Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Ice Man Cometh

To: All personel
Fr:  FFPM Kevin Dufus

Subject:: Missing Shirt

While working at Sta. #221 on Wednesday, I may have left my shirt in the day room. I cannot find it. If anyone has knowledge of it's location please let me know. Thank You.

Reply: Did you check the freezer?

Reply: I thought I saw it up the flagpole when I went off duty on Fri. Hope this helps.

Reply: There was some homeless guy standing on the corner of Haines and Sullenburger, I thought he was wearing one of our shirts. Maybe it was yours.

I ran into Dufus the other day at the Fill the Boot Meeting. I asked him if he found his shirt. He shook his head no and said that it was probably gone for good. I asked him if he got my smart - assed reply (the freezer one) and he said that mine was one of many smart - ass replies that he had received, including those above. He must have been pretty desperate to publish that memo, usually you try to keep stuff like this on the down-low.

The time honored tradition of freezing someones uniform shirt is alive and well in our agency. It is only done when someone makes a habit of leaving their shirt laying around the station after they go off duty. To do it properly is an art form; when improperly done it reeks of hackiness.

The shirt must be properly folded, with the vertical fold just outside the outboard edge of the badge and just outboard of the name tag. This allows both to be visible within the ice block while still in the cake pan. The transverse fold needs to be done so that the shirts fits into the cake pan with minimal space between the shirt and the sides. The collar must be properly formed so that the collar brass is properly displayed.

The cake pan must be large enough that the properly folded shirt will fit inside without the shirt touching the sides and deep enough that the shirt will be completely covered in water when the pan is filled. 

If you are going to freeze someones shirt, make sure sufficient time is available for the ice block to completely form before it is discovered. Pens are never removed from the pocket, even expensive ones. Some make it, some don't.

Pockets should be checked for cell phones and calculators, those come out - money stays in.

Most people learn after getting their shirt frozen to keep track of it. It rarely happens twice to the same person. 

The practice of hanging someones clothing or gear up on the flagpole is not as popular as it once was. A citizens complaint kind of put the damper on that.

I must also add that Captains rarely get their shirts frozen. First off, they know better than to leave stuff laying around. Second, old guys are very mean and treacherous. The payback will likely be too severe.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 29, 2009


Just a few notes updating some of the things I have written about in the past few months. Updates are in random order, with no relevance as to importance or occurance.

* Some of you may remember #2 son's four wheeler crash back on July 4th. Independence Day  We now refer to this event as the Disasta in Nebraska. He broke his tibia and spent the rest of the summer in a cast. He got the cast off last month, then went in for an MRI on his knee, as it was "not feeling right". The results are in and he has a torn posterior cruciate ligament. He gets a dead guy's ligament put in next month. Needless to say, he is less than thrilled. Looks like crutches for six more weeks.

This was taken on the way home from the Disasta in Nebraska. Heal fast liile buddy.

* Fill the boot update - Had a little lunch meeting today with the MDA, a local business association and representatives from our association. It turns out we raised over twenty thousand dollars. Not bad for two days of "fill the boot".

The meeting was held at a local pub that one of our members has an association with. The MDA people were good, they just had lunch. Some of the business people enjoyed a brew or two. I left after three hours and left several of my brothers there. They may still be there.

* Update on "The Fall" - Tough as that old guy is, he is fighting the "Big Casino" and sadly, is not winning. The Saint I am Married To called me at work last weekend and said I had better come home. My father in law is mostly unconscious, isn't eating or drinking and is not lucid when he is awake. Hospice is doing their thing everything is a mess. Me and the boys are "Home Alone" as my wife is staying at her dads.

Do to the upheaval in my life right now, my posts are not going to be the in depth, thought provoking material that you are worthy of. Bear with me.

As always, thanks for reading.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fill The Boot

Have you ever been stopped at a red light and noticed a bunch of firefighters standing at the intersection with an empty boot in one hand? Quite often its the local firefighters raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This is the same charity that the Jerry Lewis telethon raises money for. Throughout the year, Firefighters Association have a "Fill the Boot" drive to raise funds for the MDA. Firefighters have raised 275 million dollars since 1954 for this worthy cause.

The K.B.F.P.D. had our "Fill the Boot" drive a few weeks ago. We are lucky at the K.B.F.P.D. in that our administration supports our efforts and allows some of to do this on duty, as long as we stay in an "available" status. Schmoe happened to be on duty during our drive, so we took the rig down to a local stoplight and went to work. As I have a tendency to terrify small children, I thought my efforts might be better spent documenting our actions.

