Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Day 1 -
It is lunch time and we are pulling up to our favorite taco stand to order our food. Some kids are playing in their yard right next to where we have parked the unit.

"Hey fireman, ya got any stickers?"
"I don't but Rocky does" I reply.

I tell Rock to hand the three or four kids some sticker badges. I am not as good as I should be about carrying them, but Rocky - the good boot, has a pocket full. He hands some over the fence, the kids grab them and quickly disappear into the house. We laugh, then turn and go into the taco stand to order lunch. A few minutes later and we head back to the barn to consume our purchases.

Day 2 -
"Hey fireman, ya got any stickers?" The same little kid asks. Before I can answer, Rock hands the prized sticker badges over the fence. He is on it.

"Ya got any more?" he asks. Rocky hands a few more over, the kids quickly grab them and start to disappear.

"Whaddaya say?" I ask as the vanishing act begins. We get no reply and they are gone in an instant.

On the ride to the station, the smell of Mexican food is shared with conversation about the kid's manners and their education. Why aren't they in school? I dismiss it to kids being kids.

Day 3 -
"Hey fireman, ya got any stickers?" Again, Rocky hands a few stickers over the fence and again the kid asks for more.

"Not today" I reply. "We are running low" I tell the kids.  Now this is technically a lie, we have a bunch of them. However, we did just get a memo saying that no more Pub-Ed supplies will be ordered this budget year, the account is out of money.

The kid does not appear to be satisfied with my response, so he turns away and retreats into the house along with his little friends.

Day 4 -
"Hey fireman, gimme some stickers" the young voice demands as soon as we pull up next to the fence.

Hey now.

"We don't have any" I reply, "We gave them all out".

"Who did you give them to?" the kid asks.

"Other kids" I answer back. The kids head back into the house.

Day 5 through 10 -
The dialogue is pretty much the same as day 4. Some minor variations, but the same demands are made. Our replies have been pretty much the same as well.

We no longer park in that spot. We park further down the street and cross over down there. This spares us from the demands of the kids. It not that we don't want to give the kids the stickers, it's just that the whole exchange has become a exercise in poor manners and an expectation that their rude behavior will be rewarded with sticker badges. Although I don't think that we have a responsibility to teach manners to the neighborhood kids, I don't feel we should encourage the bad behavior.

I find it kind of odd that the behavior of a few small kids affects where we park our rig. I mean, who is really in control here?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Every Time

Another District function. As usual, the District honor guard and the District pipe band open the ceremony. The District Honor Guard enters the room first. The four flag bearers, pike, axe and commander - all in class A uniform, adorned with the accouterments that the honor guard wear.

They are followed by the District Pipe Band. with twelve  pipes and seven drums. They follow the honor guard, in two rows. Their kilts are made of custom tartan, designed specifically for them.  All have identical sporrans, ones designed for the District, all have the same ghillies. Their dirks and daggers differ, as to personal taste.

The pipes are in front, followed by the snare drums and finally the bass drum. The bass drummer beats the rhythm, his mallet striking the District symbol imprinted on the skin.

All enter the room, the colors are soon posted and the pledge soon said. It is now time for the honor guard to be seated, their mission has been completed. It is now time for the pipe band to perform their show. The pipe band plays several songs, marching within the confines of the venue. Their precision and uniformity amazes the crowd, as does their skill with the pipes and drums.

Although I enjoy the sound of the bagpipes, a little goes a long way. After a few songs, I am ready to move on and get on to the program. As if the band commander senses my wish, they perform their last song. It is Amazing Grace, and as they perform it, pictures of our fallen flash upon the large screen over the stage.

My goddam eyes well up like a sniveling little bitch. It pisses me off, but there is nothing I can do about it. I try to dab the corners of my eyes so no one will notice, I am likely successful, but who knows. A friend of mine was honored at this ceremony, the mournful sound of the pipes and his image on the screen made this time worse than usual.

You see, Amazing Grace gives a wretch like me hope, the pipe band gives me sorrow when I hear them play it. The dichotomy of it all gets to me.

Every Time.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Canyons of Life

We stopped the squad in front of the huge, old wood framed house. No light was visible through the windows or on the porch. At first glance, the overgrown yard and the darkened windows gave the house a vacant appearance, causing me to wonder if we had the wrong address.

