Dennis Germain: Daffy Downhill Skiing

Dennis Germain, 33, a firefighter with Ladder Company 2, spent his working hours in the canyons of Midtown Manhattan and his free time on the slopes. He was a ski instructor at Sterling Forest, near Tuxedo, N.Y., where he trained high school racing teams. He skied the Rockies on department trips. And he was indispensable at the annual downhill race at Hunter Mountain, which pits firehouses against one another.

Teams of five people grab hold of a 50-foot fire hose and spread out across the trail. The goal is to ski together without letting go, falling, or otherwise messing up. No, they are not allowed to use ski poles. Yes, there are other skiers sharing the snow. Depending on the firefighters' finesse, the spectacle can be either mildly funny or completely hilarious. "The hoses in many cases would cross and guys would go head over heels down the mountain," Lt. Neil Skow said. But not Firefighter Germain: "Dennis was always one of the better skiers we had."

His other specialty at Ladder 2 was starting enormous debates in the fire house kitchen with politically incorrect statements he was sure would set people off. As the argument heated up, he would slip away. "He loved what he did," said his brother Brian, a firefighter in Harlem.