Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on February 8, 2021.


Recent headscratchers from the world of fire and life safety

A passenger train in the Netherlands failed to stop at the end of an elevated track—but instead of crashing to the ground 30 feet below, it was miraculously caught and supported by a sculpture of two whale tails. The sculpture, titled “Saved by the Whale’s Tail,” was installed in 2002 at the De Akkers station in Spijkenisse, just outside Rotterdam.

The partial derailment is still under investigation, and it’s not clear why the train didn’t stop where it should have. No injuries were reported.
A man in Brisbane, Australia, had his house gutted by fire, but he’s still alive thanks to a parrot named Eric.

“I heard a bang and Eric—my parrot—he started to yell so I woke up and I smelled a bit of smoke,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I grabbed Eric, opened the door and looked to the back of the house and saw some flames. And so I grabbed my bag and took off and bolted downstairs.

“I’m in shock but I’m fine,” he added.


A Kentucky man owned the Internet for one glorious day in December when his neighbor filmed him clearing snow from his driveway with a flamethrower. As if the torrent of fire weren’t enough, the man was dressed only in a white bathrobe, slippers, and a hat—an apparent nod to the character Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

When a freezer storing COVID-19 vaccine broke at a local hospital in Ukiah, California, in January, firefighter medics had a choice: do nothing and watch the whole batch go bad, or try to save the day by using as much of it as they could. They chose the latter, and in less than three hours had managed to administer 850 doses of the vaccine to community members, not wasting a drop.

On the other side of the spectrum, in Wisconsin a pharmacist intentionally left 570 doses of vaccine out of the freezer overnight in an attempt to destroy it because he believed it would “mutate people’s DNA.”

A few days before Christmas, first responders rescued a man dressed in a Santa suit when he became entangled in powerlines while paragliding in Rio Linda, California.

It may sound like an unusual situation, but the neighbors seemed to know exactly what was going on.

“We see him flying around all the time—it’s like some kind of go-kart with a parachute on top of it,” one neighbor, who lives near the crash site, told a local television station. “He was just flying over here to drop off some candy canes for the kids. And that’s when he experienced engine problems.”

“He was just handing out candy canes to the kids and came in a little too low,” another neighbor said.

The airborne Santa was disentangled without issue and without injury.

The Indianapolis Fire Department posted a video in December of a woman taking a joy ride on the back of one of its fire trucks. The crew had just finished a call and was headed home when another driver alerted them of the hitchhiker, who had jumped on at a red light.

The woman, who is believed to have ridden the truck for four or five blocks, told the crew that she jumped aboard because she “needed a ride.” The woman could have been fined or arrested for her actions, the IFD said, but firefighters instead opted to politely ask her to vacate.

 —Jesse Roman

JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal. Top photograph: Getty Images