Some guys really don't like standing on the corner asking for money, even if it is for a good cause. I don't mind, I kind of view it as training. Some day, the Saint That I Am Married To might wise up and throw me out. Then, being homeless, I will be forced to stand on the corner and ask for money. Practice like you play, that what I always say.

One of my knucklehead buddies saw me lurking with my camera. He thought he was being funny by pretending to lift his leg and pee on the hydrant. Little did he know that his image would be presented to millions of Report-On-Conditions readers.

I haven't heard the district wide total, but I am sure it was a significant amount. We didn't get to spend as much time on this as I would have liked, we ended up running a few calls in the time we were supposed to be there. Fortunately, there were quite a few off-duty guys there, so the fund raising continued.

I thought I would throw in a pic that Fredo snapped today while we were on a trailer fire. We got it knocked down pretty quick, but there was extensive overhaul as the trailer was full of wood chips and other hogged material.

We ended up using almost two tanks of water and had to call out public works to clean up the mess. You can see the back of my helmet in the lower right corner of the picture. My crew doesn't let me touch the nozzle any more. Something about Captains aren't supposed to have any fun.

I felt kind of bad for the trailer owner, he runs a small business doing vacant house clean-ups. It's going to cost him a few bucks to get his trailer roadworthy again, plus a few days of missed work. He was smart enough to unhitch his truck before the fire got going really good. Otherwise he would be out a truck as well.

Its been a long shift and I am done.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 26, 2009

Engine 57

Today marks the third anniversary of the Esperanza Burnover Tragedy.

On October 26 2006, Engine 57 from the San Bernardino National Forest (BDF E57), was burned over while performing structure protection in the early stages of the Esperanza fire. The entire crew of five perished in the burnover. The western firefighting community was stunned at the loss.

Site of the Esperanza Burnover

The Esperanza fire was first reported at 0111 hrs. on Oct 26 at the southern edge of Cabazon California, an unincorporated community located eighty miles east of Los Angeles. The first engine arrived on scene about six minutes later and estimated the fire to be two acres in size. Two hours later the fire was estimated to be over five hundred acres and was displaying extreme fire behavior. The extreme growth was a result of several years of drought, high winds, low humidity and topographical features.

BDF E57, along with several other BDF engines, arrived in the fire area at about 0500 and were assigned structure protection in a sparsely populated, mountainous area. E57 selected a structure to protect and was last heard from at about 0645 via radio.

The first victims from the burnover are found just before 0800 by the captains from two other BDF engines which were spotted nearby.

Lost in the tragedy were Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, Jess McClean, Jason McKay, Pablo Cerda and Daniel Hoover - Najera.

In a previous post, I lamented that I was unable to find a monument honoring the crew of BDF E57. Some Forest Service firefighters steered me toward the Alandale Guard Station where, I was told, a monument was in fact erected. I stopped by there on a recent trip and found the monument.

The monument is on a slight rise overlooking the Alandale Guard Station, the facility where E57 was stationed. It is a serene and beautiful spot, a simple yet worthy memorial to the E57 Crew. The current E57 is visible in the background of this photograph. For me, a visual reminder that despite this loss, the business of protecting the forest must continue.

Five Schmoes who died protecting the forest and it's inhabitants from the ravages of a deliberately set wild fire. Rest in peace my green clad brothers.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, October 24, 2009

As Promised

As promised on my blackberry post earlier today here are a couple of pictures I shot while visiting my folks down south. I must say, a long lens means you don't have to get as close. Megapixels don't hurt either.

Although I am not sure which one is which, one of these is likely the same helicopter which made my life a lot easier during a fire that we had quite some time back. That story is told here: Why I like Helicopters These pilots do a great job and save everybody a lot of work.

Not fire related but: What the heck happened to Nebraska today ? Looking at the DVR, they just gave that game away. Between the lackluster season the Cubs had this year, The Angel's struggle against the Yankees and the Husker's below standard performance, I am about to give up sports for ballet or golf. Well, at least there is still time for the Packers.

Thanks for reading,


Schmoe gets it - sort of

This post will be short. I am using my blackberry to post this from an urgent care waiting room. A rather nasty upper respiratory infection forced me to call in sick for two shifts. I wasn't deathly ill by any means, but I was coughing uncontrollably and felt awful. I am pretty sure it was not the flu, as the onset of symptoms was slow and started with a sore throat, went to my head and ended up in my chest. I feel a lot better today and will likely go back to work tomorrow. So if I am feeling better, what am I doing standing in a room full of people who sound like I did a few days ago?

My agency has a policy that states an employee who takes more than a shift and a half off in a cycle must get a release from a doctor before returning to work.

