Thursday, December 31, 2009

100th, no I mean 101st Post

It's hard to believe, but this is the 101st. post on Report on Conditions. Not too bad for a functional illiterate who doesn't know how to type.

I have enjoyed this project since day one. I pondered about  blogging for several months before getting started. I thought about what I would discuss and about what it would look like. I worried about how I would present my material and how I would protect myself, my family, my coworkers and my customers. Finally, I took 30 minutes and got it going. I am still amazed how easy it was to get started. I am equally amazed how difficult it is for me to keep going.

I have discovered so many interesting people and learned many things about the world and myself. I have a few regular readers. I am proud of the diversity of the people who read here, ranging from members of the fire service, dispatchers, cops, doctors, pilots, nurses, medics, motorcylclists and people who just like to read about lives other than their own. It's a big world out there and I enjoy reading about many of your lives as well as sharing my own.

The blog has evolved over the last seven months. What I envisioned it would be and what it has become are two different things. I have tried to find a niche for my blog that makes it a little different than some of the excellent blogs out there. I am sure it will continue to evolve as does my life.

As mentioned above, I have learned many things while blogging. Here are just a few:

* Blogging late at night is high-risk. More than once, I have fallen asleep at the keyboard. I wake up moments later with a screen full of a single character. I can estimate how long I was asleep by how long it takes me to delete the unwanted script. Editing and grammar suffer as well, my give a damn factor drops as fatigue levels rise.

* Although beer may help my writing to become more animated, it is not really a tool for producing quality material and thus should be avoided while writing. Notice I said avoided, not banned.

* When blogging while angry or impassioned, it is sometimes better to finish the post, then wait overnight until publishing. It saves from having to edit or remove the post later.

* Some posts are better than others. Thats just the way it is.

* Sometimes what I feel is a good post may not be what you feel is a good post.

* Blogging takes a little more time than I imagined. Actually, a lot more time. Coming up with material, taking and prepping photos typing with three fingers and editing gobble up a lot more time than I thought it would.

All things considered, this has been a great experience and I plan on continuing the project. If all goes well, I will reveal my real name and agency three years from today. By the time they get through the disciplinary paperwork, I will be sipping foo-foo cocktails on a beach in Hawaii. I won't be posting a picture though, the world doesn't need to see that.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year. Be safe out there tonight, it's amateur night.

As always, thanks for reading,


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Call

"I just want my bedroom back" She tells us.

"We can make that happen" is the reply. A few phone calls occur, placing a couple of members on standby. Two hours later, after things are finalized, the call is made and two brothers pull up to the curb. It is well after midnight and the air is cold, their breaths visible in the air.

They arrive just as our brother is loaded into the van. The engine is parked nearby, dark, silent and waiting. The brothers stand with the crew and a few other members, the family waits as well. The task is soon completed and the journey begins. The engine leads, followed by the van and then the chief.

The two brothers go upstairs and begin moving furniture. Unpleasant reminders of the cruelty that had occurred are hauled down to the garage, the bedroom furniture placed back in it's proper place. Soon the room is restored, hopefully, the first step in restoring shattered lives.

Monday, December 28, 2009


It is 0500. I know, right at this minute, there are firefighters standing vigil of a fallen brother. It may be cold, yet there they stand by the body of their comrade.

Tomorrow night, the vigil will continue as it will again on the night after. Our brother will not be alone. Not until he is in his final resting place will we leave his side. It may seem crazy, but it is what we do.

Rest in peace brother.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 1981

The paid-call firefighter was in a good mood as the engine backed into the station. Somehow, he had covered the distance from his home, fought off the lighter than usual traffic and had made the engine before it had left the station. The engineer had either missed the first tone from his plectron, or had spent the night a little farther away from home. Either way, it was good to make the engine rather than take the squad.

The call had been nothing , a minor medical aid. The ambulance arrived in short order and transported the patient to the hospital.  Now, as the engine backed into the dirt yard that housed the all-volunteer fire company, the PCF planned on hanging around at the station for a little while. Maybe another call would come in and he would make the engine twice in one day.

It was early morning on Christmas eve. The sun had been up for an hour or so, not yet warming the cool desert air. The PCF told the other firefighters to take off, get home to their families as he was going to hang for a while and would wipe down the engine.

The mindless task of wiping the engine allowed the PCF to think about wonder when the county was going to build a real station to park the engine and squad in. The temporary station, nothing more than a large carport and a small shed, had already been in use for two years. Although it provided some shelter from the elements, the open walls allowed dust to continually settle on the units. The openness of the station presented a security risk as well, though so far nothing had been stolen. Maybe the word in the barrio was out, leave the bombero's stuff alone.

Supposedly, a new station was in the works, although no one was holding their breath. This poor neighborhood was often neglected, not too many voters lived here. The fact that a station was here was remarkable. The efforts of a few local longtime residents had persuaded the county to open this place. A federal grant had provided the fund for the new engine, fund raisers had provided the squad and much of the equipment. No one knew where the funding for a permanent station was going to come from.

As the PCF finished with the squad, he decided to go to the little restaurant next door and grab a burrito for the road. The restaurant was in an old storefront, one that used to form the only businesses in this little town. It served authentic Mexican food and served the mostly Spanish speaking population that had moved into the community during the seventies. The PCFs ate there often, stopping in after calls and almost always after Saturday morning drill.

When the PCFs first moved into the temporary station and started eating at the restaurant, it caused some concern with some of the regular patrons. Many of them were there illegally and were not used to having uniformed people sharing their tables. The owners knew what the deal was however and were able to assure the regulars that the bomberos were no threat.

The PCF entered the restaurant and appreciated the warmth of the place. He couldn't help noticing a delightful smell coming from the kitchen. When the owner came out from the back to take his order, he had to ask her what the delicious aroma was.

The proprietor laughed and told him that he was smelling Christmas tamales that were cooking in the kitchen. She asked him if he had ever had homemade tamales. The PCF thought about it and realized although he knew what tamales were, he had never had one, at least not one that wasn't made by Hormel. The proprietor laughed again and told the PCF to hold on as she disappeared into the kitchen. She returned a minute later with a paper bag and handed it to the PCF. She told the PCF to take them, as a gift from her.

The PCF could feel the heat from the tamales coming through the bag. The foil wrapping on the tamales failed to contain the aroma of the freshly cooked pork and masa. Heaven in a bag. The PCF sat at the counter and unwrapped one of the tamales. He carefully removed the foil, then the corn husks that surrounded the tamale.

He used a fork and took a bite. The fresh tamale had a wonderful blend of flavor, with the spiced pork center complimented by the corn-meal masa that surrounded it. As it was fresh, it was very tender and the texture of the masa was amazing. He had to share this with his white-bread family.

He told the proprietor that he would like to buy some. She laughed a third time and told the PCF that she was sold out. She had taken orders for 125 dozen tamales, the sample she had given me was from the ones her family would be eating later on that night. The PCF gratefully ate the remaining tamales and thanked the proprietor of the restaurant, then left to complete his Christmas shopping.

The PCF had never known how delicious tamales were or how big of a tradition they were in many families. He stored that information and used it occasionally as his career progressed. He missed the small restaurant and the culinary treats that it sold, but was usually able to find a similar place near the various stations where he worked.

As there are no places where tamales are sold near the healing place, I now have to pick them up on the day before I want them for my crew. Although they keep overnight very well, there is nothing like eating them right after they have been pulled out of the pot. I will always be thankful to the operators of Mi Hermanos restaurant for introducing me to the joy of fresh tamales on that Christmas eve so many years ago.

If you have never tried real tamales, I urge you to do so. Just remember to remove the husks. I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas, be safe.