A solitary figure stood, waiting for us in the shadows with a cigarette in his hand. He waved us down as we stopped, confirming to us that we were at the right place. We grabbed the resuscitator and the trauma bag then walked up the concrete walkway, pausing to open the rusty gate.

The front door was already open, we hadn't noticed in the dark. As we climbed the two steps onto the porch, a very faint light was visible from inside the house, doing little to reveal what was inside the doorway. My partner decided to grab a hand light from the squad,  he being dissatisfied with the amount of light available. I waited for him, reluctant to go in alone.

I couldn't see the man who was waiting for us very well. The darkness of the night masked his features. He waited with me and told me that his mother had been ill for several days. She hadn't wanted him to call, but she had gotten worse and finally stopped protesting. He had used a neighbor's phone and had called.

My partner returned with the hand light and we entered the house. The beam from our light revealed a narrow path that wound its way through a canyon amid a mountain of debris. In what would have been a living room, piles of old magazines, boxes overflowing with old clothes and undermined junk that was literally indescribable, were piled up nearly to the ceiling.

As we made our way to the rear of the room, the canyon wyed, one fork going to a darkened doorway, the other to the rear of the house and the source of the weak light. We took the path to the right, it led us into the kitchen. The kitchen was piled high with garbage, food boxes and rotting food. A single light bulb cast a pall of dim light in the room, the dim rays quickly absorbed into the fetid garbage.

Although the amount of material  was not as bad as the previous room, the nature of it's contents made the odor nearly unbearable. What may have been an exit door was blocked by a table stacked high with debris. Our only option was to turn to the left and enter yet another room.  

There, the canyon resumed, the room large enough to support the mountains of useless waste and the canyon path that bisected it. The room was also large enough to have the canyon wye off again, one leg heading to a door and the other to the rear of the room. It was at that wye that we found our patient. A small clearing had been created and a stuffed chair was at the edge of it.

Another dim light bulb supplemented by our hand lights revealed an old woman, well into her eighties, seated in the chair. Tiny in stature, she was clad in filthy slacks and a sweater that was the same shade of dingy gray as her face and hands. Another man was present, presumably another son. Both of her sons appeared to be a darker shade of gray, one created by years of living in filth, with no bathing or hygiene.. The stench was overpowering.

The "clearing" was overcrowded. The chair, the second son and my partner filled it. The other son and I were stuck on the path. My partner started his assessment.and quickly determined that our patient was barely conscious and had no way of telling us what was wrong. The second son told us that our patient had not been to a doctor in years and had no medical issues that he was aware of.. He affirmed what the first son had said, that his mother had been ill for a few days and had progressively gotten worse until we were called.

It was at about this time, when we realized there was a roach problem in the room and that stationary targets were easy marks for curious insects. The darkness, the putrid small and the thriving insect community were too much,  We made the decision to grab our patient and head to the porch. We took our gear and headed out. As we exited the house, the ambulance was pulling up to the curb.

We told the medic of our situation and he agreed that the best action was to wait outside until we carried our patient out. We were concerned that the pathways were too narrow for the gurney and that a collision would knock down some of the canyon walls onto us or our patient.

My partner and I went back inside while the ambulance crew set up the gurney at the front stoop. We brought a light in with us and handed it to one of the sons. The patient weighed less than a hundred pounds and was easily "fore and afted" out of the clearing, down the canyon and through the kitchen. Another canyon path and we were out into fresh air. We only stumbled a few times, despite the obstacles in our way. Our patient was soon in the ambulance, where light, fresh air and a reduction of insects allowed for a proper assessment and the beginning of treatment.

Our patient was very ill and appeared to be dehydrated and malnourished among other things. The medic established IV access and killed a few roaches while he was at it.

We had to thoroughly inspect and clean our equipment and kill a few roaches as well. We also removed our bunker pants and shook out several more before getting back in the squad. I truly felt contaminated.

