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Talk of the Town - Extinguish this January 29 2003

"Believe me, not all firefighters look like this," says Erin Maude.

And Maude should know. She's the event organizer for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation's third annual Firefighter Bachelor Auction.

Several of the auction's firemen also are featured in the Foundation's annual calendar (Mr. February, right), pictured in less-than-heroic poses — with puppies, in sexy Santa garb, usually shirtless. The men to be auctioned range in age from as young as 22 to as old as 47. Most are in great shape, and they are willing to shed clothes to raise the bidding value.

They begin early in the evening by mingling with the crowd, meeting prospective women suitors and schmoozing. Then they hit the stage.

"Women start yelling, 'Take it off!'" says Maude. "When the shirts come off, the bids go up."

So far, the top bid for a fireman — with a date package that includes dinner and tickets to sporting events, the theater and other events — is $460. Maude tells the story of a woman who was a friend of the fireman on whom she bid. When other women started bidding on him, she got involved. And she wound up paying $300 for a date with a guy she already saw on a regular basis.

"You see these big, fearless guys get pretty nervous up there when it all starts," says Maude. "The women start going wild."

Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m. Rendezvous, 4711 Ashford Dunwoody Road. 770-901-9995. www.gfbf.org.