As always, thanks for reading and Feliz Navidad.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Draft 09

The Winter Draft Meeting for the K.B.F.P.D. was held last week. A little more contentious than the past couple of years, but nowhere near as bad as it was when Capt. Ladykiller was still on the job.

( A review of the process can be found HERE)

As usual, there was some pre-meeting posturing going on, with a couple of free-agents needing homes and a couple of veteran players needing a change of venue. Two of my team members wanted to go to larger - market teams. One went to where he wanted to go, the other got his second pick.

That had me scrambling to fill a medic spot and a firefighter's position. I snagged a firefighter coming off another shift. His transfer was an involuntary one. The chiefs are trying to balance out the number of vacancies so that when we hire some more folks, each shift will have the same umber of rookies. I didn't hear about this guy coming into the market until a few hours before the meeting. Another senior captain had his eye on him, as did I. this caused a little conflict, but an amicable resolution was attained.

I picked up a free agent medic who is just coming off of probation. He has no seniority and little status being a boot and all, so that was an easy grab.

As I now have two members who are not qualified to drive the apparatus, this year will be spent training these two to become operators. A lengthy but fun process.

Although we filled all of the spots, there still a little uncertainty. Onr of the vacancies is currently being carried on a unit that cannot have a rookie on it. When we do hire, this spot will have to be filled by a player to be named later, thus moving the vacancy to a "boot firendly" unit.

The other fly in the ointment was a surprise retirement by one of our capatains. This caused some movement of a few captains, affecting a few firefighters who were looking for different supervision. There may be a few changes still in the works, it may affect us. Time will tell.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, December 20, 2009


Back in the day, the K.B.F.P.D. was not an ALS provider. All ALS services were provided by a locally owned private ambulance company. Kind of an archaic approach to EMS, but that's the way it was.

One afternoon, we were dispatched to a reported person with a foot injury. We responded with three personnel, the captain, an engineer and myself - a tailboard firefighter. Although I usually don't miss riding the tailboard, I often enjoyed it back then, especially on a nice afternoon such as this.

We arrived on scene at a run-down single storey house. Several teenaged girls were hanging around the front porch. Another young lady, about 14 I would guess, was sitting in a sofa, which was on the porch. All of the young ladies were near the same age, judged by appearance, and were of various ethnicities.

There were other similararities as well. They were all dressed nearly alike, wore their hair in a similar fashion and all talked like the local gang-banger wanna-bes that populated this declining neighborhood.

The young lady who was seated on the couch was a little more vocal than the rest. Her language was like the others, except that she seemed to use a little more profanity than the rest and was a little louder. I overlooked these quirks, as she was our patient, the one with a nail stuck in her heel.

An 8d box nail if I had to guess. It was protruding from the center of her heel and it did not appear to in very far. As EMTs, our treatment options were limited. The pt. did not appear to be in any distress, had no underlying medical problems and had good vitals and presentation.

She really did not need to go in an ambulance, though she did need to seek medical attention. Through the profanity, local dialect and extreme bravado, we were able to determine that her mom was at work and could not be reached. This was before cell phones were widely in use. Apparently, there no other adults who could be responsible for her either.

As this was likely this pt. was going to have to use the ambulance, my captain reduced them to code 2 and had them continue in. The ambulance soon arrived and we advised them of our findings.

The medic began talking to the patient and was greeted with the same tough-girl attitude and profanity that we were. Understand, it wasn't directed at us, it was just a lifestyle statement. I can't say what was going through the medic's mind, but he remained very calm and professional as he outlined to his patient and to an astonished engine crew his planned course of treatment.

"OK Joy, here's what were going to do". The medic said. "I am going to count to three. When I hit three, I'm going to pull out the nail. I'll put a band-aid on it and that will hold you until your mom gets home. Then, she can run you to your doctors or the ER and get a tetanus shot".

I am ran through my mind all of the BLS protocols that were being violated. Of course, I had no clue what the ALS protocols were.

The medic knelt in front of the pt and gently lifted her leg so that he cradled her lower leg under his arm while he grasped the nail with his right hand. "One". "Two".

On "two" he pulled on the nail strongly enough that his pt. jerked forward several inches. The results were almost instantaneous.

Result #1 - The pt. screamed and made an instant transformation from tough gang-banger wannabe to injured child.

Result #2 - The medic visibly paled as he heard the scream, saw his pt. jerk and came to the rapid realization that the nail was in a lot deeper than he thought. This condition worsened as he realized that there were witnesses.

Result #3 - The nail remained firmly embedded into the bone of the young lady's heel.

Of course since this procedure was a miserable failure, the now sobbing pt. was loaded into the ambulance and transported to the county hospital.

This event would have never occurred if it happened today, or even in the last 15 years. Back then, the ambulance medics were the absolute medical authority on scene and we would never think of questioning their authority. Now, even if we were still a BLS only provider, we would have put the brakes on such a bonehead move.

As we were never approached about this event, my guess is that he got away with it. Hopefully he learned something from it. I know I did.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa's Busy Season

The Melrose Misfits over on Engine 9 in Roanoke VA spied Santa lurking around their facilites this morning. Strange, he shows up at my place this evening. He was riding on the Local FD ladder truck and frankly, he looked a little tired out.

 I guess Santa is pretty tired from the trip across country today. Hopefully, he is rested up by the big day, he is going to have to deliver my coal.

Santa picked a few toys while he was here. Something about a toy drive.

Here, Santa poses with a few members of the Local FD. I have known these folks for a while, as the station is right around the corner from where I live. I am fortunate to live where fire protection is a priority.

We do a similar thing in the KBFPD, It's called Santa in the Hood and we really have a good time. We try to get a rookie to "play the man" and he hands out candy canes while visiting the kids. Santa picks up quite a few toys while he is out, saves him some work later on.

After Santa left, I spent a little time playing with the camera. These night shots keep me a little puzzled.

This shot shows my house and two neighbors across the street. I like it because it shows three different kinds of lights. My old timey ones, John's Ice sickles and the colored ones next to Johns.

One of my neighbors displays this Santa in the Manger scene. He made this about ten years ago. I like it.

 This tree and deer is in my friend Eric's yard. I liked the way the trees and leaves added to the scene.

Hope you all have a nice weekend. Thanks to the Local FD for stopping by, It was good to see them.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Woody's Photography

Woody over at Woody's photography has posted some great night shots of a structure fire that occurred last night near where he lives. I don't know how he does it, but he does a great job catching the scene while it's dark.

Woody can be found HERE

This wasn't a major rager, but he did a great job with minimal light. Definitely worth a look.

I plan on posting later tonight. Til then.

Monday, December 14, 2009


 Another positive thing about getting your CEs done at home.

A warm dog to go with the cold beverage. He slept here through two lessons. I love this damn dog.

Thanks for suffering through my obligitory pet picture.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Schmoe Does Homework

Due to budget cuts, reorganization and convenience, the K.B.F.P.D. has outsourced some of our training. Some of the stuff that has been outsourced is the Tailboard Safety Program and didactic C.E.s for us lowly EMTs.

One vendor that our agency chose is Target Safety out of San Diego Ca. They offer various safety and training programs on line. These are validated courses that have a set amount of time each lesson requires to get through. They are interactive and have a test.

Target Safety monitors time requirements, keeps records and allows us to store videos and manuals on their server.

One of the positives of a program like this, is that you can get these required courses out of the way at your convenience. Home or at work it doesn't matter, you just log on and away you go.

One of the negatives of a program like this, is that you can get these required courses out of the way at your convenience. Home or at work it doesn't matter, you just log on and away you go.

