want to scream…
I feel like I’m alone!

I feel your presence
Though I seem miles away
Sometimes I get lost
In thoughts of the day
You think I’m distant
But I’d just like to say…
You’re always in my heart

I may not seem interested
In what’s on your mind
But that’s so not true -
And I think you’ll find
You’re my most trusted ally
Every day I find…
I depend on you more than ever

Though I always have an excuse
As to why I don’t react
The way you think I should –
I have to face the fact
That I take you for granted
And fail to interact…
In the way that will save me!

For you are my true companion
I need you in my life
I thank God every day
That you chose to be my wife
You’ve made my world so easy
And saved me from my strife…
I need to make you see

You are my inspiration
You are my guiding light
You’re always there to inspire me
To continue with the fight
I need to show you once again
That I can do what’s right…
Love you, cherish you, listen to you!

Tom Kenney - 2006


Change never comes easily
There’s no simple solution
It seems it’s always a struggle

First you need to recognize
A need for evolution
Then attempt to make a change

Sometimes you must crush old ideas
Like an idea execution
To make way for a new way of thought

Solutions must be agreeable to all
No fear of retribution
If you want it to take hold

Such as abandoning our wasteful ways
And minimizing pollution
Making our world a greener place

Tom Kenney - 2007

Hope In Their Vision

I have hope for this world even still
As each generation forces its will
Over tired old ideas which make us ill
There’s hope in their vision…

While my peers look on in cynicism
We still feel the sting of racism
While we haven’t even addressed sexism
There’s hope in their vision…

I see more and more people relating today
In a more respectful and natural way
Seeing past all the stereotypical clich├ęs
There’s hope in their vision…

We’ve learned from all our parent’s mistakes
How empty promises are easy to make
But without commitment we’re merely fakes
But there’s hope in their vision…

It was Martin’s “dream” that people saw
That forced Civil Rights to be passed into law
But as a standard for people still had its flaws
But there’s hope in their vision…

Despite changes through our good intentions
They seem to continue our racial separations
And don’t really encourage better relations
But there’s hope in their vision…

It seems we can only take things so far
Before we are stymied by who we are
But our children can hopefully raise that bar
There’s hope in their vision…

Children are born with no hate in their hearts
Innocence and kindness is there at the start
With our guidance a new course they can chart
For there’s hope in their vision…

Tom Kenney - 2006



(It’s No Fun)
Being An Illegal Alien

Immigrants from other countries have built the United States of America into the country it is today. My family, on both my mother’s and father’s side, immigrated here from Ireland four or five generations ago. Many of us can trace our ancestry back to the ‘old country’ to just two or three generations past. This is the unique blend that makes America great – the ‘melting pot’. In recent years, however, we’ve been forced to limit the number of immigrants we allow to settle here. This is the result of an influx of illegal aliens.

Unfortunately illegal aliens don’t contribute to the improvement of our country – our states – our communities. Because they are here illegally, they don’t pay into the social security system, and don’t pay income tax to the federal or state governments. They wind up taking from the system – without contributing to it in the first place. For this reason, and for the obvious post 9/11 security issues, we need to secure our borders and more stringently enforce our immigration laws.

With illegal immigrants crossing our borders at an increasingly alarming rate, we seem to have taken away the power of the police officers on the street to detain someone for being here illegally. In the name of “political correctness” it is my understanding that these officers are not even allowed to ask them for immigration papers that document their status. Even when an illegal alien is arrested for a crime committed in this country and has no identification, he is not necessarily in danger of deportation under current law. He may very well end up in our correctional facilities, draining the taxpayers of this country even further, without being deported. This is simply not fair to the American taxpayer. This is also not fair to the thousands of prospective legal immigrants waiting their turn to move their families to this country in pursuit of the American Dream.

The families of illegal aliens are burdening an already overtaxed system – schools; subsidized housing; food stamps; welfare; healthcare. These programs are a necessity for Americans who are under privileged and are fighting for survival. They are not meant to be the bail-out for illegals from other countries. Many of these illegals work ‘under the table’ at lower wages than companies would have to pay for documented immigrants or American workers, thus taking jobs away from Americans - who must then rely on the welfare system.

When I realized that the biggest winners in this game were businesses who could save money on their payroll and healthcare costs, it suddenly became clear why President Bush has been so sympathetic to the plight of the illegal alien. The fact that the Republican’s big business buddies are realizing a benefit from this situation, AND the bleeding-heart leaders of the Democratic Party (who want to take care of everybody) can enact programs that make them seem that they care about poor people, makes this an issue with no end in sight.

I don’t apologize for the fact that I don’t seem to have any sympathy for this cause, I’ve witnessed the abuse it creates first hand on the streets of Providence. Many (not all – but many) of these people overtax the government’s resources, AND incredulously, they feel they are entitled to everything they take! The school systems of Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket are suffering tremendously because of an overabundance of children of illegals. Some surveys state that the number of children of illegals in these systems could be as much as 22%.

22%!!?? That means that almost one quarter of the children being taught in these systems are here illegally. Most, if not all, of these students are surely being provided free lunch and breakfast. Many of these students are being bused to school. Many of these students are in need of special programs such as English as a second language – not to mention having to be taught other primary subjects in Spanish. All at the taxpayer’s expense!!

I understand how we, as a nation – a state – a community, got caught up in this cycle. We don’t want people in this bountiful country to be forced to go without the advantages of basic services and education - especially the children. There has to be a limit, however. I say we’ve reached the limit when our own kids and our own families suffer because of our desire to help everyone in need. When our children’s futures are jeopardized by a lack of a quality education because the system is overwhelmed. When our families do without because daddy’s hard-earned paycheck is going toward tuition payments to private schools because the neighborhood public school has lost it’s accreditation – or worse yet, is just plain not safe! These are all signs that we’ve gone too far in catering to people who are breaking the law and infringing on our generosity.

The biggest slap in the face, to me, is that many of our own children and loved ones go without proper health care because healthcare insurance is just too expensive. At the same time the families of illegals are covered under various government sponsored programs! How absurd is that!!??!!




A couple of years ago a man walked into the lobby of Providence’s Public “Safety” Complex with a gun in his pocket. This came at a time when the nation was at “Code Orange” – an elevated state of security. Did I hear someone say how could this possibly happen? I’m glad you asked, because I can answer that question with one word.


Also, a while back there was a firetrap of an old building with over 300 people jammed into a space probably more suited for half that number. This club was operating with the express knowledge of the town officials of West Warwick. At the time this was taking place, there were a ‘total’ of 11 firefighters protecting the entire town – and no paid Firefighter Detail working at the club. How could the town officials allow this to happen?


Recently there was a major fire station in the Garden City section of Cranston that the city was planning to shut down. This was in spite of the fact that the nearest fire stations to this site were over a mile away in either direction. This was also in spite of the fact that this is perhaps the most densely populated area in Cranston, especially during shopping hours. How could any mayor propose such a thing?


Recently the City of Providence has gone through a renaissance. We heard this from the former mayor – we’ve heard this from the present mayor. We’ve added numerous new buildings that attract thousands of additional people to the city each and every day. The Convention Center, the Providence Place Mall, the Westin Hotel, and the Marriott Courtyard, to name a few. PC, Brown University, Johnson & Wales, and RISD all have new additions that continue to draw more people into this city on a daily basis. Not to mention the expansion at Rhode Island Hospital – or the new construction at Waterplace Park and the old Masonic Temple – or the addition of a large upscale housing development behind Providence Place Mall. Did I mention Water Fire?

