Saturday, August 15, 2009

Random Day of Randomness

0730- I have my full crew here today. No one is at school, on vacation or taking time off for the kids soccer game. There is a little tension in the air, fire season is finally starting to take off again.

The sky yesterday, had the orange tint of drift smoke, coming from a fire hundreds of miles away. For those of you who never have experienced it, it casts an odd sort of orange glow onto anything that reflects light. The closer the fire is, the more pronounced it is. Yesterday's glow was rather faint and was likely missed by most. For a few members of my crew, the ones who picked up on it, it adds a little tension into the psychological mix. There is something afoot.

We also learn that two of our type III (wild land) engines have been dispatched to that fire. They loaded up their strike team bags, fart-sacks and tent and hit the road. They will likely be gone for a week or so, depending on weather. You see, we really don't put these things out until Mother Nature says we can.

Eight overtime positions will be filled tomorrow. As it is summer, school's out and vacations are planned. A lot of people are already out of town or are already working. That means that not a lot of people are signed up to work, so it is likely some folks will be held over for a day or two.

We discuss this, and we also note that we are one of two crews who have three members that have volunteered to be sent out on a strike team. This means that we may get called and be sent out of town. Some of us take some time to get our strike team bags in order.

1000 - We are out surveying buildings for a pre-incident planning project that is due in a few days. Basically, we are going out into our district and checking our pre-plans to make sure that they are still accurate, that the buildings haven't changed and that all of the important details are included. We are also checking to make sure that we have pre-plans for all of the large or complex buildings in our district. As we have had a building boom over the past few years, we find a few buildings that need pre-plans.

We are in the parking lot of a commercial establishment. The crew is on the rig, I stepped off for a few minutes to check the location of a sprinkler valve. I am walking past a parked car when I hear a voice ask "excuse me, what is your last name?"

I look up to see a young lady in the passenger seat of the car. I don't recognize her; the last strange woman who spoke to me, I married, 26 years ago. I tell her my name and she gives me hers. I instantly recognize her name as that of the oldest daughter of a friend and co-worker who tragically passed away a million years ago.

This young lady's father and I were born in the same month in the same year. We met in the fire academy at a local junior college. We got hired by the K.B.F.P.D. at the same time, promoted to engineer and to captain in the same year. We got married within two years of each other and our kids are the same age. Somehow, I am still alive and he is not. He was 37 when he died.

I learned of his passing from our union president. One of those 0400 phone calls that can't be anything good. A group of guys met at the station that day. I didn't go down there till later. I didn't want anyone to see me grieve. When I did go, I saw tough guys, way tougher guys than me, sobbing in pure sorrow. It was more than I could take so I didn't stay long.

I learned some things that week. One was that I have no business speaking at wakes or funerals. My words degenerate into unintelligible sobs after a few lines. Another is that we can't take anything for granted.

I had a nice chat with this young lady. She and her younger sister are doing well, as is her mom. She is in college, studying nursing. She wants to be an O.R. nurse, she is interested in anatomy. Her father would have been proud of his daughter. She is a pretty, charming young lady who appears to have figured it out. I was glad to see that things are going well for her. I wanted to talk to her mom, who was in the store, but we needed to get this project done before noon and had to leave.

1315 - We get a call for a traffic collision on the state highway. Us and Engine 244 respond to the reported location. There, we find a thirty-something woman standing next to her damaged Harley. Two vehicles with minor damage to the sides are parked near by. The ambulance pulls in behind us as we get off of the rig. I check the occupants of the cars for injuries and assess the scene as my medics contact the motorcycle rider.

It turns out that our only pt. is the female motorcyclist, who has a nasty laceration to a "personal area" that is usually covered by Levis. ('nuff said) I cancel E244, the ambulance crew immediately assumes patient care. I work on moving the vehicles off the highway. There is a gas station right next to where we are, we get the vehicles moved over there. I think we are done and are out of there.

As I start to climb onto the rig, which is still on the shoulder of the highway, a driver in a car asks if we have any gas. Apparently, he ran out while he waited for us to clear the traffic lane. We push him to the gas station as well. The engine meets us at the gas station, I obtain a little more information from one of the drivers.

The troopers arrive and I brief them of our actions. As this is completed, another motorist approaches us and asks us if we can open her car, she has locked her keys in it while she was pumping gas.

Our district has an unwritten policy about opening cars. If there is no kid locked in the car, or it doesn't present a hazard, we really aren't supposed to open it. I guess we got sued once for damage caused by the procedure so we don't do it any more. I usually will do it after explaining to them that it may cause a little damage to their door. We have better tools for this procedure than we used to, they are less likely to cause damage.

The crew gets the door open without any damage and now I am itching to get back to the barn. Again, I start to climb into the rig and yet another motorist approaches and asks directions to a local cemetery. The gentleman has mapquest directions in his hand, but still can't figure it out. The firefighter basically reads the mapquest directions to the motorist, this makes him happy. Finally we get back on the rig and head home. We joke about "posting up" at this station and acting as ambassadors of the fire service, as there appears to be a demand for such services.

1820 - We are just sitting down to dinner. Tri-tip salad with Hawaiian bread. The company phone rings; the firefighter answers it. Two seconds later, he hands it to me.

It is the District Commander, who tells me that my engineer has been assigned to drive a neighboring engine to a new wildfire that has taken off in another part of the state. The regular engineer is unable to make a 10 day commitment for the response, so mine is pulled in. The mutual aid request is an "immediate need" request which means we are supposed to get on the road as soon as possible. That seems kind of funny as this fire is about an eleven hour drive from our district. Resources are thin in that part of the state, assets have been pulled to several other major wildfires burning in our state. We help him load his gear into his truck, make a "to go" version of his dinner and send him on his way. That engine will need to meet up with four other engines and a leader before starting on their trip. The district reaches another engineer home and "force hires" him to come in and drive for us.

0230 - We get dispatched to a stabbing victim at a local apartment complex. This is odd for us, the apartment complexes in our district are quite upscale. This arose from some sort of domestic dispute, our victim received a stab wound to his abdomen. His vitals were good, skins were normal. The ambulance takes him to the hospital, we return to quarters.

0650 - We hear through the grapevine that the strike team our engineer is with has been driving since 1930 and still is a couple of hours from the incident. Apparently, no one was able to sleep during the trip.

0730 - Shift is over, I am off to a training session for a disaster response team that I am a member of. We are keeping an eye on some tropical disturbances that are brewing in the Atlantic. Hopefully, they will not become major hurricanes and cause harm to anyone.

Nothing shocking, dangerous or even exciting occurred on this shift. Just a series of random events that made up our day.

Thanks for reading,


  1. But still you did a lot of helping people! Have another great day!

  2. Hehe, the one about the woman who locked herself out of her car reminds me of me.

    I locked myself out of my house (in a BAD neighborhood, before the nanny gig) but luckily I was close friends with the guys in the firehouse down the street. The house had bars on the doors and windows.

    To shame me into remembering my keys more, they decided to bring the engine out (even though they were about 3 houses down), park it in the middle of the street, get out in full gear, and somehow broke into my house using an axe without damaging it.

    Local PD drove by and saw what looked like a major rescue attempt going on and called in backup before they were advised of the situation.

    Never forgot my keys again.