Recalling the days when firemen rode one-handed on a fire engine tailboard while buckling up a canvas coat, Oconomowoc business owner and former Des Plaines, IL, career firefighter Rick Ornberg has combined both his experiences of fighting fires and freelance writing.
In his new book, “10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back”, Ornberg writes about how he first joined the department more than 40 years ago along with stories of both local incidents and some of those he covered as a correspondent for FIREHOUSE Magazine and other fire service trade magazines. Rick is now a Wisconsin resident and is the owner of Eagle Mountain Promotions, working from his home office in Ixonia.
Retiring in 1996, after 26 years of service on the Des Plaines Fire Department, Ornberg was encouraged by both family and friends to gather some of those stories into a single book. “It’s possible some of them were just plain tired of hearing the stories all the time,” said Ornberg.
“I was privileged to serve 26 years on a typical large suburban fire department as it changed and evolved from the old fire service -- less than a century removed from horse-drawn pumpers -- through its transition to a modern emergency service,” he explains in a preface to the book.
“As an added benefit, I began freelance writing following the old adage of ‘Write what you know’. For me, that was the fire service. I had local experiences to work with, and as a frequent contributor to fire and emergency service publications, I drew on those of others in the region and elsewhere in the country.”
The book includes many of those experiences written at the time, added Ornberg, collected over two and a half decades, or more recently recalled and resurrected after digging through boxes during retirement.
The book includes chapters relating the massive emergency response to American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 on the Des Plaines southern border, discusses some of the challenges of firefighting in both the hot and cold extremes that Des Plaines is exposed to, how the local paramedic program began, and even delves into some local and regional political conflicts including the 1980 Chicago firefighters strike. Ornberg even wrote about his three days with the Kennedy Space Center Fire & Rescue service just prior to the Challenger tragedy.
The 240-page book not only offers an inside look into life in the firehouse and vivid accounts of a variety of emergency responses but provides thoughtful and introspective insights into some of the evolutionary changes that have affected fire departments and has cemented the bond among firefighters everywhere.
“The title ’10-24’ comes from a radio code used by many emergency services,” explained Ornberg. “It simply means ‘Finished with last call. Ready for next assignment.’ I thought it appropriate for any retired emergency worker.”
First reader reviews posted on Amazon.com have been 5-Star recommendations, touting the book as an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know more about the fire department or considering it as a vocation. “10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back” is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle e-versions.
Following his retirement from the fire department, Rick Ornberg also served for 5 years as executive director of the Des Plaines, IL Chamber of Commerce & Industry and currently is owner of Eagle Mountain Promotions, a promotional products and advertising specialty distributorship in Oconomowoc, WI.