People like me who really don't enjoy these courses have a tendency to wait until they are nearly due and then hammer them out. That's fine until you take a large amount of time off in the month that the assignments are due.

I have until the 30th to complete 18 one hour courses. It won't be any problem as long as I remember to do it. I got three of them out the way today. A couple per day and it will be no sweat.

This is one of the small safety messages that they display on the log in page. I guess they don't really want us texting while driving the rigs. It's not like we're driving a train or flying a plane to Minneapolis or anything.

This is one of the CE lessons that I worked on today. This particular page dealt with developmental disabilities, a subject that I am intimately familiar with. Ignore the bottle, it is part of a cognitive study that I was working on while taking this course. My test scores dropped significantly while taking this test, but my overall opinion on the class actually rose as time went on. Odd.

This is the payoff. 24 of these little Jessies over an 18 month period and you are done. Just don't wait until December.

Even though I grouse a little about the program, I do support it. It takes quite a burden off what's left of our training division. My issues with it are primarily me, not the program.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend, sorry to all of my readers in Chicago, the Packers came through and were victorious.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Every Once In A While

I am a little proud to be a member of the KBFPD. I worked my ass off to get this job, even harder to keep it. (Newer readers look HERE) I studied hard and was promoted twice (in spite of myself) and I work with some great people.

I think we do a decent job for the most part. There are some things which we could do better and we are working on those. We are reasonably well led and I am comfortable with the direction our district is headed, despite external influences over which we have no control.

Every once in a while, my agency does something that makes me so proud and yet so honored to be associated with such quality people. I can't go into detail obviously, but one of our members is not doing so well. The amount of thought, effort and compassion that the district is showing while handling this ordeal is humbling. This isn't the county government or fire commissioners, this is the people who wear the patch and badge of the KBFPD.

I am proud to be a part of this collection of knuckleheads, even when I may be pissed at some of them. I just hope, even after all of these years, that I am worthy to wear the same badge.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, December 11, 2009

Fun and Games at the K.B.F.P.D.

It isn't all toil and trouble at the Kinda Big Fire Protection District. On rare occasions, we have fun.

While coming back from drill one day, we were driving by a property that is usually gated and sealed up. This time, the gate was open and the resident was out in the yard. We stopped and said hi, he made the mistake of being friendly and speaking with us, We were there for over an hour, looking at his private collection of cool stuff. Here, two of the crew try out his hand car. The track goes around the perimeter of his property and shows off some of the buildings and collections that he has.

One of several "Old Timey" buildings that are part of his collection. We had to forcibly remove our engineer from the saloon, PBR is his favorite brand.

On a different note, I love taking pictures. I bought a Canon SX10 Is back in June. It is a great camera and I have been having a lot of fun with it. I would, however, like to upgrade to a DSLR, as I would like to be able to change lenses, have more manual operating options etc.

I have been stashing cash away for a few years to do some more mods to my jeep. I am really close to getting the work done, but now I am debating whether to deplete my jeep fund and get a DSLR camera or just get my jeep done and hold off on the camera.

Or, I could finally buy some shoes for the kids. Not. Shoes are overrated.

Here is a picture of my evil twin brother Morris holding my current camera, which I acquired back in June. It's pretty cool I guess, I just think a DSLR would allow me to express my artsy-fartsy side a little better. Moe, haven't you heard of whitening strips?  BTW, I want my sport jacket back!

Have a great weekend for those of you who aren't on shift.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Facebook Faux-Pas II

"Wheres Jones?"

"He called off"

"Really, I talked to him yesterday, he seemed fine"

"Lets check his face book page, maybe he posted whats wrong"

Jone's last post - "It's 2am, I'm hammered and I'm up 200 bucks. What a country"

An awkward pause then much discussion ensued. I don't know the outcome for sure.

Oops. Yet another reason not to be on face book. Of course, you don't need technology to get in trouble. This happened to me:

It's a Friday night, about 9 P.M.

"Schmoe here"

"Hey Joe, It's Chief Consensus. Sorry to do this to you, but Capt. Narcissus called off and no one is signed up for tomorrow. I have to force hire you"

"Are you kidding me? Shit. I am supposed to teach at the academy tomorrow. There's no way they are going to find a replacement at this late date." I am rapidly approaching a line that I shouldn't cross. I wisely decide to shut up, get the info and terminate the conversation.

I call the drillmaster at the academy and tell him I got forced. He isn't happy, but what can I do. I'm kind of pissed because I know Narcissus is probably fine and just wanted the day off.

Later on the following week, I return home from running errands and who do I find in my kitchen? Junior Narcissus. He and number one son are friends and go to the same school.

"Hey Junior, how was your weekend? Did you guys do anything fun?"

"Yeah Mr. Schmoe, we went camping at Pismo and took the quads and stuff. It was really awesome."

I could have made life pretty miserable for Narcissus and ratted him out. He would have had one of those decisive moments and would have had to decide whether to tell the truth or lie like a rug. As I am not a rat, I chose to let it go and take random shots at him when I get the chance.

Sorry Narcissus, I can't work for you, I've got something planned. Sorry Narcissus, I'll get that inventory report to you right away, I don't know how it ended up at station 3.

Because Narcissus put his needs above everyone elses, he inconvenienced me, 30 students, the drillmaster and some other guy that had to teach the academy. Strong work nucklehead, I'm glad your time is so much more valuable than ours..

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mysteries Of The Pyramids Revealed

While visiting the folks a while back, I stopped by to visit some friends and came across a cribbing and shoring class being given at their department. A beautiful day with decent light forced me to take some photos. I have attended a small portion of this class, it was well worth the time spent on it.

The objective - Move a one ton concrete block 25 feet to a 30 inch high obstacle. Lift the  block over the obstacle and across a 25 foot gap, then lower the block back to the ground. All of this using hand tools, a rope, cribbing, some pipe and a few timbers. Maybe aliens didn't build the pyramids after all and this is how the Egyptians did it.

 In this picture, the block has already been lifted onto the pipes and has been rolled to a ramp which has been constructed to go up the obstacle. Large pry bars are used to gain a purchase point under one side of the block. Three, four pry bars - whatever it takes. Wooden wedges are placed under the narrow space created by the pry bars and the process is repeated until the block is high enough to place pipes under the block. Once the block is up on the pipes, it can be rolled used the pry bars as levers to push it along.

The block is arriving at the ramp. Once the pipes roll out from the block, they are repositioned to the front of the block and the block then rolls over it. In this image, the have already attached the rope to the block. It will be used to pull the block up the ramp The two pry bars visible to the rear of the block were the ones used to lift and then propel the block.

The block starts it's journey up the ramp, there is tension on the rope. The pipe has just been repositioned to the front of the block, one is probably just getting ready to pop out form the rear.


Ready pull! Pulleys are used to create a mechanical advantage, yet it still takes a few guys to pull that block up the ramp. Each person grabs onto the haul line and walks/pulls to the rear. When the last person runs out of room, he lets go of the line and goes to the front. This is repeated until the objective is obtained.

 Partway there. The block has been lifted and is ready to be pulled across the gap. A bridge is created using timbers. Note the cribbing structure created on the left side of the photo. These evolutions use up a lot of people and wood. A lot of time is used as well. I didn't get to photograph the lowering of the block, I ran out of time.

Another portion of this class covers the shoring of unstable structures. Once a structure is assessed for hazrds and the shoring needs have been determined, a system is developed to construct the required shoring.

Since you are usually dealing with dangerous work areas and restricted space, much of the shoring system is constructed outside the structure and then assembled inside. The team inside has already determined their needs, measured the size and quantity needed and has relayed the information outside. These people are building this to the interior teams specs.