Back then, hoarding was not recognized as a mental illness. There were no hoarding task forces that could be called. The community that we protected didn't even have a code compliance department nor an elder neglect bureau

The memories of this call came to the surface when watching an episode of "Hoarders" on TV a few weeks ago Apparently, hoarding has come a long way. From absolutely nothing being known about it, to having it's own TV show. Remarkable.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Santa Dog Update

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember the saga of Santa Dog. Santa Dog was a figurine that had been passed from desk to desk at my day-off gig. On my last day at that gig, I epoxied and screwed him to the top of Ted's desk. Then I drilled out the screw heads so that it would be very difficult to remove Santa Dog without damaging him.

I was going through the blog archives earlier and began wondering how ol' Santa Dog was doing. I called a former office partner today and inquired as to the status of Santa Dog. I am pleased to report that Santa Dog is right where I left him. That undoubtedly is the longest that Santa Dog has spent in any one place in quite some time.
The Real Santa Dog at his "permanent" home.

Ted apparently has figured out who affixed Santa Dog to his desk and has entertained the thought of removing him and mailing him to me, but so far, it hasn't been worth the effort. Either that or Ted doesn't want to look at the scar that Santa Dog is sure to leave on  the top of his desk.

Either way, both Santa Dog and I are quite content with his present location. Frankly, Santa Dog looks better than he has in quite some time. Maybe the stability has done him some good.

Thanks for reading,

First Due Blog Carnival

Toady marks the first ever First Due Blog Carnival, a collection of posts from fire service related bloggers. This months topic is "I am a Firefighter Because".

This edition is being hosted by The Fire Critic, who is also the person who got this started. There are 14 bloggers who submitted posts this month, including myself. There are a few blogs in the carnival whom I have never read, so I am looking forward to expanding my horizons.

In case you missed it, my entry can be found here, it was posted a few days ago.

Click on over to the First Due Blog Carnival and see what my colleagues have to say. I am going to do the same, however as I am still working on my taxes, it won't be till after my 1700 tax appointment. Nothing like being prepared.

Enjoy the Carnival and as always, thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fantastic Sam and Magic Johnson

It's tax time. I have a table set up in the den, it is covered with files and piles of statements, receipts, 1099s and w2s. It is a yearly ritual that I truly hate. Even though I always get a little back, I still procrastinate until mid-March before I get it done. I have already postponed my appointment once. If I don't get on it, I will be forced to do so again.

I have used the same tax lady for 20 years. She is conservative and has kept me out of trouble. Even when I was running a business, she offered sound advice and kept me in line. She is getting up there in years, one of these times she will likely tell me that this will be her last year. Then. I will be forced to find someone new.

A few of the guys found Sam one year. Sam ran a book keeping office around the corner from one of our stations and did taxes in the spring. The guys from station #215 ran on Sam one day when Sam was having trouble breathing. Sam was hurting, but not to the point that he couldn't hustle up some business. He told the guys that he would maximize their refund and charge a low price. Needless to say, a few guys bit.

I won't say Sam was a fraud, but he did stretch the envelope. He allowed the guys to write off a ridiculous amount for meals, crazy contributions (no receipts required) and designer shoes as "station safety attire". These are just examples of the stuff Sam would pull.

The guys loved it of course, they were getting huge refunds. They nicknamed Sam "Fantastic Sam" and per firefighter SOP, they couldn't resist telling everybody else about the great job Sam had done for them. The word spread. and the next year, Sam had quite a few members of the K.B.F.P.D. knocking on his door.

This went on for several years. Toward the end, Fantastic Sam was probably doing about 12% of the department member's taxes.

At about the same time, some firefighters from another department in our county were using their own guy, a guy they called "Magic" Johnson. Magic Johnson must have gone to the same tax prep school that Fantastic Sam did, as he used the same tactics to get huge refunds for the firefighters. I don't recall the numbers, but I am sure that Magic Johnson was just as popular with the Small City F.D. as Fantastic Sam was with the Kinda Big F.P.D.

The end came for both groups of firefighters at about the same time, although in very different ways.

One year, one of the firefighters from the Small City F.D. and a client of Magic Johnson, got audited and got spanked. Hard. The next year, most of the firefighters that had used Magic Johnson were audited and reportedly, all got spanked. Hard.  That was bad for Magic Johnson's business and I doubt that he was able to keep any of the S.C.F.D. firefighters as clients.