With all these new developments and the added influx of people this brings to our capitol city, surely the police and fire departments have been staffed with more people and apparatus to maintain the same level of protection each citizen and visitor in Providence received ten years ago. No? How can that be? The mayor is downsizing these critical public safety departments, you say. No way, that can’t be. Really? Why?


Unfortunately, for Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer of West Warwick, and former Mayor Steven Laffey of Cranston, money is the only issue. You see, holding the line on taxes translates into taxpayer loyalty – and votes. This may be the attitude I expect from my accountant, but it’s not the view I expect from the person responsible for my protection. These men, unfortunately for all of us, fill both roles for their constituents.

Each of these men will tell you that their actions, in the incidents mentioned above, never compromised the safety of the public. To each of them, I say “hogwash”! It seems incredulous to me that politicians can continue to make statements that they know are untrue, especially when it comes to public safety – and not be held accountable.

In the incident at the Providence Public Safety Complex it was reported that there was a metal detector packed away somewhere in the building – but no one was exactly sure of its location. The fact is that there had been two metal detectors (still in the cartons at the time of this incident) since the building was opened. Setting up the detectors, however, would require that the city would have to pay an employee to monitor the entrance at all times. The solution? Leave the detectors in the boxes; of course!


In the case of The Station fire, the issue is crystal clear. Many more people died that night than would have if the Town of West Warwick had simply manned their fire apparatus with the NFPA’s (National Fire Protection Agency) suggested minimum standard – 4 firefighters per truck. In West Warwick they (still) man their trucks with 1 or 2 men on each piece of apparatus. Mr. Bauer, the former Town Manager, stated after the fire that additional manpower on the first arriving fire trucks that night wouldn’t have changed the tragic outcome. He further stated that the NFPA standard for staffing on fire apparatus was ridiculous. He bases his statement on a thorough knowledge of the duties and job responsibilities of firefighters by riding the trucks for how many years? Did you say, none? How can he possibly know the business of firefighting better than the NFPA? Oh, he’s a politician – I understand now.

He had to know that these statements were false. He had to know that he was lying to the public on this issue. He also felt, I’m sure, that it was his responsibility to the citizens of West Warwick to protect the town from being held negligent in the protection it provided that night – indeed, every night. That could lead to litigation against the town – and possibly against him personally. This was not the first time in recent memory that lives were lost to fire in this town, where staffing of their fire department was questioned as a contributing factor to the tragic outcome. In 1995, five people perished in a house fire on Highland Street in that town. The issue of staffing was thought, by some, to be a factor in not being able to reach those victims in time. The issue was swept under the carpet by town officials; they maintained their fire apparatus were adequately staffed.

In the case of The Station fire, most of the victims were trapped in the front doorway and the front alcove just behind the doorway. With only 3 firefighters arriving in those first critical minutes, they could do nothing more than the civilians on the scene had already done – try, unsuccessfully, to pull the victims free. The victims were packed together too tightly to be readily removed. If each of the first two fire trucks to arrive had 4 men aboard, there would have been 8 fully equipped firefighters available to rip down the door frame. Once the door frame was out of the way, all 8 of the men could have pulled free the scores of victims trapped there. Many of these victims would have probably survived if they were pulled out quickly enough. Time is always the firefighter’s enemy during the initial stages of an emergency.


In Cranston, the mayor was determined to shut down the Garden City Fire Station despite what it would have done to increase response times for emergency vehicles in his city. The only thing that kept him from succeeding was the terms of the contract between the city and the firefighter’s union. This mayor tried the same tactics against the city’s crossing guards, who were also covered under a union contract. He tried to fire them, in breach of their contract. He knew that there was no legal way for him to succeed, but he challenged them anyway. His contention was that the children didn’t need crossing guards to stay safe – all they needed were “lime green” crosswalks. Lime green crosswalks? Was he kidding? Apparently not, because he had them painted on the city’s streets. The proper way for him to handle that situation would have been to wait until the contract expired. He then could have decided not to renew the pact unless major concessions were made on the union’s part. As usual, this mayor tried to get his way – no matter what the cost in unnecessary legal fees paid by the taxpayers – right away.


In Providence, despite the tremendous growth this city has seen in the past 10 years, there are the same (or less) number of public safety personnel trying to do the job. The out-of-town response to fire department calls has grown to the point of being ridiculous. Just ask Providence’s neighboring cities and towns. There has been a need to ‘stack’ police calls. This means that the dispatchers hold emergency calls until a patrol car is free to respond. This has led to cases of delayed response to many police calls – domestic disturbances, MVA’s, assaults, etc. In some cases, a delay of over an hour!


I firmly believe in fiscal responsibility in government – I’m a taxpayer, too. I’m also a Providence Firefighter. I know what my job responsibilities are, and I know that I can’t perform my tasks adequately alone – or with just one or two additional firefighters on my truck. In order to carry out my responsibilities to the best of my ability, I need to arrive on the scene as part of (at least) a four-man crew. If you live in Providence, your life may depend on it. Firefighters and Policemen are this nation’s, this state’s, this city’s first line of defense.

A message to the politicians of this state - public safety is not the area to cut spending. Find other alternatives. But if you do decide to cut back staffing in your police or fire departments, level with your constituents. Tell them, “I’ve had to make some difficult decisions in order to hold the line on spending. You and your loved ones may not be fully protected in the event of a life-threatening emergency, but you won’t have to pay any additional taxes”.

At least give them the choice!




Ignorance Is the Enemy

Our world is made up of what some call a melting pot – a mixture of many different races, religions, and cultures. In the midst of these groups are further subdivisions – gender, age, education, social status, etc. All these groupings are but a few of the categories that divide us as people - categories that serve to pit us against each other every day of our lives. They remind us that we’re different.

As human beings, we are all different. This should be cause for celebration. We all want to feel like we’re special, after all. But although we are all different, we each also share many common traits with other individuals with whom we have no known association – physical, spiritual, intellectual, etc. While it’s true that we long to be special, we also want to feel like we fit in. This is the paradox of human beings. We long to be unique - but we want to be the same as everyone else.

The familiarity we enjoy being a part of a group with similar characteristics brings us comfort – makes us feel safe. We feel we belong with these people – we understand them because they’re just like us. This is the reason that different nationalities tended to settle in different neighborhoods within the same city when they came to this country in the first place – why different races seemed to find their own unique areas of town to call their own. The more we know about those who surround us, and the more we feel that they are just like us, the safer we feel. This is our ‘safety net’.

We need to come to the realization that we need people who are different than us to arrive at a better balance. The young can gain wisdom from their elders. The minority community can share their experiences during years of oppression with those who have never fallen victim. Members of different religions can discover the common beliefs of their faiths rather than concentrating on the differences. We can truly learn more from people who are different, than we can learn from people who share the same characteristics as us.

There are those, however, who carry the ‘safety net’ concept to an entirely different level. Some of these people regard anyone who is different as the enemy. They want nothing to do with the people they consider unlike themselves. They don’t understand these people’s language, their customs, or their ways of life. These ‘safety net’ people allow their own ignorance to dictate their existence – and thus, the existence of others. Ignorance breeds misunderstanding. Misunderstanding breeds fear. Fear breeds contempt. Contempt breeds hatred - which ultimately triggers violence.

