A double house in fire nomenclature is a fire station with two crews and two apparatus on duty at a time. The most common variation (but by no means the only one) of a double house is an engine and truck company.
Being stationed at a double house adds a different flavor to the job. Picture a family with 9 boys at home. There's a lot of energy, practical jokes, laughter, competition and of course, food. A lot of food. Every once in a while tempers flare as well but that's a story for another post.
I was stationed at station 55, a double house. I was on the engine. One of my buddies (we were in the same academy class) was on the truck. We've always been at each other like brothers. We get along great but love giving each other a hard time. I've been fortunate enough in my career to have had a lot of fires. He, however, has not.
Recently I came back after working an OT shift at a station where I had a small structure fire. When I saw my friend I was sure to give him a hard time about getting another fire. So late in the morning when the tones went off dispatching the truck to a structure fire in the neighboring city he laughed at me as he donned his turnouts.
He got back about 3 hours later. He gave me a full report on his actions. They ventilated vertically and then pulled a lot of ceiling. He never actually was inside a burning structure. This distinction would be very important later on. While I was very happy that he got a fire I was a little jealous too. Fires don't happen every day, at least not where I work, and I always want to be on the next one. He had his moment just as I had had mine a couple of weeks before.
That evening the engine was toned out for a vehicle fire. While not a structure fire, a fire is a fire. I'd take it. I jumped into my bunker gear and climbed in the engine. Once in the rig I slipped into the shoulder straps of my SCBA. I grabbed the headset to let my engineer know that I was strapped in and ready to go. Just as we pulled up we were canceled by CHP. The car was not on fire. When we pulled back into the station my buddy was waiting to twist the knife that he had had a real fire and not a false alarm.
At 0210 the tones woke me up. We were being dispatched for another "vehicle fire" on the freeway. I repeated the process that I had done only a few short hours earlier. This fire was supposedly on the far edge of our area, over the hill.
As we rounded one of the corners headed down the back side of the hill my captain spotted the tell tale orange glow of a fire. All of the sudden having been awakened at 2 in the morning was worth it.
The next morning I was ready for some ribbing of my own. When I found my partner in crime I told him I had a question. I then proceeded to ask him why, after he had had a structure fire and I had just had a car fire, did my turnouts smell like smoke and his just smelled like sweat? He didn't think that was too funny. I then let him know about a guy with whom I worked at my last department. He had a similar problem of never being on shift when the fires happened. So we came up with a new title, which I passed on to my buddy, EMS fighter. You're only a firefighter if you actually fight fire, right? I just have to see if I can get a badge or a patch made up for him.