Once the components are assembled, they are brought inside and assembled. Here, the shoring is designed to support a weakened ceiling. Shoring, although simple in design, is an art form. You better know what you are doing.

I wish I had more time to take even more images. There was a lot of stuff going on that day. Thanks to BillyBob for letting me photograph his beloved drill grounds.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Asocial Networking

The following event allegedly occurred at a municipal fire department several counties away from mine. The story surfaced at a class, was told to some folks, one of whom told it to one of my crew members who told it to me. It was relayed to me after many beers (both on the telling side and the listening side)and is being told to you while I am suffering from a very minor headache and a slightly sour stomach.

What I am trying to say, is that this is a rumor. Although I am sure parts of it are true, I am sure parts of it may be inaccurate. Regardless, it presents some interesting issues and exemplifies that modern social networking venues do not masque poor behavior.

I must also add that I do not have a facebook page so some of the details may be off a bit as to the way facebook works.

Probationary firefighter Newby opens his laptop and logs into his facebook page. He notices that there is a friend request from Battalion Chief Techno. Newby thinks about the content on his page, the photos and comments from friends and decides to deny B.C. Techno's request.

It's not that there's anything really "Bad" on his facebook page. He's not stupid. Hell, even his mom is one of his "friends". But what would happen if he posted pictures from a ski trip, or party shots from his girlfriends birthday bash which occurred on the weekend before his skills assessment or one of his written tests? Who needs that kind of trouble?

A week passes and Newby forgets about the request and the following denial. Then one day, as he walks past the chief's office, B.C. Techno asks him to step into the office. Words that most boot firefighter do not want to hear.

"Newby, I am a little concerned about you denying my friend request on your facebook page" B.C. Techno states, "I'm worried that you may have inappropriate material on your page that you don't want me to see".

Newby explains that there is nothing inappropriate on his facebook page, it's just that he is a kind of a private person and reserves his friend list to close personal friends.

Whether B.C. Techno believes probationary F.F. Newby or doesn't is not known. The matter is dropped, however it does not go away. It takes on a life of it's own as the tale is passed from agency to agency, person to person and then related to you here.

The consensus of the crowd who heard the tale last night, was that that B.C. Techno was out of line not once, but twice. I must confess that I do not know the etiquette of facebook or twitter. I don't know the etiquette of blogging or even if there is one.

I do feel that poor behavior is poor behavior regardless of the venue. I believe Techno crossed the line of poor behavior when he asked to be Newby's "friend" and crossed it even further when he questioned Newby as to why he was denied.

My advice to Newby would be to be very selective about what he posts on his facebook page and also about whom he accepts as his "friends". I would offer that advice to anyone.

I figure that I am sticking my neck out enough with this blog, I'll just stay away from facebook. Call me paranoid.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Views Expressed..........

This is not a political based blog. It is that way for a reason. There are a ton of blogs out there, from both ends of the political spectrum, that do a far better job expressing their political views than I ever could. Having said that, I must admit that I tend to be more conservative than not.

The following video was sent to me by Julian, a pilot and blogger from near Sydney Austrailia. I am showing it to you, because the people who produced it did a very good job in making their point (even though I may or may not disagree) and it is very satirical in nature. I love satire. The fact that the producers love firefighters helps as well.

Remember: "The views expressed in the following video do not necessarily represent the views of Joseph Schome, The Report-On-Condotions blog or our sponsor Joseph Schmoe Brewery, Death Valley Ca."

Ahh, the creativity and energy of youth!

Thanks to Julian for sharing this vid and thanks to you for reading.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I ran into an acquaintance from down south the other day. "Tyler" a firefighter in a small city in Los Angeles County. Like most of us, he works for a city that experiencing some budget issues. His bargaining unit has agreed to some staffing level concessions to help soften the economic woes.

Apparently, the concessions and cutbacks were not enough and the city is seeking to reduce costs even more. One thing that is being looked at is eliminating the fire dept. and contracting with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. for fire protection. Although this idea has been looked at before and dismissed, many feel the timing for such a move is right and is likely to occur.

This is not an uncommon occurance. L.A. County provides fire protection for many cities within the county and has absorbed at least ten municipal fire depts. since I have been a firefighter.

As far as I know, when a department is disbanded and L.A. County gets the contract, the personnel are usually absorbed into L.A. County fire.

I believe L.A. County is a great organization and also believe that for most of the people who get absorbed, it is a great deal once the kinks get worked out.

I asked Tyler what he thought about being absorbed and I was a little surprised by his answer.

"Schmoe, I'm bummed" he said. " I've spent XX years of my life with my department. I've been on the board, I've seen it evolve and develop it's culture. It would be sad to see it go away."

I tried to point out the opportunity to experience all of the things that a mega-department has to offer, but Tyler didn't seem to care. He knew that his way of life might be changing. The idea of helicopters, fireboats, bulldozers, handcrews haz-mat teams and USAR teams didn't surpass the feeling of belonging and culture that his present department provides.

I am not sure how I would feel if a larger organization swallowed up my beloved  Kinda Big Fire Protection District. I am sure I would struggle with the changes in procedures and policies, but I'm sure I would adapt. I definitely would miss all most of my co-workers, but the ones a care about the most, I would find a way to keep in touch.

I would definitely rather get absorbed than be out of a fire service career. I can't see myself finishing concrete again or washing airplanes.I don't think I have to worry though. L.A. County is a long way from where I work.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 30, 2009

Shields Up

After posting about the EMT student a few days ago, I got some feedback on the subject. I like feedback. I use feedback to determine if people are picking up what I am laying down.

I often respond to comments. Either to clarify a point or to let the commenter know I am picking up what they are laying down. Sometimes, I respond to a comment just because I enjoy the social aspect of blogging and I value the reader's participation.

This post is in response to the following comment which was received regarding my post "Sorry Dude". "Sorry Dude" was basically me whining about our EMS division sending EMT students from a local community college to my station for the fire portion of their ride-alongs. What I was trying to convey was that we are going to have EMT students ride-along, lets put them where they will they will be busy. My station is a slow house and it's usually not a good use of the student's time to spend it at "The Healing Place".

I also threw in a few comments on the changing face of our EMT students and the generational gap between myself and some of the youth today.

Anonymous left the following comment regarding  "Sorry Dude":

Anonymous said...
Sounds like ALS fire companies have bad consequences even outside of patient care. I hadn't even imagined that an EMT program would be dumb enough to put their students (who are riding to learn medical care, not lawn care) on an engine. Thanks for the enlightenment, although now I feel sick.  
Maybe I am a little sensitive, but I thought I felt a shot whiz by my head as I read this. Did 
Anonymous just take a shot at us fire service EMS providers?

Here is the deal. I know there are parts of the country where great conflict exists between fire service EMS providers and single function EMS providers. That hasn't been a huge issue where I work or even where I grew up.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all types of systems, it's a matter of what a given area is willing to pay for. IAFF is lobbying for departments to become ALS providers in order to provide job security, AMR spends a lot of money marketing their services and lobbying politicians to get opersating franchises for 911 transports.Neither system is going to save humankind from anything.

I don't think the EMT program is stupid for putting students on engine companies. A big chunk of EMT students want to end up in the fire service. Even if they don't, the odds are they will have to work with the fire service. Learning how we operate and interact with the transporting agency can only be a bonus. It's just a matter of getting the students to the right engine companies.

I think we would both agree that my station is not the best place for a student. Hopefully our EMS division will recognize it and quit sending them our way.

Regardless, thanks for commenting Anonymous, I look forward to hearing from you again. BTW, I hope you're feeling better.

As always. Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Four Police Officers Murdered

I was in the middle of washing my car when I heard the over the radio that four Police officers were shot to death as they enoyed a cup of coffee in Parkland Washington.