This cycle has been repeated over and over again throughout the course of human history; and it’s bound to be repeated in the future. Our ignorance and our paranoia guarantee it. We can, however, stop this cycle in our own lives. The way to accomplish this is through open-minded education, communication, and experience. Once we understand another human being as an individual, we realize that for all our differences we also share a number of common traits. The recognition of this common ground breeds understanding. Understanding breeds security. Security breeds comfort. Comfort breeds acceptance – which ultimately leads to harmony.

All of us are guilty of some level of prejudice, of bigotry, of bias. We can’t help it, we have been taught this behavior by past generations. It’s our obligation to future generations to eliminate passing it forward. Unfortunately, it’s now the accepted state of our world. Not the ‘politically correct’ world (the world that doesn’t offend anyone at all -that world doesn’t really exist anywhere yet); but rather the real world (the one in which we live). Every group of individuals has a predisposed bias favoring their own group(s) and opposing any group that is different. This type of favoritism is understandable, even commendable, when it relates to family, but it shouldn’t be carried forward to the treatment of one stranger over another.

No single race, gender or religious group has the market cornered on discrimination. We need to accept the fact that we’re only as good as our own character – our own actions. We are not better (or worse) than someone else merely because we’re part of a group. Being a man, or black, or Jewish, or a senior citizen, doesn’t make a person better than someone who’s not.

Being firefighters and police officers, I believe we have a unique opportunity to witness the character (or lack thereof), of people from all walks of life. We serve, and encounter, every ethnic and economic group in our community, many of them during their darkest hours. We can witness first hand that pain and fear make no distinction regarding race, religion or sex – or social or economic standing. There was a movie released this past year titled CRASH. This movie dealt with prejudice and discrimination from many different sources. It, in my opinion, accurately portrayed people’s preconceived biases as one of society’s most common traits!

Ignorance of history dooms us to repeat it. Ignorance about our neighbor influences us to distrust him. Ignorance of our enemies leads us to war. Sometimes our leaders play on our ignorance to direct us in the path they’ve chosen. There are many documented cases where this has happened to nations – the present war in Iraq is a perfect example of this. President Bush and his administration played on our fears and our lack of understanding of the possible link between Osama Bin Laden and Sadam Hussein to garner support for his personal vendetta.

Fortunately for us, the tide seems to be turning – even if ever so slowly. Information is always the key to such changes. The abundance of information readily available to individuals has never been so great as it is at the present time – with 24-hour news channels and the internet being available in virtually every home in America. The young people of the 21st century seem to be much more open minded toward different cultures than previous generations. We can all remember a time (not so long ago) when interfaith marriages or interracial dating were a big deal. Most of the kids today don’t even see these things as unusual, and this is a good thing. Soon America, and the rest of the world, will be a true melting pot.

This interaction between people with different backgrounds spreads understanding of other customs and practices – other points of view. Equal treatment of all people in everyday situations is the key to making this mistrust of each other disappear. This means equal hiring practices, equal enforcement or our laws, and equal opportunity in all aspects of our society. We all seem to forget that our individual actions are as important as the actions of our elected officials – we all can make a difference. After all, public policy will always reflect what the general public demands – even if it seems to change at a snail’s pace. This is especially true at the local level, so don’t be discouraged – let your opinion be heard by your local legislators. Let them know what they’re doing right, as well as what they’re doing wrong.

Let’s all take an active role in eliminating ignorance in our own community – and in our own household.

Stay safe!

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Fireman's Flame"

Fireman’s Flame

You, my love, are the one
My one and my only
You make me feel that I’m loved
Never letting me feel lonely

You make me feel feelings
I’ve never felt before
Feelings that you make me
So eager to explore

I now feel that I can share
All my hopes and my dreams
I’ve finally found my soul-mate
And in some ways it seems... we’ve always been together
Though we’ve only just begun
From the moment I first saw you
I knew you were the one

You started a fire in me, Nancy
I’ll never learn to tame
You’re my dream, my fantasy
You’re this fireman’s flame

Tom Kenney - 2005

What She Means To Me

Somethin’ about the way she looks
Puts me under her spell
Somethin’ about the way she speaks
Puts me in a trance

She may not be a perfect person
But she’s plenty perfect to me
She may not always trust me
But I trust my heart to her

‘Cause there’s somethin’ about her
That oozes beauty through and through
From her funny feet and crooked smile
To her velvety curly hair

When she turned her gaze upon me
And I lost all my control
I knew I had to keep her with me
Or I’d never love again

She’s that special combination
Of beauty, love and soul
That comes along so seldom
You just need to hold on tight
For to lose this special feeling
Would haunt my every breath

So I have to stop pretending
That I’m an independent man
‘Cause I’m so dependent on her love
I’m just not whole without her near

I’d give up everything I have
My heart, my soul, my life
‘Though she doesn’t understand it
She’s the reason I inhale

If I were granted one free wish
It would have to be
That she finally gets to understand
Just what she means to me

Tom Kenney - 2006


To love another
Even more than oneself
Is quite a claim, it’s true
But this is the way
In the depths of my heart
I’ll always feel about you

I love myself
I think I’m a good man
It’s not that I’m undeserving
But you, my love,
Inspire my passion
Make me excited about living

To begin my day
In the glow of your smile
Makes me a happy man
For without your love
And without your presence
I don’t know if I can…

If I can face the world outside…
If I can hold it together…
If I can go on living my life…
If I can face forever…

Tom Kenney - 2006

Sneak Attack

I could never love a person who is this
I could never love a person who is that
I could never date a guy who has tattoos
I could never date a girl who is fat

It never ceases to amaze me that
People think they can control their hearts
But after a number of trials and errors
They come to realize that they cannot

Love seldom comes at you directly
It’s more likely to be a sneak attack
But once love finds its target
There’s never any going back

People who put too many restrictions
On the type of person they’ll accept
Are doomed to failure and disappointment
And at the art of romance, seem inept

But it’s not that they’re unable to love
They’re just loving the wrong person
Once you set your sights on specifics
Your judgment seems to worsen

Love will come when you least expect it
For that’s the way of romance
Just when you feel alone and afraid
Someone asks you to dance

I do not believe in love at first sight
Though I admit it seems to exist
It’s more of an infatuation than love
But sometimes these feelings persist

It’s only when your heart’s fully open
That true love can come your way
And when it does you may be surprised
At the type of person be they

So keep your eyes and your heart open
For true love could be near
And if you’re not receptive to it
Your one chance could disappear

Tom Kenney - 2007



Scared to death

Under informed

Largely understaffed

Extremely flexible

All beaten up

Extreme loyalty

That’s what makes a fireman…
…a fireman

Tom Kenney - 2004


I’ve journeyed through Limbo far too many times
That place between life and death
The air ripe with pressure as we battle with fate
Difficult to take even a breath

As we race against time to save someone’s life
Death lingers, but we do not fear it
But as the heat of the fire robs my physical strength
So this stress saps my spirit

No matter how often I play out this scene
It never is a good one
Even when we manage to cheat the Grim Reaper
The act is never done

We stabilize and extricate and tend to their wounds
And transport them to the ER
It’s then that we think the play’s finally concluded
But it’s never really over