I get it. I do. This policy was designed to discourage people from taking vacations using sick time. It likely is needed, as in every organization, we have people who will always work the system to their benefit.

But as I look at this room full of sick people, most of whom are grumpy and contagious, I think it is a total waste of the clinic's time, my health and my twenty bucks. I probably should have gone to work and infected everybody else.

I am going to post this and, to keep my pilot and fire service readers happy, I will add an interesting pic I shot a few weeks ago when I was down visiting my folks.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Race

A shooting? In our first in? The planets must have fallen out of alignment  we joked as we rolled down the road. Although violence is not unheard of in our district, the higher rents of newer housing require that most of our customers have jobs - thus the factors that usually contribute to violence are not as prevalent around "The Healing Place" as they are around many of the other stations in the K.B.F.P.D.

"Whattaya bet it was a BB gun or a paintball gun?" I ask over the headset,  half joking. We pull into the parking lot of a large department store. The sight of a Hispanic male leaning against the bed of his pick up truck, pale and profuse throws my theory out the window. I can tell from my seat that the patient is seriously injured and is in shock. My engineer, who also happens to be a medic, doesn't get as good as a look at him as I do, but can still tell that patient is in bad shape. As a result, he spots the engine in the aisle, leaving just enough room behind the engine for the ambulance.

A deputy is on scene, as is an officer from a neighboring city. The deputy motions for us to approach the patient, the rapid, deliberate manner of his action conveying the urgency of the situation.  

As we approach the patient, I notice a couple of shell casings on the ground, fairly close to him. They look large, at least forty cal. I try not to step on or kick them, as this is likely to be a homicide investigation.

We are surprised that our pt. is still standing. We can see at least two splotches of blood on his shirt, one on his right upper torso, toward his back and one on the right side of his abdomen. He is starting to have trouble breathing, but is able to tell us what happened and is aware of what is going on.

It is now a race against time as I look up and see the deputy getting the crime scene tape and camera out of the trunk of his cruiser. The ambulance arrives as we quickly strip our patient, give him some Ohs, take vitals and complete our assessment. Both crews work together to establish I.V. access, place the pt. on a backboard and load him for transport.

So far, our actions appear to have done little to improve the condition of our patient. He is in need of surgery, the term "Golden Hour" was coined for patients like this. All involved know that the sooner our patient gets to the trauma center, the better his chances for survival are.

The ambulance departs for the hospital, my medic accompanies the patient as the chances of performing CPR seem high. The siren's wail pierces the din of late afternoon traffic, the patients race against time continues.

My engineer hurriedly collects our equipment and tosses it into the rear of the cab. Our race with time is in the critical phase now. I assist him and am closing the cab door as the deputy approaches me and tells me that he doesn't want us to move the rig, until he looks to see if it is in any of the photographs that he has taken. A quick veiw of the camera LCD shows Engine 226 in all of it's glory.

It appears that we have lost our race against time. We are doomed to stay here until the homicide detectives arrive and the I.D. techs complete processing the scene. We have to call the District Commander and advise him that we will likely be tied up for a few hours and that we have personnel out of the district, at the hospital.

Fortunately, our medic is able to catch a ride back to the scene from an ambulance company supervisor, the D.C. does not have to go fetch him. Our medic tells us that the pt. spent about five minutes in the E.R, then was whisked up to surgery.  We later heard that our pt made it through surgery OK, and is expected to recover.

Although E226 lost it's race against time, the patient emerged victorious in his. The stakes for us was a late dinner. For him they were much higher. The important race was won.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Christmas in July

The call came in as a reported fire hazard, Christmas lights presenting a hazard. Knd of an unusual call for the middle of summer I thought to myself as we drove the short distance to the RP's location. We parked in front of the RP's house and walked up to the door.

We were met on the porch by a lady in her fifties. "Did you call" I asked her.

"Yes I did" she replied. "I thought that I told 911 not to make contact with me"

Oops. I didn't bother to read the dot matrix print-out that we used to get, you know, before MDC days. My bad.

"I'm sorry, my fault" I told her "How can I help you?"

She pointed across the street toward a large fir tree. In the waning light, I could see a long string of Christmas lights draped over the branches. Inside, I was glad it was getting dark - I kind of wanted to see the lights come on. Kind of like that first Friday night after Thanksgiving, when the early birds turn their lights on for the first time.

"My neighbor still turns on his Christmas lights. I think it's a fire hazard. I'm afraid he's going to burn the tree down and take my house with it."