At about the same time as the above drama was occurring, Fantastic Sam had an MI and died. Engine 215 rolled on him, I think they got him to the ER in a living state, but he died a few days later. I am sure that there was some discussion on the ride back to the station as to what they were going to do the next year at tax time.

As some of our members were aware of the strife the at S.C.F.D, I hope Fantastic Sam's K.B.F.P.D. clients chose a more conservative tax preparer. Although knowing firefighters the way I do, I am not sure that is what occurred.

The pile of papers on my folding table is not getting any smaller as I write this. If I don't want to postpone my appointment yet again, I had better get busy. I hope your day will be more fun than mine.

Thanks for reading,
A procrastinating Schmoe

Monday, March 22, 2010

Train Wreck

I have two kinds of recurring nightmares. Thankfully, they don't happen that often.  The first involves rattlesnakes, the second involves trains.

I don't hate trains, nor am I afraid of them I just have an occasional nightmare involving being hit by a train. Thats why this video made such an impression on me.

It is the train's "dash-cam" view as it hits a ladder truck from Detroit MI Fire Dept. In it, you see the po-po getting their car off of the tracks, but the ladder truck isn't fast enough.

I remember hearing that the engineer on the truck company was reported to have suffered minor injuries. I hope that he is doing well and I hope he didn't get TOO much time off..

Click on the link above and see what one of Schmoe's nightmares is like.

Thanks to Dave Statter at Statter 911 for posting this. Because of him, I am sure to have this nightmare tonight. Maybe I will just try and watch Forrest Gump a few times to counter-act the train video.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Am a Firefighter because -

Hello everybody, this post is my entry into this months First Due Blog Carnival. The First Due Blog Carnival was started by my fellow blogger over at The Fire Critic and will be hosted by a different fire service blogger each month. As this is the inaugural episode, The Fire Critic gets the honor of being the first host. This months topic is: "I am a Firefighter Because-"

The First Due Blog Carnival will be posted on Wednesday, so head on over there to read some of the best fire service related  blogs on the web.  Enjoy. 


I am a firefighter because of two basic reasons:

#1 - My mom was an incessant nag and I got tired of listening to her drone on and on about my lack of direction.

#2 - My Introduction to Fire Science instructor was a very dynamic teacher who "sold" the job well enough that I bought into the fire service as a career.

I grew up in the 70's. Although I enjoyed Emergency, Adam 12, Dragnet and Report from Engine Company 82, I enjoyed goofing off even more. That and partying.

We lived in the barrio. Since times were tough, I had been working 20 hours a week or more since I was 15. High school back then was a joke. Put in your time, stay out of trouble (don't get caught) and you would get a diploma. That was my strategy, and it worked to perfection.

After high school,  my part time menial jobs turned into full time menial jobs and the partying subsided somewhat. I met the Saint That I am Married To about a year out of high school, but I was still living at home. My mom was constantly bitching at me about one thing or another and she was charging me $125 a month to live at home. One of her many nag-fest subjects was that I needed to go to school.

Right. I just spent 13 years in school and now you want me to go back? What am I going to study, Metabolization of Cannaboids in the Human Body? How about Home Brewing and Distillation Techniques 101? Finally, I decided that I would take a class just to get her off of my ass for one night a week.

A friend of mine had taken "Introduction to Fire Science" at the local Junior College. and said that it was a fun and easy class. Fun and easy were two qualities that I always looked for in classes, so I enrolled in the fall semester of 1980.

Intro is a fun class. It is a very basic class that gives an overview of the fire service. It is nothing too deep, but an exposure to the a broad scope of the fire service.  The instructor was a Captain with the local Fire Department who instructed at the J.C. on the side. I owe my career to this Captain.

Captain Dynamic was one of those guys who was an asshole to his wife, a tyrant at work and a genius in the classroom. He provided aimless people like me with exactly what we needed to realize that the fire service was an extremely rewarding, challenging and exiting career. He also taught us that this career was attainable to anyone who possessed a basic skill set, a superior work ethic and certain personality traits. I found the focus that I lacked and I was hooked.