Most times we lose track of the ‘faceless’ victim
Once he’s out of our care
Most times we never know if he lives or he dies
Check on him (?) – we don’t dare

It’s better for us to leave well-enough alone
And just know we did our best
It’s our job to make sure he gets to the hospital
The doctors there do the rest

Every journey to Limbo weighs heavy on my heart
Especially when tending to children
For there’s no place on earth we mortals fear more
It’s like entering the lion’s den

So after an encounter battling death on the street
We retreat quietly to the station
We pretend it doesn’t get to us and just shake it off
But to believe that is a miscalculation

2007 - Tom Kenney

Little Girl I Remember

I remember the night like it was hours ago
Though I know in my head it’s been years
She was one of the rare ones to get to me
One of the few to reduce me to tears

We had been at a fire in an old warehouse
Just packing up hose, getting ready to leave
When the call came over my portable radio
The way it was dispatched was hard to believe

A report of a five-year-old shot in the chest
Down on the sidewalk, with police on the way
They were sending EMS from another District
And an Engine Company from even further away

The scene where this shooting had taken place
Was in our District and not far from our location
We were much closer than anyone already enroute
So I told my driver that that was our destination

I radioed to dispatch that we would take the call
And we headed to the scene, no time to spare
We seemed to fly that night, but not fast enough
We pulled up to chaos but the police weren’t there

A five-year-old girl was lying in a pool of blood
On the sidewalk right outside a candy store
An innocent victim of a drive by shooting
When she and her father walked out the door

Sometimes I think it would’ve been easier
To throw a sheet over her and just leave
To work a life-and-death call on a child
Is always a difficult scene to perceive

As that fleeting thought is quickly tossed aside
We see that she’s breathing and she has a pulse
We franticly begin to check for her wounds
As we rip open her shirt she begins to convulse

We hold her down gently until she stops shaking
Then we spot a small hole just above her belly
It’s oozing blood with the rhythm of her heartbeat
I slowly roll her over as my hands turn to jelly

No exit wound means the bullet is still inside her
But there’s no telling how much damage was done
We’ve no time to waste in getting her to a hospital
As the Rescue pulls up we’ve already begun

A collar and backboard to keep her from moving
We clean up her wound and cover with a dressing
As long as we’re moving and continue to keep busy
We can’t think about her age, and that is a blessing

She lies still as we work to save her young life
We control the bleeding and monitor her breaths
While she lies there unmoving and still unconscious
She’s trapped in that space between life and death

We wheel her into the Rescue and head to the ER
To hand off her care to the trauma team there
For the quicker she’s in their hands the better
So we pass her to them and say a silent prayer

This whole ordeal, for us, was barely 30 minutes
But the nightmares it left us will last a lifetime
I heard later on the news this little girl survived
But she still carries the bullet next to her spine

Tom Kenney - 2006

Good Times Too

Much has been said of the tragedies we see
Yes, there are many and they’ve affected me
But if that’s all there was to this business I’d be…
…an emotional cripple

Much of being a firefighter can tug at your heart
Things begin to affect you right from the start
Thankfully it’s rewarding things that stand apart…
…from all the despair

Every so often a fuckin’ miracle occurs
Sometimes it’s right away, and sometimes it takes years
But when it happens to you, you’re reduced to tears…
…the saving of a life

I’ve held a newborn, cradled her snug in my arms
Heard her desperate whimpers as I kept her safe from harm
I couldn’t keep from melting from her heavenly charms
This is my reward

Though there are days when it seems I’m surrounded by death
I have comforted an old lady as she drew her last breath
But there are also the times when I help to cheat death
That’s what keeps me going

For a life is as precious a gift as anyone is given
And to protecting this life with my own, I am driven
In this way, perhaps, my own sins be forgiven…
…finding my salvation

In my life as a fireman I wouldn’t change a thing
There were many defeats that were emotionally wrenching
There were also many victories to ease the suffering and bring…
…good times too

Tom Kenney - 2005



You Can’t See

You watch me get off the truck and think
He’s overweight; out of shape
And too old to do this job

For firefighting is a physical business
Requiring agility; as well as ability
To protect life and property

But you’re not able to see inside of me
Unable to chart, what’s in my heart
And that is the key

Because of physical strength and stamina
A man is strong; able to prolong
That which he endeavors

But no amount of physical qualities
Can make you do, what scares you
Like the power of a courageous heart

The strongest of men can be stopped in their tracks
As danger nears; overcome by fears
When facing their own mortality

Firefighters know their most important quality
Is strength of heart; to do their part
Despite their natural fears

When we’re called upon, we’ll risk our lives
We’ll dare to go; although we know
This time we may not return

The inner strength and the inner courage
That it requires; to fight these fires
Is something you can’t see

Tom Kenney - 2008

“Walk The Walk”

In this business
It’s very easy
To talk the talk…
But it’s not as simple
To have the courage
To walk the walk

It takes somebody
A little bit different
To do this work…
Someone with heart
Somebody with balls
And a little berserk

As people run out
We’re running in
For that’s our way…
Into the unknown
It’s difficult to do
Even if easy to say

No other profession
Is quite the same
As being a firefighter…
Risking your life
For the sake of others
No job could shine brighter

When the fire’s over
And the danger’s done
You can take pride…
In the fact that you
Have done your job and
Not tried to hide

Only other firefighters
Really know who
Walks the walk…
And which ones are
Only capable of
Talking the talk

For inside the building
Is where you prove
Of what you’re made…
Experience or brawn
We each make our own
Contribution to the fray

When I find my body’s
No longer able
To walk the walk…
I’ll have to face the fact
That it’s my time to
Walk the walk – away

Copyright 2005 - Tom Kenney

What People Think…

Some people think we don’t have fear
Crawling through a door to disappear
Into the smoke, because someone’s there
We have it, but don’t show it

Some people think we don’t feel pain
That there’s a magical power we attain
To keep us from breaking under the strain
We feel it, but control it

Some people think we don’t understand
When all the dreams they had planned
Go up in smoke by an arsonist’s hand
We understand, they just don’t know it

Some people think we don’t know how
To feel compassion, and not allow
Our hardened hearts to feel the sorrow
We know how, but won’t let it

Some people think we can’t express
Our inner feelings with tenderness
And show our frailties and our weakness
We can, but we won’t do it

What firemen think…

Firemen say that we don’t care
What people think about us
The truth be told, we’re well aware
But don’t like to make a fuss

This hero thing is overblown
And makes us ill at ease
We’d rather that we be known
As the men who heed their pleas

So we stand tall, and force ourselves
To fight another fight
Never showing that this living hell
Leaves us wondering if we’re right

For is it right to share our burdens
Transferring the sadness to others
Or should we simply hold them in
And keep them among our brothers

Tom Kenney - 2005

I Never Signed Up For This

From the day I swore to serve and protect
I knew the day might arrive
When I would be put to the ultimate test
Not sure if I’d come out alive

I accepted this fact as part of the job
The job I was born to do
I hoped against hope that I’d never be tested
But deep inside, I knew

I knew that it would only be a matter of time
Before I’d choose my path
Just as I knew that I would be honor-bound
To face the fiery wrath

Although I never wanted to have to die on this job
I was prepared to, just the same
And every time that I felt I cheated death
I was the winner of that game

