The Fire Chief (sketch)
by
Robb Wilton


This is a different game to when I first started... 'Course, I started when fires first became popular.
I started as an ordinary fireman, and now I'm a Chief.
'Course, there's not a lot of difference, only now I've got nothing at all to do with fires.
Well, when I say, "Nothing to do", I mean, if there was like, as we might say, like, a fire today, well I've just simply got to ring a bell and the men spring onto the engine.
That's if they're in, you see... Oh, of course I know where to put me hands on them when I want them...
The last fire we went to, we hadn't much time to mess about... we'd a call through that the Town Hall was on fire.
Well now, my foreman's a very decent... he's one of the best lads in the world, but no memory.
Ooh, he's got a shocking memory.
We dashed off, and when we were about half way there, we found we'd forgotten the fire engine.
Well, of course, that meant turning back again, and we hadn't a lot of time to fiddle about.
I called the foreman a - er - I just forget now what I called him, like, for forgetting the engine, you see, and he turned round and blamed me - said he'd thought I had it.
Well, eventually, we found the engine, but in the excitement, I don't know to this day how it could've happened, but I must have inadvertently stuck my finger in his eye. Consequently, he couldn't find the hose. I said to him, I said, "Where did you put it after the last fire?" And he said he wasn't at the last fire.
Well, I said he was, and he said he wasn't and that he'd bet me a shilling he wasn't. Well, I bet him a shilling he was. Well of course, that meant looking up the books, and we hadn't a lot of time to mess about.... Still, I wasn't going to lose my shilling for the sake of an odd fire or two, I didn't see that'd -- and just at that moment the Mayor came rushing in, and he said "Quick! Quick! For goodness sake - the left wing has gone and the right wing is going!" I said "Well, how's the centre-forward?"
I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "Matter?" He said, "You stand there and calmly ask, 'what's the matter', when any minute, the roof might fall in?"
I said, "The roof? Which roof?" He said, "The Town Hall roof!"
I said, "Oh, Great Scott, you frightened the life out of me, I thought you meant this roof."
He said, "Quick, quick! Get your men together and do your duty!"
Then he started to run out of the yard.
I said, "Wait a minute, wait a m-, as long as we're going we'll give you a lift."
He said, "No, no, no, they're expecting me back again." Anyhow, we didn't bother with it -- it sounded far too gone for my liking - I didn't like the sound of it...

(Enter a distraught woman)

Florence: Oh, oh -- are you the Fire Brigade?

Robb: Not -er - not ALL of it -- there's some more in the yard.

Florence: Well quick, do come along quick, there's a house on fire.

Robb: A house on fire? Just a moment, lady -- what's the address?

Florence: Grimshaw Street.

Robb: Grimshaw Street - Grimshaw ... now wait a minute, I know it as well as can be, and I just can't
place it...

Florence: Oh come along, it's only just round...

Robb: No, no, no -- don't tell me, let me try and think of it for myself. Grimshaw St-... oh, isn't that annoying, I could walk straight to it, and I can't think of it.

Florence: It's next to Whitely Street.

Robb: Next to Whitely St-... oh, I know it as well as can be... what's the number, lady, what number is it?

Florence: Seventy-eight.

Robb: Seventy-eight... (pleasantly) Turned out nice again today, hasn't it?

Florence: Oh come along, do please hurry!

Robb: Now just a moment, lady, just a second -- there's a form to fill in.

Florence: Hang on -- why, that form's got to be filled in AFTER the fire -- not before.

Robb: Well would you believe... they never tell you a blinking thing. Just... excuse me a minute, lady, I'll get on the speaking tube to Arnold... Arnold? Arnold? Oh, what are they doing... would you believe it? Wh -- don't wait now, lady, just slip along and ask them to keep it going a bit, will you?

Florence: Oh, do come along as quickly as you can!

Robb: Shan't be long now, lady, they ought to be here- I don't know what they're- fiddling and messing about- I'll sack the whole bunch of them, that's what I'll- Hello? Hello? Is that- is that you, Arnold? Well where's Arnold, where is he? Oh good gracious me, never mind about the football sweep. There's more important things in the world than that! Footballsweeps, and people's lives at stake! What have I drawn? Ah, that's another tanner gone west- 'Ello, 'ello? Is that you Arnold? Well, don't keep going away, there's a fire now, in Grimshaw Street and I'm here by meself. Have you - have you got any petrol? (pause) I know it's no good for putting fires out, you blithering idiot, have you got enough petrol to take you there? What, enough to get there and not to get back? Oh well, it's no use going if you can't get back. (pause) Oh, I see Arnold, oh well, now I understa... So you think you can manage then, eh? Oh yes -- oh, aye, it's a pretty big fire.
Should be by now... Oh, and I say. Arnold - er - take the dog with you - it'll be a run for him - he hasn't been out lately. Oh, good gracious me, what's the matter with the engine? What's the matter with it? Well, don't both get on it...

Florence: When is that fire engine coming?

Robb: The fire engine - what? - you here again? The f- ... aren't they there yet?

Florence: There's not a sign of them, anywhere.

Robb: Well they ought to be there by now, they're on their way.

Florence: Oh I'm afraid it's useless -- it'll be too late.

Robb: Too late?

Florence: Why, no -- there they are now... there's a man fleeing down from the engine...

Robb: Yes, yes?

Florence: He's thrown off his coat and helmet...

Robb: Thrown off his coat and helmet?

Florence: He's climbing the ladder...

Robb: Climbing the la- ... what -- a - a red-headed man? That's - that's Arnold. He... he mustn't climb that ladder!

Florence: Oh, you're afraid he'll lose his life!

Robb: He mustn't enter that burning house!

Florence: You're thinking of his wife and children!

Robb: He must be prevented at all costs!

Florence: Why, why?

Robb: He's got the sweep money on him!!!


The end