The Last Men Out
Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse
By Tom Downey
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805071696, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 2004
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The inside story of one of America’s most elite firehouses and the extraordinary brotherhood of men who face extreme danger every day
Firefighting is a world of absolutes: evil is a red devil that wants destruction and death, good is a charged hose line, full of water to fight the flames. The best and boldest firefighters in the country, the men of Rescue 2 are hand-picked to fight not just the biggest blazes but any other emergency New York can throw at them. The sheer adrenaline of the job is perfectly captured in the dramatic story of their firehouse, a model for others nationwide--dubbed "the cuisinart" because it slices up new recruits.
The story begins in the late 1990s as Phil Ruvolo takes command just a few years after the departure of Captain Ray Downey, a legendary FDNY leader. Ruvolo inherits a stubborn group of vets, many still loyal to Downey. He also steps into a firehouse mourning the recent loss of a brother-- Rescue 2's first fire fatality since the 1950s.
Tom Downey takes us into the fireman’s world: the smell of their coats after a good fire, the hardened eyes of a veteran after a fellow fireman’s death, the humor and camaraderie. His firemen are not cardboard heroes; they’re a group of gritty, larger-than-life personalities brought together by dedication and a mission to save lives. Rescue 2 doesn’t leave a fire until everybody’s safe. They’re the last men out. Theirs is an inspiring story destined to become a classic.
Tom Downey is a writer-filmmaker who grew up in a family of firefighters. He is also the nephew of the late, legendary Chief Ray Downey, former head of rescue operations for the FDNY, who arranged for Tom to live and work with Rescue 2¹s men in order to make a film (which aired on The Learning Channel). Tom spent a year in the house before 9/11, when his uncle died, and has also been on hand since that disaster.
"The rescue companies in our nation's fire departments are like special forces in the military, ready to go into the most dangerous and frightening situations at a moment's notice. They are equipped to handle anything from shoring up a collapsing building, to finding a trapped worker far beneath the earth's surface. Heroes among heroes, we follow these stalwart men in Tom Downey's fine account from fires, to funerals, to loving homes, and to the endless banter and hilarity of the firehouse kitchen. This is a book about good men in stories well told, from tragic neighborhood fires to the national tragedy of ground zero. Half of the rescue firefighters were lost on 9/11 and Downey recounts that story bravely and with the keen eye of an author who has the blood of firefighters pulsing through his veins. You can feel the drama on every page."—Dennis Smith, author of Report from Engine Company 82
"Tom Downey had arrived on the scene of the lives of firefighters long before the rest of the world caught up and he has written the inside story of this secret fraternity, this band of brothers. These working-men heros step off of these pages and into our lives. Downey has done a masterful job of storytelling." —Doug Stanton, author of In Harm's Way