How could I have imagined that one day soon
It would come to this
The man so used to helping others would be
In need of an assist

I once walked around with my head held high
So able-bodied and strong
And now I can’t even fend for myself
I need help to just get along

My wife and my family are now put to the test
Each and every day
Though they’re always willing and up to the task
I can’t bear to live life this way

I always thought I could handle whatever was dealt
But I’m lost in an endless abyss
I pray every day God will take me away
‘Cause I never signed up for this

Tom Kenney - 2007

Our Chaotic Dance

Viewed from above
A dance in motion
Graceful and peaceful
As waves on the ocean

Light from the fire
Flickers in the dark
Ebbing and flowing
Spitting out sparks

Smoke fills the air
Softening the scene
Riding the wind
Calm and serene

Too far away
To hear any sound
Just blurs of colors
Moving on the ground

The orange of the flames
And red strobes of light
Reflect off the pond
And disappear in the night

All of the dancers
Seem lost in the haze
There’s a magic in the night
That’s missing in the days

Although it looks to the eye
That chaos abounds
There’s an order to the scene
As the players dance around

Each movement has a purpose
Though it’s not clear to you
These men know one another
They know just what to do

A fireground can seem confusing
To those who watch us toil
Not seeing the order in our tasks
They get lost in all the turmoil

We’ve trained for this many hours
We leave nothing to chance
That’s how the chief orchestrates
Our chaotic dance

July 17, 2007 - Tom Kenney

This Life’s Blues

This life’s been gettin’ to me lately
I feel like it’s bringin’ me down
This life’s been gettin’ to me lately
I feel like it’s knockin’ me down
Been givin’ all I have to give
Still no one wants me around

I’m suckin’ in more shit every day
And it ain’t gettin’ any better
I’m suckin’ in more shit every day
And it ain’t gettin’ any better
‘Cause no matter what else we breathe in
There’s just no way to kill us any deader

I just wanna go home at the end of my shift
And I care ever less about the on-duty shit
I can’t keep givin’ my heart and soul
To those not worthy of it – not worthy of it

This life’s been gettin’ to me lately
I’ve taken the good as far as it’ll go
This life’s been gettin’ to me lately
I’ve taken the good as far as it’ll go
And that’s the very saddest part of all
I used to know that I knew what I know

Lately I wonder if my effort’s in vain
For the streets seem so full of hate
Lately I wonder if my effort’s in vain
For the streets seem so full of hate
I’m beginnin’ to think no matter my deed
We’re all headin’ for a horrible fate

I just wanna go home at the end of my shift
And I care ever less about the on-duty shit
I can’t keep givin’ my heart and soul
To those not worthy of it – not worthy of it

It used to be clear who were the bad guys
And who wore the white hats
It used to be clear who were the bad guys
And who wore the white hats
But these days there’s nothin’ that’s clear
Even some white hats are rats

The mean city streets are no place to be
Not even to try to lend a hand
The mean city streets are no place to be
Not even to try to lend a hand
For the city streets – take no prisoners
And they’re no place to take a stand

I just wanna go home at the end of my shift
And I care ever less about the on-duty shit
I can’t keep givin’ my heart and soul
To those not worthy of it – not worthy of it

Once upon a time my job was rewardin’
A fireman could make a difference
Yeah, once upon a time my job was rewardin’
And a fireman could make a difference
But now it seems that no one really cares
It takes more than mere perseverance

I’ve been abused by the politicians so much
My compassion’s all but gone
I’ve been worn down by the violence that I see
My compassion’s all but gone
But I still feel the urge to make things right
I guess that’s what keeps me goin’ on

I just wanna go home at the end of my shift
To my kids and to my wife
I’ll keep on givin’ my heart and soul
For this is my chosen life

Tom Kenney - 2006



Choose to Live

Living daily with the stresses, of life and death situations
You quickly develop a sense of strength, and inner determination
To face your fears, your inner demons, and your limitations
Otherwise you’ll end up breaking, a victim of frustration

A firefighter who lives his life, willing to take a chance
Likes to play by his own rules, not play victim to circumstance
Enter that building, crawl through that smoke, take that hose, advance
When you risk your life for a living, you’re not afraid to take a stance

When faced with the choice of pushing forward, or giving in to fear
You have to consider your decisions, that have already put you here
Being a firefighter and saving others, is a very noble idea
But sentiment alone will save no one, unless the performance is there

A fireman’s not judged by what’s in his head, but rather in his heart
Anyone can dream heroic thoughts, it takes one to take part
In actions that may cause his death, in order to save a tot
His performance never differs, whether he knows this child or not

For every man must die someday, there’s no getting around it
Accept this fact and live your life, with gusto and with spirit
You can’t choose how you will die, or do anything to avoid it
But you can choose how you will live, and not cage yourself with limits

Tom Kenney - 2005

Flicker Of A Matches’ Flame

Like a flicker of a matches’ flame
The years seem to fast-forward
Retirement, once long in the future
I’m now steadily moving toward

Eyes once wide with excitement
Now weigh heavy with the strain
Of many years of seeing too much
And enduring too much pain

The bounce and purpose in my step
Has been replaced with a nagging limp
Once strong and able-bodied
I’m now looking more like a gimp

Too many nights of interrupted sleep
Have left me haggard and tired
Sirens have stolen my ability to hear
And in this endless drone, I’m mired

This business, though rewarding as hell
Has surely beaten me down
Proclaiming “it’s the best job in the world”
While in the despair I drown

I know my actions have been sincere
Every time I’ve answered the call
But day after day, night after night
I bang my head against the wall

Nothing gets better, stays just the same
On these tough city streets
I can’t seem to remember the victories
Only the bitter defeats

The time has come to blow out the flame
And let the room go dim
And open a new chapter in my life
One that’s not as grim

Tom Kenney - 2007

Chasing After a Hero

I ’ve been chasing after a hero
For what seems my whole life
I can remember back to my childhood
When the fear cut me like a knife

I witnessed my father risk his life
By running into a fire
And through the eyes of a scared little boy
I watched as the flames grew higher

I have never been able to forget that day
And no matter what I’ve done
I felt I could never live up to that act
In fact, nor could anyone

As a firefighter, as well as a man
He left me big boots to fill
Though physically I’ve grown into the par
In some ways, I fear I never will

His steady hand has served him well
As a firefighter - and family man
His loving ways, throughout his days
Has helped him raise his clan

For no man is truly a hero
Based solely on his profession
My dad has dedicated his entire life
To his family - his obsession

Though we have our differences, him & I
I admire and love this man
For he’s the man I always wanted to be
Because of him, I’m where I am

I would like to think that I’m a good son
Despite what some might say
But I attempt to live my life in a manner
That will make him proud each day

I have stumbled and faltered along the way
As I’m certain my father has, too
I ask myself if it’s the mistakes we make
That inspire us to start anew

His bravery, integrity, and his moral fiber
Are attributes to which I aspire
His leadership, shown through his example
Continues to encourage me higher

Thank you, Dad

Tom Kenney - 2005

The Man Inside

I’m on a quest of some significance, at least it is to me
Searching for that elusive creature, the man inside of me
The hunt began, as I recall, to prove my inner worth
To recover the man I’d lost within, much like a rebirth

