Cover image for The last men out : life on the edge at Rescue 2 firehouse
The last men out : life on the edge at Rescue 2 firehouse
Downey, Tom.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt, [2004]

Physical Description:
300 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TH9505.N5071 D69 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
TH9505.N5071 D69 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

Tom Downey is a writer and a filmmaker who grew up in a family of firefighters. He is also the nephew of the late Chief Ray Downey, former head of rescue operations for the FDNY, who arranged for him to live and work with Rescue 2 in order to make a documentary film. Downey spent more than a year in the firehouse before 9/11 and continued to report onscene at Rescue 2 in the aftermath of the disaster. His articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine. Downey has also worked all over the world producing and directing videos for the Soros Foundation and has taught at a film school in Singapore

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Downey's father and uncles were firemen, and the late chief Ray Downey, an uncle, was in command of Brooklyn's Rescue 2 for 14 years. Rescue 2 firefighters are experts in every kind of emergency; if you are trapped under a train, pinned in a car wreck, or buried in a building collapse, these are the people with the tools and the knowledge to save your life. The author lived in the firehouse for months, spending night shifts cruising the borough with them. He had just started to work on the book when the 9/11 disaster struck, but most of it deals with the years before that tragic event. He profiles several of the firefighters and their families; he lets us in on their taste for practical jokes and the merciless hazing that recruits face, as well as the make-work chores they carry out between fires. And he explains the procedures in fighting a fire and defines firehouse jargon, all of which adds to an intimate look at the daily lives of veteran firefighters. --George Cohen Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Deputy Chief Ray Downey, the most highly decorated firefighter in the history of the FDNY, died during the World Trade Center rescue operations, but months earlier, he had arranged for his nephew, filmmaker Tom Downey, to make a documentary on the emergency experts of Brooklyn's Rescue Company No. 2, the "most active firefighting unit in the city." After the completed film, Still Riding: Rescue Company New York City, aired on September 11, 2002, Tom Downey continued his research, writing about firefighters for the New York Times. For this book, he follows the efforts of the new captain, Phil Ruvolo, to take command and establish a rapport with his men. Interweaving the history and lore of landmark fires with daily chores and rituals, Downey recreates the firehouse's kitchen table banter and sardonic humor. He probes the physical toll and psychological problems firefighters experience, along with the job's dangers: "Crawling in for a job, a fireman would feel the linoleum, think it was safe to enter, and then fall through." Limning individual personalities and capturing the company's camaraderie with amusing anecdotes, Downey's descriptions burn into the pages with searing intensity. Writing with verve and energy in a gritty style, he explores all extremes of the firemen's world, from triumphant moments of heroism to bitter tragedies. The concluding chapters document 9/11 and its aftermath from the firemen's point of view: the "horrible losses" resulting in a massive shortage of qualified firefighters to fill the ranks of the rescue and squad companies. Agent, Heather Schroder. (June 1) Forecast: With national print ads, media appearances and an endorsement by Dennis Smith (Report from Engine Company 82), Downey's chronicle should find a welcome audience among firefighting buffs. A third of the author's royalties will go to the Chief Ray Downey Scholarship Fund and the Rescue 2 Memorial Fund. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The New York Fire Department is large enough to have specialist rescue units, groups of highly trained firefighters who are called in when a fire is particularly dangerous or people are trapped. They are physically indomitable and extremely competitive. Downey, a filmmaker and writer who grew up among firefighters, chronicles the building of the elite Rescue 2 company, which practices in Brooklyn and was recognized as one of the best in the country. On 9/11, Rescue 2 charged full force into the World Trade Center and was decimated. While much of the book is concerned with the camaraderie, bonding, humor, and training of the men, the last third or so is concerned with their reaction to the tragedy of losing dozens of friends, relatives, and comrades. Downey, nephew of one of the firefighters killed on 9/11, obviously loves and respects the FDNY and has ably expressed the emotional involvement of firefighters with their profession and their coworkers. The author spent more than a year at the firehouse before 9/11 and continued his research afterward. Recommended for public libraries and subject collections.-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From The Last Men Out : Small pockets of fire tease the engine company men who spray the ceilings and walls trying to shake down the flames. Terry hears an engine guy ask Louis to hug the wall so they can bend the stiff hose around the corner. Suddenly, Terry hears a snap, like a wooden plank being split with an ax, then a much louder cracking noise that makes him shudder. He dives to the ground as the roof and walls crumble around him. Firemen cry out and Maydays go out over the radio. But nobody can hear the calls. They're all buried. Terry's first thought is to get air. As he hears the men around him burrowing to the surface, he claws his way toward the sunlight. He feels cold snow on his glove as he heaves his body up out of the rubble. Most of the firemen around Terry have also been lucky. But when Terry starts to wade through the debris, a piece of shiny black rubber catches his eye. Two boots sticking out of the rubble. He gets on the radio. "Rescue Chauffeur to Battalion. Mayday. We have a man trapped about ten feet from the rear door." Excerpted from The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse by Tom Downey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
1 The Jobp. 9
2 The New Captainp. 36
3 The Seventiesp. 67
4 Atlantic Avenuep. 98
5 The Eightiesp. 127
6 Departuresp. 166
7 Father's Dayp. 198
8 The Towersp. 227
9 Recoveryp. 252
10 Rebuildingp. 278
Epiloguep. 293
Acknowledgmentsp. 297