Captain Dynamic also taught high achievers in his class how to prepare for and take oral interviews. At that time (and still today, although to a lesser extent) the oral interview is where the game is won or lost. Capt. Dynamic coached three of us that year. We finished #1, #2 and #4 out of 1200 people. Dynamic was a little pissed someone snuck in the #3 spot. I have used those interview skills ever since, they have served me well.

EMT, a host of other classes and becoming a paid-call firefighter followed is short order. I was working for the Very Small Municipal Fire Dept. within 18 months and was then hired by the Kinda Big Fire Protection District 10 months after that. The rest is a blur.

The job has been everything Dynamic said it would be, good and bad. I worked hard, played the game and have had a successful career. I have met people I love like brothers and have met some that I would like to hit with a chair. I have learned lots, forgotten some and still learn something every day. My career has been filled with incredible joy and gut-wrenching heartbreak.

In closing, I am a firefighter because of fate, chance or divine intervention. Take your pick. Regardless, I fell into it. The Fire Service has been has been a good fit for me and I for it. In a few short years, my career will be over. It has been a good run so far, but I will not miss parts of it. I will however, miss the people.

The fire service is a demanding, challenging career - yet rewarding. For certain people, I strongly recommend it.

Thanks for reading,
A retrospective Schmoe

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Overheard / King of the Road

I was leaving work on Saint Paddy's day and the TV was on in the medic's dorm. As I was walking past the door, I heard a bimbo reporter interviewing a member of a pipe band from a fire department down south. It went something like this:

Bimbo Reporter: Blah blah blah blah. So tell me, what do you bag pipers wear under your kilt?

F.D. Bagpiper: Well, you could put your hand down there and find out.

I just about choked on my coffee. I hope the piper doesn't get too much grief for his response. I know he was representing his agency, but it was too easy of a shot for him to pass up.

I looked on you-tube to see if anyone had taped and posted it but I had no luck.
King of the road
Waiting for a Ride

Open Desert

The desert is a pretty lonely place to be waiting for a ride. We passed this guy at about 11:00 am on our way east. We saw him about 7 hours later when we were heading west. He still had a ways to go before he was going to be anywhere near civilization. 

Stopping was not my shot to call. Call me paranoid, but I usually don't pick up hitchhikers, especially in the middle of the desert. I will make an exception, but only if I can maintain some form of tactical advantage. I am usually armed when in the more remote areas of the desert and I assume everyone I meet is armed as well. This practice ensures very polite conversations.

I hope this guy made it to town. He looked like he has had a little practice being on the road.

As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Calling All Cars

I know there are a few coppers that read this blog. Some of them are even from my state or a neighboring state. If you are one of them, do me a favor. If you should happen to see this car (or even one like it) pull it over and find something to cite him for.

I am pretty sure that dropping the f-bomb on your license plate frame isn't against the law, but is it really necessary? I am no prude, I have a pretty profane vocabulary, of which I am usually pretty happy to share. Yet, I really don't want some mommy to have to explain to her little girl what that word is used for. It just ain't right.

I snapped this on the way home from work this morning and it kind of pissed me off. I don't know what he is trying to say, but I just don't think it needs to be expressed in this fashion. So my cop friends, jam this knucklehead up if you should see him. Tell him it's from Schmoe - with love. I owe ya.

Thanks for reading,


For those of you have been reading this blog for a while, you may know about some of the rituals that the people I work with perform when we lose one of our own.

Saturday, one segment of my family (the fun segment) participated in an annual ritual to honor my cousin Tom. Tom passed away from the Big Casino a little over three years ago. He was in his mid 40s and had been fighting cancer for several years before it got him. Tom was a very warm hearted and social guy who had a lot of friends.

A few of his friends got together a few months after his death and planned a memorial motorcycle run to honor Tom and raise a few bucks for cancer research. It has turned into an annual event.

My cousin was a biker from the soles of his feet to the top of his melon. This type of event is the perfect way to remember him.

The day starts with breakfast at his favorite watering hole, an Irish
pub near where he worked. 

Part of the line-up at the pub before leaving. Not
a bad turn-out for a run of this type.

All of my career, I have been forced to look at hairy legged pipers
in skirts. Finally, I meet some pipers that I would LIKE to see in
 skirts and they are wearing jeans. Sheesh. These women did a 
Great job starting the day for us.

