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Divine Thump: Angels Among Us During Thirty Years With The Beverly Hills Fire Department

Lyle Slater

Pages: 252
ISBN: 978-145752-820-0
List Price: 15.95
Category: Autobiography & Biography
Edition: Perfectbound

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Some people run into danger while most people flee. What’s it like to be startled from a deep sleep by a clanging bell, to leap into life-protecting gear, to slide down a pole and mount an engine that in minutes will possibly deliver you to a high-rise office building on fire, or to an accident scene where victims are facing death, or to a brushfire so dense that sunrise will be concealed by toxic smoke? What does it feel like to do everything you can only to find that the 14-year-old girl cannot be saved, that the Auschwitz survivor in your hands has just kissed his wife possibly for the last time? What is it like to wear a bullet-proof vest for protection from shooters while fighting a fire? What does it mean when you feel an urgent compulsion to leave the comfort of your home to rush to a flash flood? This collection of emergency experiences provides a first-hand look at what it means to daily face life-threatening situations. From 1964 to 1994 Lyle Slater served with the Beverly Hills Fire Department, responding to a unique urban mix of celebrity homes and high-rise structures in a setting where climate conditions quickly produce brushfires and flash flooding. You will experience calls to gasoline spills, flash floods, downed electrical lines, auto accidents, and to cardiac arrests. As a member of a CPR team, Lyle helped save 15 people during his 30-year career, many of those situations included in this book. Written during sessions of chemotherapy to treat Myelodesplastic Syndromes caused by years of toxic smoke inhalation, this work exists not to celebrate Lyle Slater but to convey his love of firefighting, to honor those who serve, and to share his feeling that we are not alone when confronting danger. We witness a firefighter’s experiences protecting President Ronald Reagan, fighting fire created by rioters at a mansion sheltering the Shah of Iran, wearing a bullet-proof vest for protection from shooters while fighting fires during the Watts and Rodney King riots, encountering exploding electrical transformers, gas explosions, nearly blindly crawling out of ten-story-high shattered windows, extinguishing a house fire that could have destroyed an entire city block in a cocaine lab chemical explosion, and narrowly escaping a collapsing roof. We also see the less dramatic side to a firefighter’s life, the pranks, the collegial humor that reduces tensions and further bonds relationships that play a part in a profession that requires one to leave the dinner table to respond to life-threatening situations. These experiences, along with Lyle’s personal reflections regarding celebrities involved in emergency calls, everyday people facing death, and his feeling that angels oversaw a life he loved every day, provide first-hand clarity regarding the profession of firefighting and our place in a dangerous world where we are not alone.

Following two seasons as a crew member aboard a ship sailing the Great Lakes and six years in surveying, Lyle Slater was drawn to a career of firefighting after spending an afternoon with a Cleveland fireman. From that inspiring afternoon, Lyle would eventually spend 30 years on the Beverly Hills Fire Department in California. He began to feel that the ongoing narrow escapes from death could not be attributed simply to training or to luck. During a severe rain storm at his home in Malibu he felt compelled by some force to rush to a creek where he found a woman and two children trapped in a stalled car about to be swept away by fast-rising flood water. Lyle, his son, and a neighbor saved the woman and her two children. He began to feel that angels were protecting him and his fellow firefighters so that they could protect others. His priest with whom he confided these feelings told him he had received a Divine Thump. Lyle played a part in significant improvements in practices and equipment in his 30 years as a firefighter. He created the Slater Sling which continues to be used today to assist responders carrying air tanks while climbing high-rise stairways. He also assisted with the creation of the first diesel-powered fire engine that improved response time to fires in hilly terrain, and following a badly orchestrated response to brushfire threatening Malibu, he offered recommendations to assist in the creation of a more effective brushfire strike team organization for the Malibu area. As an Emergency Medical Technician, he along with his colleagues saved many people through CPR. Lyle painted Roman numerals on his helmet, one for each of the 15 lives he helped save. Lyle enjoyed life to the fullest with his wife in Malibu where they reared their two children. He also enjoyed a 25-year hobby of auto racing. In many ways he experienced the ideal life, living what he considered to be God’s plan for him. He enjoyed every day of his 30-year career. The hazardous duty of firefighting, however, contributed to health issues for Lyle. A heart condition caused by prolonged toxic smoke inhalation forced him to retire in 1994 from the job he loved with the Beverly Hills Fire Department. Years later Lyle used his time during treatments for Myelodesplastic Syndromes to write about many of the events and people in his life and to honor firefighters.