I pondered her statement for a few seconds, trying to determine if her complaint was legitimate and if so, what could I do about it. I decided that I needed more information.

"How long have they had them up there?" I asked the RP.

"Since around last Christmas" she told us "he turns them on almost every night."

I did the math and figured that they were likely in pretty decent shape. Even if they weren't, I really didn't have inspection authority to enter onto his property, ladder his tree and look at his lights.

"Ma'am, I'll go over and talk to him and maybe take a look at those lights"

"Just make him take them down, they're an eyesore" she replied. "Talk to him about his cars parked in the street too"

Just as the sun burns off an early morning fog, suddenly, the picture began to clear. Perhaps not everything is what it seems.

We walked across the street and met the neighbor who by now, had stepped out into the yard. I noted several skateboards and bikes lying in the dirt front yard.

"How ya doin'?" I ask him. "One of your neighbors is a little concerned about the condition of your Christmas lights"

He turned on the lights and we both looked up into the tree. The wire I could see still retained the green color, the bulbs though faded somewhat, didn't seem to have much paint chipped off them.

"How old are these lights?" I ask.

"I bought 'em before last Christmas. They're still in pretty good shape" He replied. "I can't believe she called you guys" he muttered "She always complains about everything. My boat, my kids, my cars, my lawn she always calls me to complain."

Then he adds "she bitched me off after Christmas about not taking my lights down quick enough so I decided not to take them down at all. I know it pisses her off, I just didn't think that she would call you guys".

I was being used. Like a dirty bomb in a crowded market, I was being used to spread toxicity around the neighborhood.

A part of me understood her issue, this house was kind of an eyesore. I just didn't feel that my services were the right instrument for affecting a change.

I cautioned him to keep an eye on the lights, unplug them when he went to bed and when he left. Then I complimented him on how beautiful they were and left his house to walk over to the RP's.

I spoke with RP and told her that the lights were being used as they were designed to be used and that they appeared to be in good shape. I also had to tell her that it was not against the municipal code to operate Christmas lights in July.

She didn't seem like she was that unhappy with my actions, although I am sure she was still frustrated with her neighbor. I had the engineer slow down as we pulled away, I wanted a last look at the fir tree, shining brightly in the summer evening sky.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, October 19, 2009

The Fall

I have been on hundreds of "assist a fall victim" over the years. Most often, you arrive, find your customer, assess the situation and help them to their chair or bed. I always double check to make sure that there is no injury and that that there is someone there to care for the customer.

Sometimes, your customer is in major denial and needs to be transported. Every once in a while, (how do I want to say this) you take them after much convincing or determining that they have an altered level of consciousness. I mean if they were not altered, they wouldn't want to stay in that filth encrusted bed, right?

Last night after returning home from our trip, we received a call from my brother in law. He was at my father in law's house after being called there by the Saint's father. Apparently, my father in law had fallen about five PM and was unable to get himself up. He tried for an hour or so, then spent the next couple of hours crawling into the front room where he could get to a phone and call my brother in law.

My brother in law drove over and helped him get to a chair, where he could sit on the floor and lean against it. I was called to help lift him into the chair.

I get over there and find the Saint's dad alert and oriented, complaining if minor pain to his foot, elbow and hand. He is missing some skin from those areas, his "old guy skin" unable to take the trauma of crawling very well. He denies neck or back pain, LOC or even hitting his head. He insists that he is OK, I feel pretty comfortable with his story of leaning over to get some ice out of his bottom freezer and losing his balance. He also says that he has some minor pain to his ribs as a result of the fall. The pain does not increase upon inhalation, no crepitice is observed nor does a healthy cough seem to produce more pain.

The Saint's brother and I lift him easily into his chair. The brother in law starts to clean his wounds, I get some bandages ready.

The Saint's dad is a pretty tough old bastard. He was pretty ornerous as a youngster, even as a middle aged man. He can still piss the Saint off pretty good, that trait has kept some of the heat off of me. He grew up on a farm in Iowa and joined the Marines to get off of the farm. He got out of the service and went to work as a heavy equipment operator until retiring 15 or so years ago. He worked hard and partied hard, the latter causing some problems for a while.

Three or four years ago, they found a spot on his lung and opened him up. Due to the location and size of the tumor, the could not remove it or the lung. They sewed him up and told him that they could buy some time with chemo and radiation.

The years since his diagnosis have been pretty good for him, all things considered. His ornerousity has served him well in this regard. He still lives alone and is supported by his family and hospice. He does not want to move and does not want to hire someone to help care for him. This event may change his mind.