It dawned on me one insightful day, that men often have two sides
The outer shell which they display, but there’s also the man inside
I’m not too proud of the outer me, with all my flaws and warts
So I’m hoping the search for the inner me, is not all for naught

I’ve heard it said many times, it’s what’s inside that counts
I hope there’s truth in that old adage, no matter in what amount
Because a good man is a good man, no matter to what degree
And there are no saints among us, at least not that we can see

To recognize the difference, between what’s outside and in
Is a quality I admire in a person, not judging from his skin
Though I beat myself up for past mistakes, I hope that I can prove
That the man inside of me is one, of whom I can approve

It’s said that we all see ourselves, different than we are
But when we’re put to the test of stress, we find if we’re up to par
For it’s always the man inside of you, who’s hidden away from view
That responds during these arduous times, and he’s the real you

If this is true, then I’m okay, for this has always been my strength
My ‘inside man’ always goes the distance, no matter what the length
‘He’ has integrity, ‘he’ has courage, ‘he’ has compassion too
Whatever be the challenge, ‘he’ can see it through

So judge me not on who I am, but rather on who I can be
For though I often fall flat on my face, there’s a man inside of me
Who knows just how to face a crisis, without letting others down
‘He’, you see, is a fire-fighter, ‘his’ feet planted firmly on the ground

Tom Kenney - 2006

Attitude & Action



I’ve heard it said many times before
Firemen are brave, but humble men
Although I agree that this sounds great
It’s not the way it’s ever been

Firefighters are not humble men
We think we’re pretty special
We push ourselves beyond our limits
Although it’s often stressful

We make no claim of wealth or power
Or influence of any kind
But in our hearts we know damn well
Men like us are hard to find

We take a back seat only to God
And even then we challenge
The so-called “acts of God” He deals
To make sure it’s what He meant

We think our companies and departments
Are the “best of the best”
We pride ourselves in having no equal
No matter what the test

There’s no room for humble in us
We need to wield the power
Our enemies are death and destruction
And we can’t afford to cower

Your property and your very life
May someday depend on me
And you won’t look for a humble man
But one who’s all he can be

Copyright 2007 - Tom Kenney

Working Class Hero
(aka - I Ain't No Fuckin' Hero)

They call me a working class hero
But that’s not the way I feel
I ain’t no fuckin’ hero
I can’t live to that ideal

When I was a young man
I dreamed of glory and of fame
But now I’m just so tired
Of all the hurt and pain

When we arrived
There was madness in the air
Smoke and flames
Seemed to be everywhere.
The cries and the pleading
Cut through the dark
And guided our movements
As we strapped on our gear

It was a scene no different
Than a hundred before
A building consumed by fire
As we crawled through its door
“My baby’s in there”
A mother screamed
Suddenly all of our senses
Were heightened all the more

They call me a working class hero
But that’s not the way I feel
I ain’t no fuckin’ hero
I can’t live to that ideal

When I was a young man
I dreamed of glory and of fame
But now I’m just so tired
Of all the hurt and pain

We fought our way
Through the gates of hell
Pushing forward
Straining every cell
For a life is in the balance
Depending on us
Failure is not an option
When we answer the bell

But try as we may
Failure does come too often
And knowing we tried
Can never soften
The hurt or the sorrow
That will always stay with us
Or help us to fight
The gloom we seem lost in

On this day
We prevailed
But it still can’t make up for
The times that we failed

Those faces haunt us
In all of our dreams
The ones that we didn’t save
Despite all their screams

They call me a working class
But that’s not the way I feel
I ain’t no fuckin’ hero
I just want time to heal

When I was a young boy
Dreaming of glory and fame
I never dreamed a single life
Could witness so much pain
But now I’m just so tired…

Copyright 2004 - Tom Kenney


I need a place where I can go
And still feel productive
I need to feel I’m still important
With a lot still to give

Firefighting is a young man’s job
On that I can agree
But it also takes experienced men
To help the young ones to see

When I began on my long journey
With body strong and lean
I could push my muscles to the brink
Like a well-oiled machine

But now my body’s had enough
Of the suffering and the pain
So I leave it to the younger guys
To shoulder the physical strain

I now have other ways to help
In the battle that we wage
My experience has taught me well
Some things improve with age

So now I lead instead of follow
In getting the job done
‘Cause it doesn’t matter in the end
We all work as one

I also contribute my tales of history
Of how it used to be
For now that I’m an old timer
The men look up to me

I try to inspire the newer men
To be the best they can
No matter how you judge a company
We’re still measured man by man

I’ve found that I can make a difference
Merely with my words
To think there’s only a single way
To be an asset is absurd

So I push myself to write these days
As I pushed my body in a fire
And I’ll continue to push and push and push
And it won’t stop when I retire

Copyright 2006 - Tom Kenney


Consumed is the only word I know
That adequately describes my state
Consumed by my personal mission
Ridding the world of hate

I’ve seen too much of what hate can do
On the streets of my own city
Kids don’t see how their hatred spreads
And this is just a pity

All they know are the lives they’ve led
And they feel the need to be tough
But their violence begets more violence
And it’s never quite enough

He shoots him, so you shoot he
It’s called gang retaliation
Now I’m supposed to take you down
In another confrontation

Realistically you have to know
That it’s only a matter of time
Before you get a bullet in your ass
Because revenge will be mine

Some would say, leave them alone
They’re only killing each other
But I contend they’re worth the effort
Not wanting to give up on another

They’re human beings, and mostly kids
Who’ve somehow lost their way
We can’t give up, and just let them be
This is not a game they play

I’ve stood above their dead bodies
And held their dying hands
They play for keeps on these city streets
They don’t seem to understand

The permanence of their actions
As something they can’t take back
And the foreverness of a death
Is a comprehension they seem to lack

We need to teach them tolerance
For others not the same
‘Cause it’s only through this means
That things can truly change

Often it’s the outer things
Like the color of our skin
That seems to set us far apart
Ignoring what’s within

For all our obvious differences
A child’s still conceived in love
And though hatred is an ugly beast
It’s a beast they can rise above

It’s the children who hold the key
To their own salvation
And we, as parents, have the power
To stop their condemnation

In all my years I’ve never seen
A child who’s been born evil
But we pass on our own anxieties
Our fears, our hatred, our will

We need a fresh new perspective
From the youthful generation
Free from all their parents biases
To alter our direction

I’ll dedicate my time and effort
To turn this trend around
By educating our younger minds
That we all share common ground

It’s our similarities, not disparities
Which will ultimately unite us
And unless this idea has taken hold
We’ll never learn to trust

No longer pitting group versus group
We will then be working together
With hopes of living side by side
With peace and love forever

Tom Kenney - 2006

Blood, Sweat & Tears

I’ve left my own personal trail
Of blood, sweat and tears
On the streets of Providence
Throughout the last few years

I find some comfort for the blood and sweat
With a healthy dose of cheer
But relief from tears is never achieved
With any amount of beers

While pain relievers and alcohol
Can lessen my wear and tare
These things can only do more harm
By disguising my deepest fears

It’s an endless trap, this coward’s crutch
This macho mask I wear
Pretending that the depression’s not real
By acting as if it’s not there

For PTSD has crept up on me
From seemingly nowhere
But it’s laid itself a strong foundation
During the course of my career

Now that I’ve come to realize
That it’s effects can be severe
I need to begin to help myself
And my course is crystal clear

