Phoenix started with 13 original fire stations. Arcadia’s Fire Station 13 is the only original building still in operation. The building may be a little old, battered and small in stature, but the character and courage of the men inside is immense.
Station 13, which began operating in 1958, is one of the busiest units in the Valley. With only one paramedic engine and one rescue truck, the crew is kept on its toes.
According to Captain Rob Blaylock, who’s been at the station for more than 20 years, roughly 85 percent of the calls received are medical – not fire – related.
“We get anything from heart attacks to mountain rescues to car wrecks,” he said.
There are three shifts at the station, each with six crew members, who work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. During downtime on shifts, the team enjoys watching sports, cooking, working out, playing the occasional joke, and doing personal modifications to the station to make it their own. However, the team is always ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice when duty calls.
One thing the station is particularly proud of is its unique moniker. Like many clubs and organizations, fire stations adopt mottos, logos and nicknames. This particular station and its inhabitants call themselves The Filthy Thirteen. Wall paintings, specially designed décor and emblems adorn both the interior and exterior of the building, as well as the trucks.
The name was inspired by a book the captain saw one day, entitled The Filthy Thirteen. The novel turned out to be the true story of an elite demolitions unit in World War II, who, by means of daring and outlandish methods, succeeded in frustrating, harassing, and terrorizing their enemies at every opportunity. Lead by Sergeant Jake McNiece (a firefighter before the war) they even went so far as to shave their hair into mohawks and put on war paint. Their exploits inspired the movie “The Dirty Dozen.”
“So that’s where that came from,” Blaylock said. “It’s based on a bunch of guys in World War II that we admire, and it’s to honor them.”
The guys of Station 13 also take part in community involvement. Blaylock said he’s regularly contacted by the Arcadia Neighborhood Association to participate in events or parades. The firefighters spend a lot of time in schools talking about basic, important safety principles. “Stop-drop-and-roll, fire safety at home, never swimming alone, things like that,” Blaylock said.
The firefighters also teach children not to be afraid of people in uniforms or bulky gear who may respond when 911 is called. These are people the children can trust and go to for help.
“We’re a big family,” Blaylock said. “We’ve got each other’s backs. We have fun, but it doesn’t get in the way of doing our calls; it helps break up the craziness. I have a great crew. The camaraderie is just fantastic. This station is always a work in progress, but we take care of it; keep the yard neat.”
Essentially, these particular Filthy Thirteen want the neighborhood to be proud of them. “They love us, and we love them, so it’s very rewarding,” Blaylock said.
FIRE SAFETY TIPS
Captain Blaylock advises using common sense to avoid accidents and tragedy. He stresses safeguarding the home by locking up weapons; putting gates around pools; creating home safety and escape plans, and making sure children
Other general safety tips
- Never leave your home with candles burning.
- Discard live Christmas trees (properly) as soon as the holiday
- is over.
- Make sure you have working smoke detectors.
- Water Safety – “Not for one microsecond do you leave a kid unwatched around water. Never, ever, ever,” Blaylock said. He also advises against adults with medical conditions swimming alone.
- Stay hydrated and be smart about physical exertion in the summer heat.
- Always put your children in car seats, and make sure the seats are properly installed.
— Information on all of these topics can be found on the City of Phoenix’s Fire website: www.phoenix.gov/fire.