I could tell as we assisted him to his room, helped undress him and help into bed, that he was shaken by this. Hopefully, he will now listen to us and get one of those "help me" pendants that you see on TV. I could also tell that his ribs were hurting him more than he was letting on.

We determined that he was unable to stay by himself last night. That was a no-brainer. I hung out while my brother in law went back to his place to get a few things. I chatted with him while his son was gone, he lamented how he never thought he would end up in such a state.

I think that he will recover from this latest episode, although not without some modifications to his lifestyle. Time will tell on that. Regardless, one of these times is likely to be catastrophic event for him and for us. I hope we are all up to the task.

Thanks for reading,


Get away

The Saint That I Am Married To started a new job in October of last year. She works in the criminal justice system (on the good guy side) and has been on probation for the past year. As a result, she has not been able to take any vacation time or any extra days off during for the last year. Her job also requires her to handle things occasionally on her off days, taking and making phone calls etc. She missed the Nebraska Disasta, our Sierra pilgrimage and a few other things.

As her year is almost up and it looks like her employer is happy with her performance, we decided to saw the ankle bracelet off and get away for a few days. I must say, it was overdue.

It is not without some anxiety however. Two teen-aged kids(17 and 18) and three dependent wiener dogs left unsupervised at home might be considered a high risk situation. Sometimes you just gotta live on the edge.

We decided to head south and start by driving through the San Jacinto Mountains.

A tranquil morning at Lake Fulmor

A view of the mountains, with a little fall color mixed in. Not many deciduous trees up here!

If you stay on the highway long enough, you will start to descend into the Palm Desert / Palm springs area of  southern California. The highway is called the Palms to Pines highway and is worth the drive if you get the chance. The next few photos were taken in the transition between pines and palms.

 I don't remember what these are called, but they are really tough on wiener dogs. We spent the better part of two hours picking spines out of Molly's lip one night several years ago. Between the spines and the teeth, no one had a good time with that one.

Cauhilla Canyon

Schmoe - a self portrait

The Saint I Am Married To, walking like an Egyptian.

Thanks Joker, you shithead, for driving all of the way up here and sharing your thug culture with us. Is there a hispanic gang that doesn't have a member named Joker? Or is Joker just omnipresent? 

A vista of the Palms to Pines Highway winding down to Palm desert. A great drive to be sure.

I'm not gloating, really I'm not. This was taken on our hotel room balcony with my phone at 07:30 on Sunday. Seventy something degrees. After seeing the Angels on TV freezing in New York and hearing about the chilly temps in Philadelphia, I couldn't resist. Sorry about the feet, I was too lazy to move them.

A great weekend away,  a long drive home and back to reality. We are going to try this again the spring, maybe to San Diego or San Fransisco. I hope your weekend was as good as mine. Except for you Joker, I hope got caned.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Disposable Society

A mid-afternoon call into an area two stations away. A T/C, auto versus pedestrian, in front of a school. As the call was a good distance away, dispatch requested and received an engine from a neighboring department. While en-route, we fired up the UHF radio and listened to the mutual aid engine arrive on scene and give a report on conditions to their dispatch.

"Dispatch, engine 4 on scene, we have one patient on the ground being tended to by locals. Appears to be moderate injuries."

That was somewhat of a relief to us. The mutual aid engine was an ALS engine, they should have had things well in hand by the time we arrived. I was sure that we would assist them in loading for transport and that would be it.

Imagine my surprise four minutes later as I saw the mutual aid crew performing CPR on a teenager, as a large crowd of high school students watched.

We dismounted and assisted CFD Engine 4 with establishing a line, CPR and spinal precautions. After a long wait, the ambulance arrived and we loaded the patient. Two of our people went with the patient to the hospital to assist with CPR.

I released the mutual aid engine but didn't ask what happened between "moderate injuries" and full arrest.. My engineer and I made the 30 minute drive to the trauma center to pick up our people. My engineer and I discussed the call and wondered what had transpired, both with the accident and the early part of the call.

The next morning, we read in the paper that our patient was a resident at a local group home for abused and troubled kids, ones who for a number of reasons, can no longer live in their home environment. According to the local rags, our patient ran out into the street in front of the car; the driver having no time to swerve or stop.

Later that afternoon, I drove by the accident site after picking my kids up from a nearby school. A small cross marked the spot, some pictures and stuffed animals placed there to honor our patient. Although the shrine was not as large or as elaborate as many that I have seen, I felt relieved knowing that someone cared enough to make the effort. I know how difficult it is for kids who are "in the system" or wards of the state to make friends and be accepted.