I need to find a way to cope
I need to bend someone’s ear
I’ve kept things bottled up too long
Not wanting anyone to hear

For delving into personal doubts
And feelings just seems queer
Sharing these things with a stranger
Is not something I’d volunteer

This is the way I’ll finally save myself
But the words need to be sincere
This is the way I’ll purge my demons
Though they’ll never disappear

Tom Kenney - 2007

The Glow

Most people have misconceptions
About our toughest fires
Big mill buildings burn like the devil
Flames growing ever higher
And if I said these fires didn’t pump me up
I would be a liar

Watching flames shoot from every window
May be spectacular to see
But burning as they may, all through the night
Makes for a long job, I agree
This spectacle might seem exciting to some
But not anymore, to me

It’s the smaller buildings, with cramped quarters
That present our toughest foes
Inching up a debris-laden stairway
Clearing them as we go
Crawling down a dark and smoky hallway
Searching for the glow

For the fire burns slowly while giving off smoke
That banks down to the floor
Black as coal and as thick as a blanket
Oozing out the door
This smoke is super-heated like a locomotive’s furnace
‘til it can’t heat up any more

When things get this hot the room flashes over
Flames consuming all
For the fire has now gotten the oxygen to breathe
And the glow is no longer small
If a firefighter is caught in this deadly explosion
He might not escape the hall

This is why it’s imperative we seek out the glow
Before it begins to grow
And fighting our way to the seat of the fire
Is the only way we know
To fend off disaster by dousing the flames
Before the heated gases blow

Tom Kenney - 2007

Total Calls

Tonight I finally did the math
And it shocked the hell out of me
I added all the calls I’ve had
Just so I could see

I’ve often wondered how many times
That I have answered the bell
During the course of twenty-six years
It seemed impossible to tell

So I went down the line year by year
For some years there were more
Took the total yearly runs of each
And divided that by four

Five different companies over that time
To which I was assigned
Some were busier trucks than others
But when they were combined

I found that I had slid the pole
More often than I had thought
It seems I must have been having fun
When there was a fire to be fought

Some only lasted a minute or two
But some have dragged on all day
No two runs to which I’ve responded
Have ever been the same

The runs have piled up one at a time
To twenty thousand calls
That number surprises me even now
I can’t believe I’ve been on them all

Tom Kenney - 2007

Saturday, February 2, 2008



My God

My God is known by many names
And in His eyes, we’re all the same
This is the way it has to be
For He’s the same as yours, you see

There’s only one God that I recognize
I see Him with my soul, if not my eyes
I see Him around us every single day
I turn to Him when I’ve lost my way

Your name or mine, He’s still the Creator
No need to debate whose God is greater
Your God or mine, He’s one in the same
And God is almighty, no matter His name

I call Him Father, for that’s my conviction
To some He’s Jehovah, they preach His prediction
Jews call Him Yahweh, and Muslims pray to Allah
He’s spoke of in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah

No matter who you think He may be
No matter who I believe be He
Only He knows for sure who is Thee
And He may yet prove to be She

Although my belief is far from a certainty
I’ll cling to this faith through all of eternity
For it’s not the symbol to whom we pray
But rather His ideal that lights up our way

Tom Kenney - 2005

What I Know About God

Everything I know about God
Can be written on the head of a pin
The things I’m most sure of re: God
Are more about us, than of (Her) Him

I know that I know nothing
And I know you know nothing, too
To know that you know nothing
Is to know nothing new

Many claim to have the answers
To what God is all about
They live according to His plan
Sincerely pious and devout

I have beliefs about my God
And about what He may want
So I live my life quietly with that in mind
For religion is not to flaunt

I believe my God wants us to know
That all He wants is love
Love for ourselves, as well as each other
I believe that’s His message from above

But I have no way of knowing
That what I believe is true
I believe in Jesus and Mohamed and Moses
But I’m neither Christian, Islamic or Jew

The only thing I surely know
About my God is this
Though I believe He created the heavens and earth
I do know…He (She) is

Tom Kenney - 2006

With God on Their Side

Every nation since the dawn of time
Have sent their men to war
For people are never satisfied
They’re always in search of more

More riches, more freedom, more power, more land
It never seems to cease
Our leaders, especially, are guilty of this
Making war instead of peace

One of the many things that I hate
About these warring tribes
Is that they never go to war alone
They always have God on their side

The Christians called on Jesus
To help them during the Crusades
The Greeks on Ares, and Rome on Mars
Back in ancient days

The Muslims call on Allah today
To assist in their Jihad
And ridding the world of Infidels
In the name of their God

I wonder when it will occur to us
That God has better plans
Than killing each other in His name
For I believe that God loves man

Tom Kenney - 2005


Divine light shines from within
It can’t be found in any book
You won’t find it written on some page
No matter how hard you look

The Torah, the Koran and the Bible
Are all amazing reads
With Jesus, Moses and Mohamhed
Performing spiritual deeds

But no matter how you may try
To live your life in kind
You’ll always fall short in your attempt
As so would all mankind

Though reading these books and others too
May put your soul at peace
You’ll never understand the way of God
Your spirituality won’t increase

The only true path to divine light
Starts deep within your soul
You can’t look to someone else for the key
You must relinquish all control

Allow your inner goodness to flourish
Not worrying how you’ll appear
Just let your soul dictate your actions
It will become abundantly clear

When you begin to act for others first
Or for the good of all mankind
Your self-importance is stripped away
And you leave your ego behind

It’s only then that you can truly see
Beyond your own mistakes
Opening your eyes to a better way
Feeling your spirit come awake

This is the path to true enlightenment
It’s about personal insight
When you face your own unimportance
You’re open to divine light

Tom Kenney - 2007

Right and Wrong

I walk the line that straddles right and wrong
I know in my heart that that is where I belong
It’s a place that’s only inhabited by the strong
It’s where I’m meant to be

People in the right think only their way is right
That they have all the answers to our plight
It’s their way or no way to rid us from this blight
This is where we’re going wrong

If right was right
And wrong was wrong
We would win this fight
Before too long

But that’s not the case
That’s much too naive
We need to embrace
What we can achieve

We need to open our eyes to a new point of view
Not black nor white but something of another hue
Only then can we hope to see a world without taboo
This is how we start

For drawing lines in the sand that can’t be crossed
Is the one sure way to ensure that we’ll exhaust
Any chance to return to the better days we’ve lost
And only beget more violence

We need to preach tolerance
As opposed to confrontation
If we want to take a stance
Toward worldwide salvation

It’s as simple and easy
As live and let live
Why can’t we just see
We’ll get what we give


Tom Kenney - 2007

There’s Salvation Through Faith

Some think that I don’t believe.
They think that I’m a pagan.
The truth is it’s the screams of the deaths that their religions bring,
that cause my brain its aching.
Should I discriminate or hate a person for their sexual preference in the name of the Christian God?
Would I be better than the man who calls you the Infidel and kills in the name of Allah?
Faith is a quality we all have in something.
Faith is not meant to be a cookie-cutter image that’s the same as your neighbor’s.
Faith in your preacher is just as it’s stated.
Faith in a supreme being that’s slightly different is a faith that no so-called facts will shake.
For a belief that is thought out and reasoned is a personal choice.
No one can tell me what my God is about.
Abraham, Moses, Mohamed, Buddha or Jesus…
…who is the holiest of the holy?
More innocents have been slaughtered in the name of God than for any other reason.
I believe that faith leads to salvation.
I also believe, however, that your lack of faith doesn’t necessarily condemn you to damnation.
Faith is a comfort…faith is a gift…faith can save you from yourself…but not from another.

