December 26, 2006

Web site keeps passion burning

OSTERVILLE - For all the little kids who wanted red fire trucks under their Christmas tree, here is one adult living out that fantasy.

Firefighter and paramedic Britton ''Britt'' Crosby of Osterville owns and maintains a comprehensive Internet directory - - of the fire departments on the Cape, Islands and Plymouth County.

The site far surpasses information provided by town government and is well-known among firefighters who want to find out which trucks and ambulances each department has, as a way to research what to buy in the future, to name one common use.

For every fire department - there are 24 on the Cape - the site shows who the top fire officials are, the ''apparatus,'' the department history, radio frequencies, maps of stations and ''run cards'' that show which towns and trucks respond for fires big or small.

The 6-year-old Internet site averages about 350 visits a day, Crosby says. He's heard from a retired firefighter from California who found the site and visited the Cape to look at the fire stations. He's heard from local firefighters serving in Iraq and elsewhere and from a mentally handicapped boy who prints out photos of the fire engines each day.

''We all love it,'' said Brewster firefighter and paramedic Chad Foakes.

The Internet site - and the years' worth of collecting and photographing behind it - is a passion for Crosby, 47, who works full time for the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Department. He admits to living and breathing fires and fire trucks, since his pre-teen days when he watched his cousin, ''Uncle'' Gus Crosby of Osterville, jump into his black ''Batmobile'' convertible at the sound of the fire horn.

Britt Crosby is one of a multi-generational family of boat builders. His Uncle Gus was the first in the family to break away by choosing firefighting as a career. He encouraged his younger cousin by waiting in the convertible with a cigarette lit as Britt, then a junior firefighter, struggled to get his clothes on and out the door.

Britt Crosby keeps an impressive and charming collection of toy fire trucks (including his first Matchbox) along with maps, scanners, photographs, slides and newspaper clippings in his study upstairs in the house he's lived in since childhood.

Crosby and his wife used to go on dates as he collected his material at fire stations. Robin Crosby, who is a dispatcher at the COMM fire department, jokes that she has to put a flashing red light on her head to get her husband's attention.

''It's not quite that bad, but it would help,'' Britt Crosby said with a hint of smile.

Mary Ann Bragg can be reached at


(Published: December 26, 2006)