Fox news is reporting that the four uniformed officers were using their laptops in a coffee shop when one, possibly two gunmen entered the shop and opened fire on the officers. It appears that the officers were targeted and that robbery was not the motive in the shootings.

MSNBC is reporting that no one else was injured and that the officers were in the shop before they started their patrol.

Are you effing kidding me. This does not appear to be a raid or a t-stop gone bad. It appears that one possibly two dirtbags who decided to make a statement and take out four Schmoes who were just getting ready for work. This behavior is meant to send a message to the cops and to us. They think they are in charge, that they can do what they want. This has got to stop.

Obviously, these scum do not fear going to jail or getting killed or the system. They have to fear us as a people before this kind of behavior will stop.

My deepest symathies go out to the families, agencies, friends and responders who will be left to pick up the pieces. I am sickened by your loss.

Sorry for the rant folks.


Sorry Dude

I'm sorry dude. I am sorry that of all the places they could have sent you to do your EMT ride-outs, they sent you here. You seem like a nice kid, despite the piercings and the plugs. Maybe you pissed someone off.

They could have sent you to station 204. There, you could have ridden the squad and rolled on fifteen or twenty calls. They usually get a good shooting or sticking on the weekeend. The men's shelter is good for one or two calls a day, as is "Con Home Row". I know they have an open seat today, I talked to Steve-O. He said that they have been busy.

I'm sorry dude. I am sorry that the C.C. doesn't want you to get involved with our station improvement project. Maybe they are afraid you will hurt yourself with a saw or a drill-driver. It seems as if you have an interest in learning how to use these tools, but they don't want you doing anything that is not directly related to your course of study.

I am glad you learned how to start a lawn mower today and I'm glad you actually were able to mow half of the lawn. I understand that you had never used a lawn mower before. Frankly, I am glad I was busy in the back yard of the station while that was going on. Otherwise I would have had to stop you. I'm really glad you didn't run over your foot or stick you hands under the deck. That would have been a "farm injury" moment for us all.

I'm sorry dude. I am sorry we have to get these inspections done this afternoon. I'd rather have my medic go over assessments and spinal injuries with you, but these inspections need to be completed by the thirtieth. You do seem to enjoy learning about building construction, exiting and protection systems. Maybe you will decide to change your major to fire-tech instead of biology.

I am glad you were able to catch a few medical aid calls. I know they weren't real emergencies, but you did a good job taking vitals and you did ask the right questions. The patient seemed real happy to be a part of your learning experience. I think you may get it after a while.

I'm sorry dude. I am sorry that in the 14 hours you were here we only ran two medical aid calls, a box-alarm and a vehicle fire. It may not seem like much, but the poor bastard that was here yesterday only ran once and that was for a bush on fire. She had to spend most of her day in the classroom, studying for the final.

Good luck to you EMT of the future. Hopefully your clinical time will be in the evening and you will get some action. I really don't know why they send students here.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 27, 2009

Silly Season at the K.B.F.P.D.

Much like NASCAR, it's that time of year when crew members jump ship and change teams. NASCAR calls it silly season, as do I. Drivers change teams in NASCAR, drivers change stations at the K.B.F.P.D. Crew chiefs change teams in NASCAR, captains change stations at the K.B.F.P.D. Like any process, it is not a simple one.

The K.B.F.P.D. has a bid policy for people to bid where they want to work. The bid process is an annual, multi-step procedure that starts in November and winds up when the transfers take place in the first few weeks in January.

There are a multitude of rules, only a few of which I will cover here:
1. It is a seniority based system.
2. No bumping. A senior member can't bump a less senior member out of a spot.
3. You can't bid into a specialty station such as HAZ-MAT, USAR etc. unless you have the certifications needed for that spot.
4. The district may refuse to honor a bid or move people who do not have a bid in for the "good of the district".
5. You may bid to another shift, or another station. Not both.

The first step of the process is for members of all ranks who want to change shifts. The requests open in early November and last for a few weeks. The appropriate paperwork is sent in, then the district commanders meet and determine which of these will be honored. Not too many people want to change shifts, especially in the engineer and captain ranks. Once these are approved, they are set aside for the meeting later on in the process.

Next, the captains bid. Captain's bids open the last week in November and are open for a few weeks. These bids are not approved and do not take place until the end of the process, but it gives the engineers and firefighters an idea where the various captains might be working for the next year. This information may or may not influence where they might bid. BTW,  Schmoe ain't bidding anywhere next year. I am happy where I am at. They don't call it the "Healing Place" for nothing. I need all of the healing that I can get!

Finally, everyone else bids. They open these the second week in December and again, they are open for a few weeks.

The process is completed on each shift by a captain's meeting which usually occurs the last few weeks in December. The meeting is called the "Winter Draft" and can be quite interesting. It has also been known to be potentially contentious.

All of the captains on a particular shift will meet, determine where the open spots will be, review the bids, and place the bidders in the open spots. Sometimes the meeting will take only 30 minutes or so, be low key and little movement will take place. Other times, it will be a long, drawn-out affair with many phone calls and much discussion. Occasionally, the district commanders will have to step in and settle an issue.

It is imperative that each captain attends the meeting or send an advocate to represent their interests and those of their crew. Even though I am usually on vacation during the winter draft, I still usually attend. I am not willing to leave may fate and that of my crew to others. My crew is relying on me to make sure their bid is considered and honored if possible.

Sometimes, a members bid may not be available, but another spot my arise. I make sure I know what is acceptable to my crew members before I leave for the meeting and I also advise them to keep their phones on and next to their ear during the winter draft. I may need to call and present different options.

Issues arise when personnel or personality issues arise and a move needs to be made "for the good of the district". These issues are compounded by the personalities of the captains, who often are somewhat strong willed and occasionally have sef-serving motives for their actions.

I once attended a winter draft meeting where I was in a verbal dispute with someone I really cared about. The dispute was over a problem child employee who wanted out of his assignment at a smaller station and wanted to return to a district HQ station where everyone wanted to kill him. We had alredy played that game, the results were disastrous. Even the nicest guy in the station had stood toe to toe with this individual. I held my ground, I would not let him return and disrupt my station. His captain wanted him out, stating "everyone here wants to kill him". That was a faulty argument as far as I was concerned my reply was would you rather have three guys who want to kill him or ten?

Most of the captains in our district saw it my way, but the other captin would not concede. Things got to the point where reolution was not going to be possible in that environment, so we called in the district commander, who was in an adjoining room. He was reluctant to make the call but we insisted, as that is what he makes the big DC bucks for. The DC made the call, the problem child stayed where he was.

Fortunately, recent draft meetings have been much less intense and have actually been pleasant. This year, two of my crew members are going to bid out. Both are younger. One is just off of probation and wants to go to a busier house to gain experience. The other wants to get promoted and is seeking more exposure.

As much as I hate to lose either, I will do my best to help them get what they want. It may not be possible, we will know at the end of next month.

I definitely will be at the draft, I don't want to end up at the "Big House of Pain" for the "good of the district".

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Vintage Schmotographs

I was going through some old files the other day and came accross some pictures. These are shots that I took when I was new to the fire service, back in 1980.

This is the very first fire engine that I ever rode on. It was a '78 or '79 Howe built on a Grumman chassis. It had a 8V92 T engine and went like a bat out of hell. I showed up one Tuesday evening, signed a form and received a helmet, and a surplus canvas turnout coat. The following few days were spent procuring a pair of wild-land boots, a pair of welding gloves, some military surplus goggles, a uniform and a scanner. Four days later, I was a volunteer firefighter, riding on this bad-ass beauty.

