Humor writer Mark R. Hunter often speaks of his life ballooning out of control, and there’s no better example than this work, a look at the first century of service for his home town’s volunteer fire department. Hunter, who’s also a thirty-three year veteran firefighter, turned an idea for a pamphlet for the Albion fire Department’s 100th anniversary into a 25 year marathon that produced a book … just in time for the 125th anniversary.
Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights chronicles the hazardous early days of Albion, Indiana, which like many small towns of the time tended to burn down – a lot. The story follows the efforts of townspeople to organize themselves into a firefighting force, and the personalities that stepped in along the way. It moves into modern times along with the volunteers, who face not only danger and death but changing technology and new threats. Using newspaper accounts, official records, oral stories and the fine art of digging for details, Hunter shows how hand drawn apparatus and desperate bucket brigades turned into the trained, organized and well equipped department of today.
Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights is well illustrated with historical and firefighting photos. It’s also spiced with the humor that Hunter, the author of a novel and short story collection in addition to his column, “Slightly Off The Mark”, has become known for.