Stop #2, Toms grave site.

The purpose of step #2 is to say a few words of
remembrance and to share a cold one with Tom.

This is one part of the ritual that I am not sure Tom
would approve of. Every body takes one hit of beer,
then gives Tom a hit. I think that he would view this
as a waste of good beer. No, you just don't worry
about backwash.

 This is Tom's bike. His little brother just got it off of Tom's wife. It 
is sure good to see it running and on the road again. It took three
years before Tom's wife could part with it. She knew it had to go 
Tom's brother, but it was such a big part of their lives. Maybe this 
is a sign she is starting to heal.

After the cemetery, the group heads up to the mountains/desert/coast to a tavern somewhere and enjoys the early afternoon with a few more beers and a nice ride. As I sold my Harley a few years ago, I usually sit this part out.

The ride ends at a local American Legion Hall, where my auntie
and her husband are members. Food and drink are available.

The guy on the left is wee Jimmy, one of Tom's best
friends. Wee Jimmy is from Scotland, but is a great
singer of Irish Ballads. Beer, emotion and Irish 
ballads. The perfect day.

Me Auntie, Tom's mom. Here she is singing her
own cover of Danny Boy called, oddly enough,
Tommy Boy. Sniff.

Wee Jimmy is one of the main organizers for the 
event. Here, he is singing a ballad that he wrote on 
the day that Tom died. The next pic in this sequence
show a tear running down his cheek. I chose not
to post it. By now, I was hiding behind my camera,
the body hiding my leaky eyes. Allergies were a 
mother on Saturday.

My uncle at the mike. For a white man, he can sure sing the blues.

After dark, Things slowed down and I left. The Saint I Am Married To was happy that I didn't have to call #1 son for a ride home. In a way, so am I. I cherish these rituals, eccentric as they may be. I know that they are good for my Auntie and my Cousin and likely for Tom's wife and kids as well. 

It is a good way to remember Tom, we all miss him. Ride in peace cousin.

Thanks for reading, 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Odd World

I get fuel at Costco. Its the cheapest by far, plus I get a three per-cent rebate if I pay with my Amex card. As it is close to "The Healing Place", most of the guys at work get fuel there too.

The guy that works at the Costco gas facility is a guy named Ralph. Ralph has figured out who most of us are and always asks us how our gigs are. How busy we are, any good calls etc. Ralph has mentioned how he took Criminal Justice classes back in the day, but never followed through. He makes no bones about how cool he thinks our jobs are and how much he would like to do our gig. Ralph is a good dude and maybe if he wanted it bad enough, he could make it happen.

I will be eligible to retire at the end of the year. It is unlikely that I will do so as it will be better for me financially if I stick around until December of 2012. So as of now, 2012 it is.

It is very likely that I will get another job when I retire from the K.B.F.P.D. Money won't be that big of a deal. I don't want a lot of responsibility or stress. I want to work outside, I want to meet people, but not get too close to them. My back will appreciate it if I avoid manual labor and I am pretty sick of paperwork. So right now, I think the ideal job for me might be the Fuel Island Operator at Costco.

Ralph wants my gig, I want his. It truly is an odd world.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Most urban fire stations have one. Some stations have more than one. Stations have to be careful and set clear boundaries, otherwise they will be inundated with them and things will get out of hand.

Usually, this phenomenon occurs when one of them knocks on the fire station door and gets lucky. A compassionate firefighter will answer the door and comply with the request. The request will likely be for something simple like a cup of coffee, a glass of water or some other minor comfort that most of us take for granted. If the seeker is really lucky, he will get the same compassionate member on a subsequent visit/request and a relationship of sorts will be formed.

For the relationship to succeed, it has to be symbiotic. It can't be all take on behalf of the seeker. In exchange for the minor request, the seeker might perform some minor service such as picking up trash from around the station, trading tokens for items or keeping an eye on the firefighter's cars. 