The shed behind the squad was our station, the carport our apparatus floor. The two guys in the picture were senior members and were often in charge of the unit. The dark haired guy squeezing the chamois was on the unit when it experienced a burn-over that killed a civilian and injured some firefighters on another engine.

We had some motivated, sharp kids in this company. One is a school district administrator, one is an RN, one was a med student, several went into law enforcement and several others went to work for the Very Big City Fire Dept. This company produced several members of the Kinda Big Fire Protection District, including myself.

By far the most fun I have ever had in my career. I learned so much about so many things.

I don't remember when, I don't remember where. That is my engine in the picture and the image was taken by me. I am guessing the summer or fall of 1981. The two firefighters with the pale yellow gear on were volunteers. We volunteers were issued those pale cotton jumpsuits for wild-land fires. We hated them. They never fit right, always tore out in the crotch and just plain sucked. We usually tried find a way to scam the USFS or the CDF out of nomex brush gear or bought our own.

This image was taken in 1984. It shows a crew from a neighboring fire district going defensive on a camper shell factory. The fire started in an outbuilding and spread to several other buildings. Note the lack of SCBA. Today, I think most of us would get in trouble for not having them on, even in defensive mode. I was driving by and stopped to take pictures. Some habits are hard to break.

All of the above pictures were taken with a Pentax K1000 manual SLR 35 mm camera and a cheap JC Penney lens. I stopped taking pictures because of the cost of developing the photos. Even getting proof sheets and then picking which images to get printed was getting out of hand.  Ya gotta love digital photography.

Thanks for suffering through my nostalgic episode,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Overtime Whore

I had a conversation with a medic the other day while working an overtime shift. He mentioned that he was going to earn about fifteen grand less this year than he did last. I was surprised, as this guy is an OT whore. He will work any day any place any time.

This isn't Sal, an individual I posted about HERE, but a guy who lives in an older smaller house, one whose wife stays home and raises their two kids. Honestly, I don't know what he does with his money; although it really isn't any of my business.

I asked him if he was cutting back on the amount of OT that he worked. He told me yes, but not by choice. With that response, I initially figured that he had burned someone and that the word had gotten out, causing people not to call him when they needed a day off.

After further discussion, it became apparent that there were several factors for his not working as much.

First it was a slow fire season. Although there a few large fires, there were less of them. We sent fewer units out of district, meaning less back fill.

Probably the biggest factor was that more people are working overtime this year. There are several reasons for this. One is that many of our spouses have lost their jobs, have taken cuts in pay or are being furloughed, causing some of our folks to work more to make up the difference.

Others are working more overtime because they want to pay off bills before they are forced to take a wage cut or staffing cuts eliminate further overtime. Some just want to build up cash reserves because they do not know what the future holds. In short they are being proactive.

We, like others, are nervous and don't really believe the recession will be over until more jobs can be created. Typically, our industry lags behind the economy. We start to feel the recession later than the general public and we start to feel the recovery later as well.

I don't think that this medics reduction in OT will be disastrous for him, I don't think he lives on the financial edge. It does kind of illustrate the change in the economy that we are all seeing. 

Regardless, we still have it a lot better than many and for that I am thankful.

Thanks for reading,

Holiday Sabbatical

Today is the second day of my annual holiday sabbatical. As I have been an employee of the Kinda Big Fire Protection District for almost 26 years, I recieve the maximum vacation accrual rate. My vacation time, alomg with flexible holidays and shift trades allow me to take several weeks off a couple times a year.

This year, due to the Saint I am Married To having a new gig and not having any accrued vacation plus the result of the shortened trip to Nebraska (The Disasta in Nebraska) I have a little more time saved up. As a result, my next assigned shift will be on Christmas Day at the "Healing Place"

I have an early December birthday. I usually try to take the time from my birthday until Christmas off. I got into the habit after a couple of real bad Christmas seasons call-wise. Multiple fatal MVAs, dead baby calls, serious fires all the kind of stuff that dampens my already fragile Christmas spirit.

I know most of my shortcomings. When not in a denial phase, I acknowlege most of them. One of mine is that I have a minor Scrooge Complex.

Taking as much of the Christmas season off is a defense against being a total Scrooge. It allows me to relax, get all of the Christmas stuff handled without feeling the pressure of time or of seeing lives ruined.  That way I can enjoy the season without hurting myself or others.

So, I will spend the coming weeks getting ready for the holiday, probably get over to Death Valley for a day or two and hopefully get some photography in. I am looking forward to it, especially spending some time with my family.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 22, 2009


A three letter word, beginning in F. As I write this, I can instantly think of three distinct meanings of the term. The first is a weather phenomenon, the second is an acronym for the term Effing Old Guy (I get called that a lot) and finally another acronym for the Field Operations Guide, which is a handy pocket manual designed to help us manage larger incidents.

This morning, the middle  term is writing about the former. It is 04:30 and I am at work. I should be in back in bed, but I am still a little juiced up from our last call. If I were to peer out of my dorm and look down the hall, I would see three closed doors, with no light escaping from underneath. I envy my three team mates. Not for their ability to get back to sleep, but for the optimism they display in trying. I am sure that in the morning, when I ask if anyone was able to go back to sleep, they will all answer no, not really.

An hour earlier, we had been dispatched to a traffic accident on the freeway. 03:30 is a bad time to crash your car. Little traffic usually means higher traffic speed. Elevated blood alcohol contents mean a higher chance of a secondary accident, as do sleepy drivers. This morning, the incident was affected by fog.

As the apparatus floor door rolled open, the cooler air entering the station caused me to look out. I realized that I couldn't see the buildings across the street and saw that the streetlight was basked in fog, its pinkish -yellow light clouded by dense mist.

Photo by unknown photograoher-Wickipic

We turned out of the station and rolled slowly down the road. The fog thickened as we turned onto Busy street, the tail lights of a pulled-over semi barely visible as drove by. My engineer slowed to a crawl when we approached where the intersection should be, the visual references that we depended upon not visible to us.

At last we saw the signal lights marking the intersection and we turned onto the highway. Visibility was now down to a hundred feet, not much when on a high speed thoroughfare. No cars were visible in front of us, none in the mirror. The fog reflected the rotating red lights back to us, our headlights failed to penetrate it. I commented to Cyndi how awkward it would be to run over a patient or another responder in this mess, she laughed nervously as she agreed with me.

My mind flashed back,  likely 28 years ago. I remembered standing in the number one lane of a highway in a similar fog. A brand new volunteer with the minimum training, I don't even remember how I got there. I will never forget the sensations of standing in the murk, with a charged hose line in my hands, protecting a person who was was trapped in their mangled car - then hearing the repeated sound of screeching tires and horrible impacts as car after car blindly drove into the morass, adding further to the carnage.

I remembered too, the relief I felt as additional units crept onto the scene, shielding me from what I felt was certain death. Relief for me and for the trapped patient, who was now going to receive the rescue and treatment he deserved.

I snapped back to the present as we made the transition to the six-lane, looking for the accident, unable to find it. The visibility began to minimally improve by now, a slightly warmer temperature or slightly less moisture in the air allowing us to see a quarter mile away. We drove through the area where the accident was reported to be and finally spot a deputy and a motor officer on a surface street, just off of the six-lane.

Photo courtesy NOAA

I told the other responding engine of our location as we pulled up. The motor officer did not appear to be from around here, I did not recognize his helmet or his duty rig as ones worn by our local officers. The motor told me that this was not what we were looking for, the accident was in fact back on the six lane, but farther south from where we entered it. He also told us that the accident involved his partner. As I reached for the transmit button, the other engine came on the air and told us that he had found the accident, back in the dense fog, back behind where we had come from.

