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.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Although I have been doing a fair job posting on this blog, I haven't done as well with updating links. My bad, beat me up if you must.

I have added a several new categories to my blogrolls. The first is "When we are done with 'em". These are blogs written by doctors. The second is "Military / Geopolitik" These are blogs written by members of the military or by expatriates working in the security or diplomatic arena. "My Teams" include blogs about my favorite sports teams, mainly the Chicago Cubs and the Green Bay Packers.

I have also added some new blogs, some of which I should have added a long time ago.

My deepest apologies to Gia, Mrs. B, PeeDee and The Observer, all of whose blogs I read and who frequently comment here. My bad folks, you should have been linked long ago.

A couple of newcomers include Ann T. and Miss Brave whose writing I have been enjoying as well. The Big Picture is a blog put out by the Boston Globe and contains amazing images covering all kinds of subjects.

I have added Texas Ghostrider and A Tenderfoot in Tombstone to the "B Band Brothers" blogroll. Both are good and honest reads.  Roanoake Engine 9  is now on the fire service blogroll, it is a look into the day to day life of a municipal engine company, 

There are some more minor changes in store, sorry for my laziness. Again, most of these should have been added a long time ago, but better late than never.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 7, 2009


 The sound of Taps snapped me out of the sorrowful reverie, interrupting recollections of the past 19 days. Beginning with the fall, followed two calls at work summoning me home and now ending with a funeral ceremony at the National Cemetery, the memories of the last few weeks were a blur of imagery and emotion.

The sound of people sniffling was the only sound I heard as I walked down the hall. An hour earlier, I had been at work, finishing up paperwork after an easy Sunday at the healing place. My phone rang as it usually does, the ring tone not indicating the serious nature of the call. I called the District Commander and arranged for coverage, then drove down to my in-laws house.

Then, as I listened to the sniffing of my weeping family, I dreaded going into the room and seeing the suffering of my father in law and the pain of my loved ones

My father in law had taken a turn for the worse. It was as if his fall had flipped a switch, causing him to realize that his fight with cancer was not to be won. He had grown weaker over the past months, his opponent beginning to overtake him. 

As I entered the room, I saw my children and their cousins weeping quietly in the dim light. My niece was holding one of  grandpa's hands, my wife the other - both with tears silently creeping down their faces. My father in law lay semi-conscious in his bed, aware of our presence, but unable to respond to our voices. This scene was just the beginning of a vigil that lasted 7 more days.

The following days were spent making grandpa as comfortable as possible while his condition worsened. Through it all, his tenacity was displayed by a few brief periods of lucidity and even fewer determined attempts to get up and use the bathroom. Toward the end, these periods decreased in occurrence and soon ceased altogether.

The second and final call came last Sunday night. As usual when something bad happens, I was at work. The call  was from my oldest son. His young adult voice told me that grandpa had passed, his struggle was finally over.

The past week was spent planning a funeral and starting the business of death. Finally, the arrangements were made and we were sitting at the National Cemetery, watching two U.S. Marines carefully fold the flag and present it to my brother in law.

The next phase will be the settling of the estate and tying up the many loose ends one leaves behind when they pass away. My in-laws were awesome in this regard, there are fewer loose ends than most people leave behind.

As with any human being, my father in law was not perfect. Yet he was loved and admired by many. He placed a high value on his family, had a great work ethic, was very generous and truly enjoyed people. We will miss him, even as we try to return our lives back to normal.

There are a few silver linings in this cloud. First of all, my father in law is no longer suffering. Second, the actions of my wife over the past weeks have reminded me why I chose to marry her so many years before. Her actions were selfless and truly displayed the nature of her loving character. I am blessed.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Know

I know that you work every second of available overtime, including every major holiday, every special detail and every weekend.

I know that you went on three strike team deployments last year, one of which was  over 24 days long.

I know that your wife is an RN and pulls in 65 grand a year.

