Night of the Frogs


Premier Pet Products Squeeze Meeze Dog Toy - Frog, LatexAs a firefighter it is not unusual to attend an incident on a neighbouring fire stations ground or even further afield. Frequently if a neighbouring station is already attending an incident when a further incident occurs, it is normally the neighbouring stations that will attend. This does mean firefighters not only have to learn an intimate knowledge of their own fire stations ground but also the topographical layout of other stations too. Other reasons why a firefighter will go off his own patch, (area), is if the number of fire appliances, (engines), needed to cover the potential risk presented by a particular incident is more than are based at the local station, then neighbouring stations will also attend. When I was a Turntable Ladder operator based at Plaistow Fire Station, it was not unusual to get called several times a day to the Ford motor plant at Dagenham as Plaistow was where the nearest such appliance was based at the time. The final main reason for going to an incident is that the situation faced by the local station is too great for them to handle on their own. In these cases the officer-in-charge will call for assistance via radio with what is known as a make-up call.  Make-up means make pumps four, six, ten or however many the officer-in-charge considers will be necessary to deal with the situation in both the number of pumping or specialist appliances and manpower. If an incident is large enough, the additional appliances will come from all over Greater London.

I went to one such incident in Barking in the 1970’s. This was to the warehouse of a large goods importer which faced onto the main A13 road.  The warehouse was built mainly of sheet metal covering a steel joist construction which allowed for a large interior storage area. In this particular case, a fire had broken out inside the storage area which in turn spread rapidly though the exposed boxes of stored goods. As large as the fire was, there was nothing particularly unusual about this fire and during the course of my career, I went to quite a few incidents like this.

I say there was nothing unusual except for one unique feature which presented a bizarre hazard. Stored inside the warehouse were hundreds of cardboard boxes containing a toy probably imported for Hong Kong. The toy was a hollow plastic frog with a spring fitted to a sucker pad inside which was in turn fixed to the base of the frog. The idea behind the toy was quite simple, children would push down on the frog causing the spring to compress and the sucker pad would adhere to the inside to prevent the spring releasing. The sucker would then slowly lose its adhesion causing the spring to suddenly release which in turn would make the frog leap into the air. The cardboard boxes were quite large with each one probably containing several thousand toy frogs stored loose inside. Due to a mixture of both fire and water damage, the cardboard boxes had become sodden spilling the contents and leaving hundreds of thousands of toy frogs strewn all over the floor.

As the fire came under control, teams of firefighters entered the building to carry out more localised firefighting within the warehouse. Like many buildings involved in a fire, the electricity supply had been cut off and it was dark inside, it was also during the night. As firefighters trampled around the building they could not help but tread on masses of the toy frogs. The weight of the firefighters caused the springs inside the frogs to compress and be held in a compressed state by the sucker pad. It was not long before a firefighter felt something hit him in the face in the dark. Soon there was a chain reaction of pinging noises followed by expletive cries from firefighters as thousands of the toy frogs started jumping everywhere in the dark.

In the end, everyone was glad when they could leave this artificial zoological mayhem behind. I wonder how many accident books contained the entry, “Injured by a flying frog.”

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