New York Times Portraits of Grief
Tommy Schoales landed at Engine Company 83 in the Bronx as a novice firefighter. A low-key one, too, everybody thought. That was before they experienced his competitive streak. He'd dash into the fire truck when the alarm rang because there was a prize: controlling the hose at the fire. "Here, if you get to the back step first, you take the nozzle," said Michael Scanlon, who worked alongside him. "And it was hard to beat him to the back step. He was always there."
He fought flames in the tenements of Mott Haven and responded to alarms from Randalls Island. He bunked in Stony Point, N.Y., with a battalion chief — his father, Edward. To his five siblings, he was the much-loved baby brother who danced at their weddings and treated their children to the batting cage. And to the older firefighters he was the kid who worked hard and came up with well-timed pranks, like balancing water balloons in the rafters so that a fire engine backing in would dislodge them, spraying everyone around.
After that first year, he was assigned to Engine Company 4, at the southern tip of Manhattan. But his heart remained with Engine 83, said his brother Eddie. He went to their picnics and played on their basketball team. At 27, he had found the firehouse where he wanted to stay. "He fit the typical mold of a good fireman," Firefighter Scanlon said. "He was looking forward to coming back."