I know that you and the RN made a ton of cash flipping houses over the last ten years.

I know that you inherited a couple of rentals and that you kept a couple of houses rather than flipping them. 

I know that your old man was loaded and left you a lake house with that bad-ass ski boat.

I know that the 38 foot diesel pusher motor home and the sand toys help you "get away from it all" over at Pismo beach.

Sal, I know you are one of the hardest working guys around and that you've earned almost everything that you have. But Sal, can you do us a favor? Can you pull that State Firefighter's Association sticker off of the diesel pusher?  And maybe off of the lifted white Hummer with the 22" wheels, you know, the one you use to pull that bad-ass boat around with?

While you're at it, pull off the IAFF stickers too. It's not that I really care whether you have those stickers on your stuff or not, it's just that I'm tired of my neighbor busting my balls over "the rich firemen with the big boats and motor homes".

Ditch the special firefighter license plate on the RN's Escalade too and the "Thank God for Four Days" lettering on the sand toy hauler. It appears that you are gloating.

You see Sal, the unemployment rate is pushing 11% around here. Hell, my wife is down to four days a week. Although I know most of your cash comes from somewhere other than your regular salary, the unemployed aerospace worker stopped behind you at the red light does not. All he sees is the sticker and the license plate. I am getting a little tired of him showing up at the District board meeting bitching about my salary and my pension. I am not real fond of the letters to the editor either.

I love you brother. You have a right to everything that you have. Your toys are a testament to your work ethic and your credit rating. More power to you.

Just pull the stickers.

I don't want people thinking that the Romanos and the Schmoes are in the same tax bracket.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Speed kills

Yet another 0200 call out, yet another drive across three communities to yet another burned out structure. Investigations was beginning to grind me down, I was tired of being tired.

I met with the Incident Commander, who showed me what they had done, what they had found and what they thought they needed to do. He pointed to the three units which were well involved when they arrived and to where they had forced entry. Then, he pointed to where they forced entry again and to where they finally stopped the fire.

I don't know how many of you have been to a fire at a mini-storage facility, but they present several operational challenges which can take a lot of personnel and time to overcome. Access, fire loading and construction features are three of the biggies. The boyos from Battalion Three did a decent job with this one, though it took two alarms to get it done.

My job was to determine what caused the fire and, if a crime was involved, who was responsible for it.

Lighting from the heavy rescue and one of the truck companies revealed two driveways littered with the remains of peoples belongings. Smoke still drifted out of several units, the crews were waiting for my permission before completing the overhaul.The crews did not seem very happy, my presence meant that they would be working in the cold early morning hours even longer.

I started by walking the complex outside the fire area, looking for anything out of place. The area was photographed as were the interiors of units which were entered but not burned. I worked my way toward the initial three units, documenting what I found with photos, notes and crude sketches.

I told the crews which units they could overhaul as each unit was eliminated as the unit of origin.. Finally, I got the area of origin narrowed down to three units, then two and finally one.

I entered the unit of origin and begin to narrow it down to where in the unit the fire started and what event caused the fire. The damage to this unit was extensive, burn patterns told me that the fire had burned for a long time and had flashed over at some time in the fire sequence.

I had been in the unit of origin for quite a while and was standing in the far left corner of the unit. I was looking at some unusual burn patterns when I noticed an unusual mass of burned material propped up in the corner. The shape of it and several other features kind of reminded me of a department store mannequin.

This mannequin had no hands and the face was featureless, not unlike the ones seen in the men's department at Sears. It was severely burned, the charring causing it to blend in with the blackened wall of the storage unit.

As I wondered what a mannequin was doing in this storage unit, I subconsciously picked up the distinctive  shape of an exposed human adams apple and realized that this mannequin was a severely burned human being. I also noticed that I was standing on what should have been it's feet. The thought process described in this paragraph took no more than a fraction of a second. An indescribable eerie, weird feeling overcame me and I bailed out of the unit.. I was in such a hurry to leave, I hit my head on the propped up roll up door as I left. Good thing I was wearing my helmet.