I wonder if our patient was missed by family members when the tragedy became known. The group home where our patient lived is operated by a company with numerous small facilities in several counties. Did any of the staff mourn the loss or was the event viewed as another vacancy to fill.

It is somewhat hypocritical of me to ask these questions. Although I want to know the answers, I don't want to make the emotional investment to be part of a solution for kids with these kinds of issues. To me, it seems as these kids are a by-product of a situation where the people who should have put the kid's needs above their own didn't. In short, they are disposable.

Thanks for reading,

Then and Now

While unloading my truck at work yesterday morning, I was thinking about how I used to be able to bungee cord my Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to my Honda CB700SC motorcycle and pull a day half at another station.

I didn't have the room for my bedding, spare uniforms or shaving kit, so I if got lucky and caught a full shift, I would ask the saint that I am married to to bring that stuff by the station after she got off of work.

I didn't even own a gear bag until 1990 or so. I didn't need one. I now have two. Lets take a look and see how much stuff I have picked up over the years.

This was the extent of PPE I carried in the eighties. Note how well my brush coat and pants roll up and fit into my boots and how the helmet strap goes around the coat. No mask or fire shelter, those were shared. My coat also held a 2-cell flashlight and one pair of fire-craft gloves. Carrying your PPE like this made it easier to keep track of when riding on the tailboard, it was less likely to fall off.

The two bags of PPE I carry now. The green one is for my wild-land PPE, the red for everything else. There wouldn't be room on the tailboard for two firefighters and four bags.

The contents of my PPE bags. All of this stuff was issued to me by my agency. Additions include a brush helmet, brush boots, brush gloves, web gear, fire shelter and helmet lantern. Oh yes, I almost forgot my special long sleeve t-shirt.

An EMS bag including eye and splash protection, N95 mask and latex gloves has been added as has my own SCBA mask and flash hood. Note the three pairs of gloves, one for structure fires and rescues, one for wildland fires and a pair of work gloves.

My personal favorite is the traffic safety vest. What a waste. I am lucky however, as the Kinda Big FPD usually buys decent quality stuff. I just wish they would a porter to wash it and haul it around for me.

I really don't like it when I pull up on scene and see our patients talking on their phones. When this happens, I can usually count on anywhere from two to ten more people showing up on scene within a few minutes. Besides getting in the way, confusing my patient and offering useless and inaccurate advice, they often get offended when they are asked to keep back out of the way. Sometimes, this entourage beats us on scene.

Every once in a while, someone shows up who performs a useful function such as interpreting or taking custody of a child or pet. This is rare however. There is nothing you can really do about this, except maintain scene control and remember that the whole family is watching and often video taping.

Ahh, the miracles of modern technology.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Strangers in their own land.

The doorbell rang at work the other day. As I was in the office, I answered the door. The visitor happened to be Ricardo, a retired firefighter from my agency. I hadn't seen Ricardo in four or five years. He looked great, retirement apparently is agreeing with him quite well.

Ricardo was in the neighborhood on business and thought he would stop by. He had heard that I worked at this station. Ricardo and I had worked together at the Big House of Pain for quite a few years. One summer, I went on vacation and returned to find that Ricardo had retired, he had enough and was done.

I asked Ricardo into the station and gave him the tour. I introduced him to the rest of the crew, only one of whom was on the job when Ricardo pulled the pin.

Later, we went into the kitchen and had a cup of coffee. Ricardo admitted to me that he was reluctant to drop by, as he was afraid the entire crew would be new enough that he wouldn't know them.

I have seen that happen. One morning at a district HQ, the doorbell rang and a gentleman in his seventies was standing at the door. He introduced himself as retired Captain So and So. I recognized the name, but I came on the job on after he had retired. I asked him in and showed him around. He didn't recognize the building that he spent so much of his career in, as it had been remodeled several times over the years. Our conversation was pleasant enough, but I could tell that he wasn't really there to chat with me. He was looking for something that I wasn't able to give him. Maybe a link to his past, a familiar face, I didn't know.

After fifteen minutes or so, I glanced at my watch and realized that we had an appointment to inspect  an apartment complex. Now, I began to feel anxious as I didn't want to blow off this man  who contributed thirty plus years to my beloved agency. Yet, I had an appointment to keep. One that I had spent a considerable amount of time and effort to arrange. I was really torn and was trying to figure out a graceful solution when, out of the blue, a reprieve was granted to me.

The doorbell rang again. This time, there was another gentleman standing at the door. He turned out to be an engineer from our agency who had retired long before I had come on. I didn't recognize his name, but my first visitor did. Apparently they had worked together at some point during their careers. It was old home week at the big house of pain. They were both extremely happy to see each other and hugged like long lost cousins at a family reunion.

