THE LAST MEN OUT: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse

Tom Downey, Author
Tom Downey, Author . Holt $25 (300p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7169-6
Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8050-7844-2
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Deputy Chief Ray Downey, the most highly decorated firefighter in the history of the FDNY, died during the World Trade Center rescue operations, but months earlier, he had arranged for his nephew, filmmaker Tom Downey, to make a documentary on the emergency experts of Brooklyn's Rescue Company No. 2, the "most active firefighting unit in the city." After the completed film, Still Riding: Rescue Company New York City , aired on September 11, 2002, Tom Downey continued his research, writing about firefighters for the New York Times . For this book, he follows the efforts of the new captain, Phil Ruvolo, to take command and establish a rapport with his men. Interweaving the history and lore of landmark fires with daily chores and rituals, Downey recreates the firehouse's kitchen table banter and sardonic humor. He probes the physical toll and psychological problems firefighters experience, along with the job's dangers: "Crawling in for a job, a fireman would feel the linoleum, think it was safe to enter, and then fall through." Limning individual personalities and capturing the company's camaraderie with amusing anecdotes, Downey's descriptions burn into the pages with searing intensity. Writing with verve and energy in a gritty style, he explores all extremes of the firemen's world, from triumphant moments of heroism to bitter tragedies. The concluding chapters document 9/11 and its aftermath from the firemen's point of view: the "horrible losses" resulting in a massive shortage of qualified firefighters to fill the ranks of the rescue and squad companies. Agent, Heather Schroder. (June 1)

Forecast: With national print ads, media appearances and an endorsement by Dennis Smith ( Report from Engine Company 82), Downey's chronicle should find a welcome audience among firefighting buffs. A third of the author's royalties will go to the Chief Ray Downey Scholarship Fund and the Rescue 2 Memorial Fund.

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