We take a report of smoke in a building seriously here. We don’t send an engine to check things out, we send the cavalry to keep folks safe and keep stuff from burning down. When you call and report a smoker in a hallway, we try to get ahead of the…wait…what? Did you say ‘smoker?’


Campus Police report smoke in a hallway of the sciences building.


Oh the possibilities that are racing through my mind as to what could be causing smoke in the sciences building. Just trying to remember the chemicals I used in my pre-med classes, let alone what else was in there had me thinking ICS and Haz-Mat.

I was geared up quickly and turned in my seat to take a look at the screen in the Engine and get an idea of where we were in the response pattern and what our likely goals will be when we arrive.

I’m reading through the text of the 911 call as we’re racing through heavy traffic on a rainy afternoon, a dangerous time to be on the road.

It’s then that I see the entry, “Caller states a smoker was caught in the hallway.”

I can only assume that the sirens are playing with my eyes somehow and we arrive second.
The first engine is at the alarm panel and sends us to the third floor to investigate. All the way in and up the stairs there is no alarm and students are everywhere.
On the third floor is campus security with a young woman crying.
“She was smoking and there’s no smoking here. I told her it was dangerous and she told me to just call you, so I did.”

I can only imagine the conversation as we turned around and went back downstairs.
“You can’t smoke here.”
“Why don’t you just call the fire department then!”
“Fine, I will.”
“Here I go, calling them.”
“I don’t care, go ahead.”
“I’m calling…”

In these situations I find it best to let the white helmets do all the talking. The Chief looked like a baseball manager arguing at home plate, in her face and voice raised. As we were pulling away he was laying in to the security supervisor as well pointing at us and then at her, then at the building.

If you’re going to bluff and get called on it, don’t put my life on the line to make a point.

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