As I watched these two old veterans converse, I saw the look of happiness on their faces. I understood that my first visitor had found what he came here for. I also realized that although we shared the honor of working at the Kinda Big Fire Protection District - the culture, people and experience was entirely different for them than it is for me. The bond they shared was much stronger than wearing the same badge or patch, it was the bond of sharing a life.

My time issue was now acute. I did the only civilized thing I could do. I led them upstairs to the kitchen, made sure the boot had a fresh pot of coffee on the Bunn-o-Matic and told these old dragon slayers to make themselves at home. I explained that we had an appointment to keep and told them to stay as long as they like.

The last I saw them, they were seated at the table talking it up. We did the inspection, ran a call or two, then came back to the barn. They were gone when we returned. I hope they had a nice visit and that they keep in touch.

Ricardo's fear of not being recognized and the old dragon slayers chance reunion remind me that my time with the K.B.F.P.D. is just a small segment of our agency's history. There will be a time when every member of the district will have never met me, likely never heard of me. Hopefully, I will live long enough to see it.

After Ricardo finished his coffee, it was time for him to go. We promised to keep in touch. I hope to have breakfast with him occasionally. I don't want to wait for a chance encounter at the Big House of Pain to see him again.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Two 2007 Triple Combination Pumpers - $760,000

One 2002 Toyota Camry, well involved with a burning puddle of fuel under it $5300

Services of eight trained fire suppression personnel for one hour - $250

Look on Captain Schmoes face when he is told Engine 224's pre-plumbed foam system doesn't work either - Priceless.

Whaddaya gonna do?

For you baseball fans.

When you are watching the game, do you ever wonder who has those seats right behind home plate? You know, the ones whose occupants you see every time the TV camera shows the close-up of the ball hitting the catcher's mitt. Well, one of my co-worker's family has those seats. While watching a play off game yesterday, I see my co-worker watching the game from the absolute front row, two seats from directly behind the plate. His family has had season tickets at this park since the beginning, my co-worker catches several games a year. Even though I've known about this for a while and I like the dude, It still pisses me off!!!!

The Hits Keep Coming

In August, I told you about a local businessman who was suffering through this awful economy. We inspected his business and I wrote about his and many others plight. Schmoe won't play (probably)  Today, we show up to work and find out that a water main had burst yesterday, just outside his roll-up door. The fifty bajillion gallons of water flowed around his building, with several inches of it getting inside and damaging some stock and some equipment. We stopped by today to check on him, he didn't look any less stressed out today than he did in August.

Here is a shot of the broken pipe. The water pressure in this area is really "hot" and this is a looped main. This means that a lot water was coming out of both ends of the break. It uplifted the asphalt a hundred feet away.

This is the last thing this guy needed. I'm glad we stopped by to check on him, I hope that this setback doesn't do him in.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Would Christopher Do?

"Stay back motherf*&^er" the young man said as he glared down at us from his perch on the rock. "Stay back or I'll jump!" We could see the tension on his face and the blood from superficial slash wounds on his wrists. I wasn't too worried about him jumping, he was only twelve feet or so above us. He would be easier to fight with a broken leg. We took a few steps back and pondered our next move.

I looked over at the deputy, who was on the radio in her cruiser. She mouthed to me that another deputy was only a minute or so out, we would wait for him before taking this on. This worked for me. The pt. was clearly out of control. He had used a broken bottle to slash his wrists and was extremely agitated.

A minute later, the deputy arrived on his shiny KZ-1000P motorcycle. His polished motor-officer boots expertly lowered the sidestand as he glided to a stop. His leg swung over the motorcycle and he strode over to the cruizer, nodding to us as he removed his mirrored ray-bans and secured them in a pouch on his duty belt.

The conference between the deputies was over by the time I walked the twenty feet or so from the squad. The motor deputy sighed, removed his duty rig from his waist and handed it to the first deputy, who secured it in the trunk of the cruiser. I figured this was going to be a wrestling match. Understand, this was before tasers, pepper spray and beanbags. Use of force went from fists to baton to gun, with an occasional sap thrown in.

The motor cop moved a little closer to our customer, who was still perched on his rock, his angst still evident on his face.. "Don't come any closer!" he demanded.

"Look, look just relax dude" the motor said "I just want to talk with you".

"I want to kill myself" was the reply.

Our customer and the motor deputy exchanged words for a few minutes, I didn't detect any progress being made. Obviously I was wrong, as the motor sensed an opening.

"What's your name?" the motor deputy asked.

"My name is Jesus" was the reply.