We started toward the real accident location, the anxiety increasing as visibility begins to decrease. Dispatch came on the air and asked us to update them on the condition of the rider, the concern evident in her voice. Mercifully, the captain on the other engine radios that they have one moderate injury and that they can handle the call.

Honestly, I feel some relief as I get this information. I am relieved that the accident isn't bad enough to require our assistance and I am also relieved that we won't be out working on the six-lane at oh-drunk thirty, with the added risk of fog.

I am not sure that my level of anxiety is warranted when it comes to working on the six-lane, or that the increase in angst is justified by the presence of condensed moisture, suspended in air.

I can tell you however, although this F.O.G. may spend his days walking around in a fog, he does not like working in the fog.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wake me when it's over.

We get up for the third time after midnight. This one is for a "female hemorrhaging" at a large public park. We all know what this means. Female bleeding means a laceration or maybe a puncture wound. Female hemorrhaging means a gynecological issue or perhaps a rectal bleed.

We get on the engine and head toward the park. The park is supposed to close at dusk, but the large homeless population and the perverts tend not to read the park hours sign. As it is our third wake-up call and it is well after midnight, neither the captain or myself are completely awake as we turn into the park.

I am driving the engine this night, a 80's vintage Pierce Arrow. Many in our agency would argue that that the Pierce engines were the best engines we ever bought. I can't say that for certain, but I will tell you that they were the most fun to drive.

As we turn into the park, we fall in behind a a deputy's cruiser and drive into the bowels of the recreational relic. We follow the deputy across the ravine that divides the park into two sections. After a few more moments, we find our patient, standing in the roadway, illuminated by the spotlights of another cruiser.

The patient is a female in her mid thirties. She is completely naked, blood visibly running down the inside of her thigh, then down her leg. She has no possessions with her, nor shoes on her feet. Her matted hair and her grimy skin tell us that she is not doing a good job taking care of herself.

We dismount the engine and contact our patient. A blanket is obtained from the engine and wrapped around her. We lead her to the tailboard where she sits as we begin our assessment. Our patient gives us her name and her age and tells us that she does not have a home. She cannot tell us where she is or what she is doing standing naked in the street. It is beginning to look like she is she is mentally ill rather than a victim of an assault. We perform the normal BLS stuff including 02 and a secondary assessment.

The ambulance arrives and takes over They load her into the ambulance and we head back to the barn. I follow the ambulance out, which is leaving on the same road that we drove in on. As we approach the ravine, I stop before crossing the small wooden bridge that spans it. I see the large white reflective sign standing next to the bridge,. the one that clearly states "6 Ton Weight Limit".

My captain sees it too. We both suddenly realized that we had  driven our 17 ton engine over that 6 ton rated bridge just a few minutes before. Even more shocking, is that neither one of us remembered doing it. As I see it, we were lucky that old wooden bridge was likely built tougher than it had to be.

We turn around and head the long way out of the park, I don't think we need to tempt fate twice.

Maybe that's why they don't let me drive much any more!.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Schmoe Gets Shot

Today was shot day at work. The County finally got it's supply of the H1N1 vaccine and decided that they could spare some of it for us. we all piled on the engine and went down to a temporary clinic that was set up in a gymnasium.

First responders from law enforcement, EMS and Fire agencies could come to the clinic and get vaccinated. The vaccine was voluntary for our agency, but my entire crew opted to get the shot. The nasal spray was not available to us.

We had to read a pamphlet, then fill out some forms. Had I known that paperwork was involved, I would have gone down to the Paradise Acres Rest Home and snaked some of theirs.

My rat bastard crew convinced the nurse to use a slightly larger needle than normal. I tried hard not to cry, but between the laughter and the needle it was tough. Thank goodness one of the other nurses gave me a box of kleenex.

It appeared that the turn-out was lower than expected. Maybe some people are reluctant to get the vaccine. I had heard both side of the argument and figured that I was better off with it. Time will tell.

A few weeks ago, I caught the local hospital having a disater drill. They were kind enough to let me take a few pics.

 Need a hand?

Emergency Department preparing pt. for movement into the ER

Triage Tags in the foreground, a decontamination shelter in the background.

Death Comes to the Healing Place

I like hummingbirds. I like wiener dogs. I hate gophers. The Healing Place is fairly new. The district spent a ton on landscaping, with trees, shrubs and ground cover. We are now being overrun with gophers and they are destroying a lot of plant material. As the budget is tight, there won't be any replacement plant material fo quite a while. Sorry gophers, you got to go.

I got my fist confirmed kill yesterday. I was so proud that I put him on the hood of my jeep. I didn't have any arrows to stick in him, so I just used the trap. I know that wouldn't cut it in Providence, but it's going to have to do.

For you gopher lovers, fear not. He was treated with dignity and respect, all the way into the dumpster. I just hope he was preggo.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cop Talk

We had just finished shipping off a mentally ill homeless woman to the hospital and were chatting with a couple of local cops.

Down here at the healing place, we don't really have a lot of interaction with our brothers in khaki. As most of our residents have jobs, the po-po don't get a lot of calls for service in our district. We do see them occasionally on MVAs on the surface streets and we do get the occasional shooting/stabbing/beating and we work with them then, but for the most part, both parties are busy and are doing their jobs.

Last night, things were slow for us and there wasn't too much going on in cop land either. As a result we started talking about staffing, crime and budget issues. We wisely stayed away from contract negotiations and possible wage concessions, two areas that our two bargaining groups rarely can agree on.

I started to move the discussion into the area of my "favorite" assistant county administrator. When I mentioned his name, I saw the deputies hand move to his duty belt and fiddle with some type of electronic device. When he removed his hand from the belt, the device was blinking green.

My curiousity was aroused and I had to ask him what that device was. He told me that the device was a wireless microphone and transmitter that recorded audio for the dash mounted video camera He said that the device continually records audio and broadcasts it to the patrol car.  It is required to be on any time he is making contact with a customer on an assigned incident.

Now, I am thinking he turned it on while we were talking, thus the flashing green LED. He reassured me that it was on unitl he turned it off  and that the flashing green led signifies that the device is not recording. He also pointed to another pouch on his belt, this one located next to the wireless mic. This one, he says, is a digital voice recorder and it is used to record audio when he is farther away that the 1000 ft range of the wireless mic or when he is inside a large building.

This deputy educates me as to the protocols in communicating and working when every word can be monitored. Here are a few highlights:

1. If you are talking with a deputy and he points to his belt,  it is not an obscene gesture.  He is merely pointing to the audio recording device and letting you know that you are being recorded. When he turns it off, the green LED flash and it is safe to say dirty words and tell slightly ribald jokes.

2. If a deputy has a complaint against him and his recording device(s) are not turned on, he faces discipline unless there was an exigent circumstance as to why it wasn't on.

3. If you don't want to be video recorded, don't stand in front of the cruiser.

4. Firefighters and medics should not make spontaneous statements of a questionable nature in the vicinity of a deputy when working a scene. Statements like "What is that asshole assistant county administrator doing here?" and  "Lookit the head on that one"  cpuld be misconstrued . Plus, you never can be sure where those statements might end up.

5. Although the recordings usually absolve our deputies of any wrong doing, the deputies don't like them as they feel they are intrusive and at times inhibit their ability to do their job. It was explained to me like this:
"Every once in a while, you come across somebody who just doesn't understand English unless you throw in a motherfu^&%@ or an asshole or two at them. Sometime these people get their feelings hurt and file a complaint.  Of course the recording will pick that up and then bing, pow, kablowie, a day off will be in order."