The deputy who was standing outside when this happened still busts my chops about it when he sees me. I can't wait for that prick to retire. We both re-entered the unit and made sure it was a body. Now that I knew what I was looking at , it was easy to pick up the charred human features.

Now, my cause and origin case became a potential homicide scene with all of the personnel and documentation that comes with it. I won't bore you with the details, I will tell you it took us over eight hours to process the scene and dig out the unit.

We learned that our victim was a homeless man who had once owned a business in a neighboring town. He had become addicted to meth and used a pipe to smoke it.

We learned that it was a common practice for homeless people to be locked into storage units at night and then be let out in the morning by friends. They do this because management puts "landlord locks" on all unlocked units each night to prevent homeless people from sleeping in the unlocked units. Homeless people who can afford a small unit and want to sleep in them can't risk being locked in by the management so they have their friends put a lock on the door at night and unlock it in the morning. I guess that you would soon learn which friends you could trust.

We learned that the victim likely accidentally started the fire toward the front of the unit, then moved to the back of the unit when he couldn't get out. We found the remains of a pipe and a torch as well as a lighter near the roll-up door.

I learned that autopsies are an assembly line process and that our victim was alive as he burned.

I also learned that you can never assume someone isn't "in there", no matter where "in there" is.

The though of that poor bastard burning alive in the storage unit still creeps me out, even if he was a meth-head.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Headline No One Wants to See

Lakeland Village: Man finds girlfriend dead after motorhome fire - Man wants to know why firefighters did not see her on bedroom floor.

That is the headline that greeted me after clicking on a link that was posted on a news service feed that I receive. You can read the entire article HERE 

The short version is that firefighters responded to a reported motorhome on fire and made short work of the fire. After the fire was extinguished, they brought the owner of the motorhome into the coach and showed him the area of origin. As the owner's eyes were stinging, he left the coach. Apparently the crew left the scene shortly afterwards after spending about 51 minutes on scene.

About two hours later, the owner found his girlfriends body on the bedroom floor of the 32 ft. trailer (the RV was reported as both a trailer and a motorhome) and called the crew back out for help. She had soot on her face but was not burned according to the published news report.

The owner was reported to be distraught and also outraged that firefighters did not find his girlfriend.

Oops. This isn't good. Although I would like to think this couldn't happen to me, I can see how it might occur.

Perhaps the fire was confined to the front half of the RV, while the victim was in the back. The crew could have quickly extinguished the fire and briefly checked the back half of the RV for extension. Perhaps if they didn't find any signs of extension, they turned their attention back to the front of the coach and overhauling the fire. In the process, the victim was missed. Maybe the victim was between the bed and the wall and was not visible from the doorway.

Just a theory. I wasn't there and I don't know anyone who was.

I am not defending the crews actions (or lack thereof) in this case, but I am not arrogant enough to think that I don't make mistakes once in a while.This incident exemplifies why it is important to do thorough searches on fire scenes, even in places where we don't expect to find victims.

Every so often, you read about a wrecking yard worker who finds a dead body in the trunk of a burned or wrecked car. That is why I always pop the trunk on any vehicle fire where the driver is not on scene. Most of my friends do so as well.

Years ago, I did a stint in the Investigations Bureau. While doing a cause and origin in a mini - storage unit, I found a body after standing on it's feet for about five minutes. In  my defense, the body was burned beyond recognition and was missed by two alarms worth of firefighters, but I will never forget the feeling when I realized what I was standing on. I am just glad I found him rather than the property owner. 

Regardless, this was a traumatic event for the victim, her boyfriend and maybe even the crew involved. As a result, you can be sure that I will be even more vigilant when dealing with RV fires. I don't want you to be reading about me in the paper.

Thanks for reading,