Tom Kenney - 2006



Feel Not Sorrow

Feel not sorrow on my behalf
As I slip into the past
For my greatest accomplishment
Is a legacy that will last

I’ve dedicated the bulk of my life
To the service of my neighbor
But I’ve been rewarded time and again
For the fruits of my labor

Long ago I decided to become
A member of the “brothers”
Not fully knowing at that time
They were unlike all others

Firefighters share a brotherhood
Only we can understand
Helping keep death and loss at bay
Though woefully undermanned

I’ve seen many of my peers step up
Above and beyond the call
Risk their lives for perfect strangers
Their backs against the wall

Even after their acts of heroism
Are acknowledged with medals
Still what remains as their bravest act
Has lifted them to this level

For merely signing up to do this job
Takes a special breed
It’s the willingness to risk so much
That’s their most heroic deed

It’s their bravery and dedication
That sets them apart
This is what makes them true heroes
Whether called upon or not

So when I leave this job ‘I’ll’ know
I’ve done the best I can
I won’t need anyone else to know
For they couldn’t understand

No one can do this work too long
It takes too much a toll
It’s very much a young man’s job
It slowly steals your soul

To toil longer in this vocation
Merely tempts fate
For body and spirit is broken down -
Has taken all it can take

So to walk away with no regrets
Is a gift unto itself
I can place my firefighting in the past
Place my tools upon the shelf

I’ll always look back on these days
With fondness and affection
I even may long to ‘do it again’
But I must choose a new direction

The same can be said when I die
Feel not sorrow for me
For I’ve lived a life as full as possible
Being all that I can be

When Saint Peter greets me at the gates
I’m sure he’ll let me in
For as a fireman I’ve proven myself
Time and time again

Copyright 2007 - Tom Kenney


All too often a firefighter’s day ends in death or suffering
He sees all too much of the worst aspect of everything
His pain is sometimes physical - but frequently emotional
Both types of hurt wear down his soul to merely functional

Constantly fighting to keep his head above the water line
It’s a never ending struggle to keep believing in the divine
The comforts that most of us rely on to keep us at peace
Remain just out of his reach as his experiences increase

His compassion has been shot – his faith has been strained
He wonders if he’ll ever find the ability to feel empathy again
And as his humanity slowly breathes its last dying breaths
He’s reminded of all of the fires – the injuries – the deaths

He leaves the firehouse on missions to ward off the danger
Placing himself in harms way to help protect another stranger
There’s no other method to protect and serve the community
Making a difference to someone in distress is a unique opportunity

All too often, it seems, there’s no thanks or appreciation
No simple acknowledgement of his tireless dedication
Not soothing words to take the edge off, or to soften
His rising frustration of how helpless he feels, all too often

Copyright 2007 - Tom Kenney

How Could You Know?

I don’t like the scent of Christmas trees
No matter what the season
I can’t stomach the holidays anymore
And yes, I have my reasons

You don’t understand the change in me
When the calendar nears December
Christmas has been the best time of year
For as long as you can remember

When your frustration shows I must think
How could you know
That my mind travels back in time
When it begins to snow

For how could you have ever known
Six firemen died in ‘99
Six kids and a mother in December 2000
All before you were mine

When we went away to recapture our love
To Vegas not long ago
Though we didn’t connect the way we wanted
How could you know

I know that you were disappointed with me
Over something that I said
How could you know the night before we left
I told parents their child was dead

We go to the mall with all the kids
Enjoying some family time
One of the boys runs into the elevator
And I nearly lose my mind

You can’t understand why I’m so upset
And take it out on him
How could you know what’s worrying me
If I don’t fill you in

I couldn’t bring myself to tell you before
And I can’t do it now
A ten year old boy crushed in the doors
Of a freight elevator somehow

All these pictures float around in my head
I begin to think I’m crazy
The only thing that heads off the insanity
Is the fact they remain hazy

Then something I see triggers the memory
It becomes crystal clear
It brings me to depths you can’t imagine
And fills my heart with fear

When this depression gets the best of me
And I begin to let it show
You can’t understand why I turn so cold
But then, how could you know

Copyright 2007 - Tom Kenney

Uncertainty’s My Enemy

I’m too old for this
And I know it
I’m getting scared
And I show it

Each time I respond
I can sense it
Growing trepidation
Can’t defense it

Timidity or fear
No place for it
As they creep in
I must face it

Uncertainty’s my enemy
Must get rid of it
Never before
Have I hid from it

Once taken for granted
Now I doubt it
Confidence and bravery
Can’t do without it

Looking for a way
I can reverse it
Must be immediate
Can’t rehearse it

Without these traits
I’m no good at it
There’s no way
I could do it

Put up or get out
That’s the reality of it
I just can’t accept
The finality of it

Tom Kenney - 2007

Fireman's Blues

It started when I was a young boy
Such a long, long time ago
Just wanting to be a fireman
Not knowing what I now know

It all seemed so straightforward
Courageous and exciting
Not knowing in my innocence
What exactly I'd be fighting

I thought I'd be fighting fire
Fighting sickness, fighting death
Helping those who were in danger
Down to their last breath

I just didn't realize...
I couldn't visualize...
What a toll all this would take
I guess I had fantasized...
And I had idealized...
What a difference I could make

But soon I was faced with reality
We lose some battles too
We can never save everyone
No matter what we do

I've stared into the dark abyss
Of death too many times
Each time someone's soul is lost
I lose a part of mine

This journey's been a trek through hell
Time and time again
But it's also been my salvation
And I'd do it all again

I just didn't realize...
I couldn't visualize...
What a toll all this would take
I guess I had fantasized...
And I had idealized...
What a difference I could make

Tom Kenney - 2006

Glory Fades

Riding the trucks, sirens screaming
All eyes upon you, as the strobe lights are gleaming
You think that you’re special, and can’t help beaming
But the glory soon fades…

You get off the truck, and people are gawking
They watch your every movement, and you hear them talking
They’re singing your praises, as the radio’s squawking
But the glory soon fades…

You move toward the fire, and people are yelling
You quickly take command, and you begin telling
The people to stay calm, as their tears begin welling
But the glory soon fades…

They look at you with hope, because you’ll be saving
The loved one they tell you is in there, by their ranting and raving
And you summon your comrades, with your frantic waving
But the glory soon fades…

You mount an attack, and you’re all striving
That the victim still trapped, will walk away surviving
As his family celebrates, cheering and high five-ing
But the glory soon fades…

You try to push forward, but you take a beating
The heat and the smoke, force you into retreating
That hopefulness you felt, was ever so fleeting
And the glory soon fades…

This battle you’re waging, and hoped you’d be winning
Has taken its toll, and now you’re beginning
To see that your hopes, of a rescue are dimming
Yes, the glory soon fades…

New firemen imagine themselves, helping and aiding
But death is the one thing, you can’t keep evading
With each new defeat, the glory’s soon fading

Glory fades...

Copyright 2004 - Tom Kenney