6. Deputies have been spanked, some hard, as a result of "hurting someones feelings" verbally.

The deputy told us that a belt mounted digital video recorder is on the horizon. They can't wait.He also educated me on the various documentation required for traffic stops and interaction with "customers". Frankly, I was surprised at the level of monitoring the deputies have and at the amount of BS they have to put up with while doing teir job. 

It is a wonder that anyone wants to be a cop. A tip of the helmet to you my khaki-clad brothers.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pic from the past

I was cleaning out a drawer at work the other day and came across this photo.

It was taken on Sept. 12, 2001. This is the result of a truck company,an engine company and some administrative staff spending several hours at a busy intersection collecting money for the victims of the terrorist attacks in NY. Later that night, I had over twenty five grand cash in my locker.

The outpouring of generosity and of emotional support from the public was something I will never forget. All of the stations in the Kinda Big F.P.D. had similar results, from the stations in the high-rent districts to the ones in da hood. It was amazing to see.

Some of our guys flew to New York and presented a check to the guys at FDNY. They were extremely grateful and took care of our guys when they were there. We had a LODD death in our agency since then, FDNY sent representatives to the funeral. I was touched.

The scene above was repeated in fire stations throughout the country in the weeks following the attacks. I am sure many of you reading this have similar photographs or have memories of similar scenes. As crappy as that whole thing was, I view this outpouring of support as the silver lining to that cloud.

Thanks for reading


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Definitive Moments

Beep beep beep. "Schmoe to the captain’s office. Schmoe to the captain’s office". Beep. I instinctively knew that this page was not a good thing for me. Call it a conscience, an intuition, whatever – I knew it wasn’t good. I knew that they knew, now I had to see just how bad it was going to be. I got a glance from one of the other firefighters as I left the room. He was worried too. You see, he was a witness.

I had placed him in an awkward position by allowing him to see my offense. Now at some point, he was going to have to decide whether to cover for me, or whether he was just going to tell them what he saw and heard.

I walked down the stairs to the captain’s office. As I neared the open office door, I could hear Captain Omnipresence on the phone, speaking in a somewhat muffled voice. For once, I decided to play this by the book. I knocked three times on the doorjamb, walked five paces away and awaited my fate. It didn’t take long.
“Enter” Omni commanded from his desk a minute later. I entered the captain’s office and stood before Captain Omnipresence. Omni didn’t offer me a seat and I didn’t take one. I just stood there.

Omni and I had known each other for a long time. I had come on the job a year or so after him and we had been stationed together a few times. We had served together on the association board during an especially dark time. I didn’t always agree with him, sometimes to the point of anger, but we knew each other well enough to realize where the lines were and I took steps to avoid crossing them. He didn’t deserve the scrutiny he was getting from this either.

“Schmoe, I have a project for you” Omni said.
I actually felt a slight sense of relief. Maybe this wasn’t about what I thought it was.

“Schmoe, I need you to do some investigating and find out who did this awful thing against the district. The Chief knows about it and he is pissed. He has given me direction to find out who is responsible and then take the appropriate action.”

It was about what I thought it was. I was momentarily confused however, as the event had occurred only an hour or so before my summons. I inwardly marveled how fast bad news travels.

My confusion rapidly gave way to the realization that I was at a pivotal, definitive moment in my career. I could either be deceptive and not come up with the culprit or I could just fess up.

I might get lucky I reasoned. I could say that no one was talking and that I had no idea who could do such a thing. If I took this course of action, I was placing my future in the hands of FF Witness. I would be depending on him to be deceptive and not to say anything.

If I fessed up, it would mean that I would definitely face some form of disciplinary action and that I would have to hear about my poor judgment from my friends for a long time to come.

After a second or two of deliberation, I wisely chose the latter.

“That’s easy,” I told Capt. Omnipresence, “I committed this heinous act.” The look on his face told me that he was pretty sure I had been behind this event and that he was not happy that his suspicions were correct. You see, the nature of the crime fit my personality profile to a tee.

I am not in a position to tell you what I did, let me just say it involved opening my mouth in a very public way. Not only was it public, but it was not an appropriate forum for me to express my opinion. The method of delivery could have been better as well. What I didn’t know, was that when I committed this extreme lapse of judgment, three chief officers were in the building and heard the commotion. That explained why the hammer fell so quickly.

As it turned out, my spanking didn’t hurt that bad. I deservedly took my lumps and moved on. My boss took a few lumps as well, although he fared much better than I.

A good friend of mine is going through a similar issue, though his situation is more akin to FF Witness’ potential quandary. He works for a much larger agency than I, in a larger county. My friend was presented with a similar definitive moment where he was forced to make a decision as to whether he was going to be 100% truthful about an event, or whether he was going to omit some facts that could have an extremely negative impact on another person.

He chose to omit a few facts and be deceptive. He did this not to protect himself, but to protect the other person, who works for another agency and to whom he has no obligation of loyalty. This turned out to be the wrong decision, as the deception was discovered.

I am certain he came clean once the issue surfaced, but by then it was too late, the damage done. My friend is facing severe disciplinary action. I wish him well with this, but there is absolutely nothing that I can do to help him, other than hope for an outcome that is not too severe.

The parallel between my friend’s current situation and mine of a long time ago is not lost upon me. It serves to reinforce my decision as the correct one. Had I not made the choice that I did, I would probably be writing a blog about selling stereos or about managing a restaurant. Nothing wrong with either of those careers, I just think that I’m better suited doing what I do.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


We busted our ass to gets lawns and weeklies done before the rain arrived. The grey morning overcast gave way to even darker clouds and finally to rain just as we were heating up the griddle to make grilled cheese for lunch.

We had an overtime medic on that Sunday, one from our district, but from another station. The medic had just celebrated his birthday and mentioned that he had a "Band of Brothers" boxed set in his locker, one that he had recieved as a gift.

After a quick assessment of our chore schedule and our training needs for the month I decided that a company school on leadership was in order. A few minutes later, we were dining on tomato bisque and grilled cheese sandwiches while seated in the astronaut chairs, watching Easy company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment beginning their greulling journey from basic training to Germany.

12 hours later, despite being interrupted by a few quick calls, the doorbell and dinner, we had viewed all but the last two episodes of this amazing mini-series.

I am sure that many of you have seen this show, which was produced by HBO. If you have not, I strongly urge you to do so. It is the amazing true tale of  everyday americans who stepped up to the plate and literally saved the world.from fascisim.

To us, these men are genuine heroes. To their friends and family they are Grandpa Winters, Uncle Shifty, Buck and Dad. We owe them a lot. We owe them everything.


We also owe the firefighter on E234 C who, as an Army Reservist, has just completed his second tour overseas. Thanks, Joe, thanks to you and you family for the sacrifices that you have made. I was proud to see the blue star on the side window of the engine while you were gone. I was relieved to see it removed when you returned to us and your family, safe and sound.


Thanks to you Grandpa Warnock, for lying about your age during the Great War and joining the U.S. Army at age 15. For spending your 16th birthday in France, picking up wounded soldiers from the field hospitals and taking them to the base hospital.


Thanks to you Cousin Jack. Despite being a pacifist and conscientious objector, you still felt the obligation to your country and served in the U.S. Army as a medic, spending 365 days of your life in Viet Nam.


Thanks to you Mr. Hossler, for serving as a career Air Force loadmaster. Thanks for all that you did during Viet Nam and the cold war. For volunteering for missions that you did not have to perform, for bringing the fallen home, we are indebted.


Thanks to you Jim, Uncle Jim, Ron, Zeke, Chief, Bubba, Teej, Bates, JJ, Joe, George, Fuzzy and a score of other veterans that I know. Well done, we owe you a lot.