When author Doug McCourt contacted me about reviewing Notes from the Firehouse, he didn’t know how this extraordinary group of professionals had already touched my life. My younger brother worked as a volunteer firefighter and a paramedic. As a nurse, my mother spent endless hours helping pediatric burn victims at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. And in my former career as a television reporter, I witnessed first-hand how firefighters save lives and homes — as everything burned down around them. I was on set in the WTVY studio on September 11th, 2001 — watching firefighters rush into the Twin Towers — while the rest of New York was trying to get out.
Doug McCourt’s Notes from the Firehouse captures the true essence of these everyday heroes — men and women who sacrifice and put their lives on the line each day for strangers and neighbors alike. McCourt grew up in a firefighter family; his father, Edward, retired as a captain from the Medford, MA fire department. His brother, David, is a captain and active member. The author, a Marine Corps vet, also spent much of his career as a firefighter.
What I loved about McCourt’s book was the raw honesty and real humor injected into the stories. I finished Notes from the Firehouse in about two days, with my husband stopping me on several occasions to ask why I was laughing or what had me almost in tears. The book — dedicated to McCourt’s father — starts with a heart-wrenching account of Mac’s brush with death at the hands of an arsonist. The chapters that follow describe other harrowing situations in which the author and his colleagues’ skill and fortitude are tested to the core.
McCourt describes this tight-knit fraternity in exquisite detail. As a reader, you feel as if you’ve been given a front row seat — if only for a few hours — to see the real goings on inside the walls of a firehouse. As McCourt discovers, “It’s not all about fire…it’s a collection of things…calming a terrified child in a traumatic situation, saving the belongings of a family…trying to help them, while not losing yourself in the process.”
Lighter accounts balance the serious nature and inherent danger found in many of the stories: Helping homeowners banish a bat problem, the miraculous survival of a dog stuck in a snow blower, and the hilarious account of a rookie firefighter getting a pump truck stuck in the middle of the Mount Hood Golf Course.
McCourt did a fine job with this debut effort. I highly recommend Notes from the Firehouse. The paperback is available through Amazon.