"No, what do your friends call you?"

"They call me Christ"

"Nooooo, no, what does your mom call you?"

"Oh". "She calls me Christopher"

The door of communication was now ajar. The next few minutes of conversation were irrelevant, but the result was. Christopher hopped down off of his rock, walked toward the motor deputy and gave him a hug.

I was surprised the motor let him do it, I am sure that he was prepared to defend himself if he needed to, but I don't think he felt Christopher was a threat at that point. Christpopher voluntarily agreed to be transported and was not a problem for the trip to the Psyc ward at the K.B. County Hospital.

The motor deputy is now a patrol sergeant, getting ready to retire. I don't see him very often, he works in another community. I ran into him while working an overtime a few weeks back. We laughed about this call, we both still remembered it. Maybe I will tell about it at his retirement dinner. Maybe not. Either way, it is worth a few laughs.

Thanks for reading,.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Casper News

One of the great things about my job, is it gives me great opportunities to meet interesting people and see interesting things. This blog has expanded this even further.

Recently, I met John and Kathy Casper down in Southern California.(Kathy, I hope you spell your name with a K, not a C. if not I apologize) They operate Casper News Service, which provides video to television stations in the greater Los Angeles area. They work together, with Kathy driving and John shooting.

The beauty of modern television distribution allows me to receive Los Angeles stations. I see Casper News Service video all of the time, especially during fire season when major fires are pretty common.

I admire Casper News Service for a couple of reasons. First, I think they get the best shots. Second, I think that any couple who can work together (especially under stressful conditions) without killing each other deserve some props.

Casper News Service has edited some of their footage and put it on You Tube. I thought enough of it to share with you.

Several things impress me about this video. First, there is a lot going on. Second, it shows an entire process, not just a portion of an event and third, this is real drama folks, not network TV.

The video starts with crews arriving and starting a hose lay to pick up the fire, which has crossed a road. Note the wind, and the smoke, which is being blown horizontally.

00:42 - The crew stops to add a length of hose. This entails shutting off the water, clamping off the water supply, removing the nozze from the hose, adding a 100' roll of hose, reattaching the nozzle and restoring the water flow. These wildland crews practice this constantly and do it very well. It is hard to do this under pressure, speed is essential. Wind, flames and topography compound the difficulty

00:48 - Someone does a risk vs. gain analysis, realizes that he fire is not catchable and that the risk factors are increasing. The order to pull out is given and communicated up the line. Notice that they leave the hose. Hose is cheap, firefighters are not.

1:01 - Someone - I presume the supervisor, asks "is that everybody?"

1:18 - You can see the water tender crew (that's a tanker for you east coast readers) loading hose onto thier unit. They appear to be in a hurry.

The urgency of the situation is apparent as you watch the various units pulling out.

2:32 - Kathy calmly drives out as the world begins to turn orange. I like how she feels the window with the palm of her hand. I'll bet it was a little warm.

2:40 - John continues to shoot out the back window as they drive down the road.

Great footage on this one. It gives you a sence of how a day at the office can be for both firefighters and news crews.

The title for this pretty much says it all for me. These are some of the points that I related to you an earlier post: "Should I Stay or Should I go?"

This video opens with some great shots of an officer running to size up the situation, of a USFS Chief Officer evacuating a woman who for whatever reason was still at the house and of a retardant drop near the structure.

00:31 - A resident leaves in his motorhome. Time is now an issue, time issues cause people to make poor decisions.

00:41 - As a Redlands F.D.Battalion Chief talks with a resident, several other residents can be seen running around in shorts, at least one of whom is using a garden hose to combat the fire. Again folks, if you're gonna stay, be prepared and dressed appropriately. Shorts and/or flippy-flops are not gonna cut it!!.

1:25 - A SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker) streaks by. Don't blink, youll miss it!!

1:30 - Horses are being evacuated. Large animals present a problem for us, again, be ready and have a plan for getting them out.

3:20 - As this car prepares to leave, note the decreasing visibility. It gets much worse than this at times.

3:58- The best lines of the video. A kid asks "Mom! Where do I go?" Her reply- "I don't know!" 'Nuff said about that..

Another great video from Casper News.

And lastly, this excellent shot of a retardant drop:

I have been dropped on before, this video captures the experience perfectly. The noise of the tanker, the sound absorbing qualities of the retardant as it falls through the air and the sound that it makes as it rains down onto the ground. I could almost feel the coolness of the retardant as it hits your skin

I am sure there was a car washing party at the Caspers that night!

Thanks to the Caspers for letting me post their videos and thanks to you for reading.