It was slow enough — and cold enough — for Aimee Parlatore to make a cup of hot tea in a large green cup.
The 27-year-old firefighter and paramedic with the Schenectady Fire Department stood in the kitchen of the department’s headquarters on Veeder Avenue on a Friday night, a little past 10:30.
Lt. Chris Keough was in the room. So were a couple of other firefighters. Nobody was paying any attention to the Oklahoma City Thunder or Dallas Mavericks, who were playing basketball on the flat screen television bolted to the back wall.
Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
Parlatore, who grew up on Long Island and graduated from the University at Albany with degrees in psychology and sociology in 2007, has been on the job for four years. She’s been around fire and ambulance rigs since 2005, when she began volunteering as an emergency medical technician for the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad.
“It’s the best job in the world,” said Parlatore, dressed in navy blue slacks and a light blue shirt emblazoned with paramedic and fire department patches on the upper sleeves, “Where can you find a job where you work with your family every day? It’s nice knowing when I come to work I have 22 big brothers who expect the absolute best out of me.”
Smoke to check out
The temperature was in the mid-20s at 10:43. Alarm tones in the department sounded, along with a dispatcher’s voice. There was smoke inside the Crescent Parks apartment building, a four-story building at 604 State St. between the Schenectady County Courthouse and St. Joseph’s Church. “I think we’re all going,” said one firefighter, quickly leaving the kitchen.
Parlatore walked briskly to Engine 1, a pumper truck, as the station’s front glass doors rolled up. Her light tan turn-out gear with reflective yellow trim had been stowed on the garage’s cement floor, next to one of the engine’s rear doors and the “back step,” the compartment reserved for the paramedic in the three-person crew.
Parlatore stepped into her fire boots, which stood in the middle of her turn-out pants. Once her boots were on, she pulled up the pants and slipped into the top section of the firefighter’s traditional clothing. She took two big steps up into Engine 1. Firefighter William Tietz was in the driver’s seat and pulled out seconds later, siren and red lights running.
The truck turned left onto Veeder, through the traffic lights at Albany and State streets and left down State. One block later, at the corner of Lafayette Street, the truck made another left and headed up the one-way leg of State Street across from Veterans’ Park. The rig passed St. Joseph’s and stopped in front of the apartment building.
It was 10:45. Keough and Parlatore walked into the front doorway hall and attempted entrance. Parlatore carried a fire extinguisher and a Halligan bar, a long metal bar with twin prongs on the end designed to pry open doors. A man in a parka and blue jeans watched outside the building. “Sir, are you a resident here? Do you live here?” Keough asked. The answer was no.
Truck 1, the ladder engine, pulled up. The flashing red lights of both vehicles reflected on the silver-painted utility poles on the street. Five firefighters stood in the doorway, and someone in the building opened the front door to let Keough and Parlatore walk up the staircase.
It was a quick visit. Apartment tenants had been cooking in their kitchen and had smoked up the small room. The smoke had triggered an alarm system in the building, which was picked up by an alarm monitoring company. The company in turn called firefighters.
Engine 1 and Truck 1 cleared the scene at 10:52. Keough sat in the passenger side seat, and Parlatore sat behind him in the “step.” The trucks rolled up State, took a right turn onto Veeder and prepared to back into the station.
“When we make the U-turn in front of the station, we’ll all jump out,” Parlatore said. “We all watch as the trucks back in.”
Engine 1 was back in service by 10:55.
Parlatore and other firefighters were out of their heavy coats and pants in seconds. A small group stood near the fire rigs and talked. The slow night continued — until 11:20.
A woman on Albany Street was having trouble breathing. Engine 1 was dispatched to help, and was followed up Albany by Deputy Chief Michael Gillespie in one of the chief’s cars — actually a small truck. There were no sirens. The response needed to be swift, but not fire-alarm loud.
Both vehicles pulled up in front of the two-family house in the block between Backus Street and Brandywine Avenue. Parlatore and Keogh walked into the first floor and met their patient. At 11:25, a Mohawk Ambulance crew arrived at the scene.
A medical assessment was made. A trip to Ellis Hospital would be necessary.
At 11:30, Parlatore returned some gear to Engine 1. A couple of minutes later, a tired-looking woman in sleepwear, blanket and black cap — strapped to a gurney — was carried from the house. A relative walked alongside her.
Parlatore climbed into the back of the ambulance and prepared for advanced life support procedures. She started an intravenous saline line and heart monitor. The patient also received oxygen.
All three rigs cleared the scene at about 11:40. All three were at Ellis Hospital at 11:46, and Parlatore walked with the gurney as her patient entered the emergency room.
Parlatore handed off her patient to Ellis personnel, and filled out paperwork regarding the incident. She left the emergency room at 12:15 a.m. on Saturday, and traveled back to Veeder Avenue on Engine 1.
“She just wanted to feel better,” Parlatore said of the woman.
Once back inside Station 1, Parlatore got out of her turnout gear and walked back to the kitchen. Her tea was cold.