Larry was one of those who was very lucky the first few times he knocked on the door of one of our stations. Raul answered the door. Raul was one of those quirky guys who had been at this station for ever and was quite set in his ways. A man of routine, Raul sometimes became irritated when things weren't done a certain way. This trait sometimes created problems with other members, although not anything that was unbearable. The other side of Raul was that he understood the fragility of the human condition and knew that "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

I wasn't around when Larry started coming around the station, so I can't say exactly how the friendship between Larry and Raul began. When I transferred in, Larry was ringing the doorbell almost every evening at around the same time. His requests were almost always very simple. A cup of coffee, a cup of hot water for noodles or maybe some ice cubes. In exchange, Larry patrolled the station at least once a day, picking up trash and cigarette butts.

Larry also obtained small stones from a nearby park. The stones were a unique shade of gray and had a very smooth texture. Larry believed that the stones were "magic" and that they had special powers. If someone other than Raul answered the station door, Larry would part with one of the stones in exchange for a cup of hot water. To him, it was a fair trade.

It appeared that Larry was a nocturnal creature. He was seldom seen during the day, but would appear in the evening hours. During the warmer months, we would return from a call sometime after midnight, and find Larry using the hose on the back ramp to bathe. He would remove all of the outer layers of his clothing and then use the hose and a bar of soap that Raul had left out for him to wash himself. The same bar of soap would be used to clean his clothes. I don't know what he did in the winter. He did not seem to be the "shelter type" of vagrant. 

Raul sometimes gave Larry gifts. A warm jacket, a sleeping bag or maybe a tooth brush. Things that Larry needed for survival, yet that were difficult for him to obtain.

I asked Raul once, if he knew anything about Larry. Raul said that Larry told him he was from the east coast and was completely estranged from his family. Larry lived in some bushes along side the state highway until a construction project forced him to move to another set of bushes next to the Municipal Gymnasium. Larry had told Raul that he stayed up at night because it was safer to be awake at night and sleep during the day when he was less vulnerable. Larry had admitted to Raul that he was basically anti-social and didn't stay in the shelters because he didn't like being around people and didn't like the rules.

My own observations of Larry was that he had some form of mental illness. He always spoke to us in a coherent fashion, but he often paced in a short, repetitive fashion, muttering to himself. I never saw him passed out on the streets, but he did admit to Raul that he liked to drink.

After some time, Larry became a bit of a problem. I was approached by some members of my crew, who were tired of the doorbell ringing in the late evening hours. They also felt that Larry was becoming demanding, wanting the crew to make fresh coffee if none was available. It was time to set some boundaries.

Raul told Larry that he needed to see his car parked in the F.D. parking lot, before ringing the bell. Larry was also told that he needed to arrive before nine pm, so that early sleepers would not be disturbed. Raul also agreed to answer the door between seven and nine, whether it was his turn or not. Although some members were still bothered by Larry coming around, it was mostly a tolerable arrangement. Some firefighters are more compassionate than others.

Larry was a district fixture for years. It all came to an end when the engine took a call for a man down in the bushes next to the Municipal Gym. Larry was DRT (dead right there) and was not a viable patient. Larry was just another unattended, premature transient death.

I don't know whether Larry's family ever claimed his body or whether they even were notified. Raul retired a short time later. Meanwhile another transient has likely claimed Larry's spot in the bushes. To my knowledge, the haven't knocked on the station door. It is just a matter of time.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Joseph Schmoe presents: "Real Men of Moron"

Reeall men of morrronnn.

Today we salute you "Mr. Argue With the Prevention Chief at District Wide Training".

Reeall men of morrronnn.

You possess such a superior intellect that you just have to argue insignificant details with the Prevention Chief in front of God and half the district.

"Mr. Argue With the Prevention Chief at District Wide Training"

There's no stopping you. Those trivial bits of inane details just need to be shared, especially if they somehow contradict the Chief.

You are right yeaahhhh!

Heaven help the Chief if he has the nerve to actually disagree with you.

You'll show hiiiimmmm!

And the way you ignore the question "are you sure that you want to get into this now?

Way to hang toooouuughhh yeaaahhh.

Plus all of the other people in the class appreciate the added learning experience and don't mind that you have wasted 20 minutes of the everyone's time.

They just wanna go hoooome!

I wouldn't use the restroom alone now "Mr. Argue With the Prevention Chief at District Wide Training"

You'll get shaaaanked.

And, as smart as you are, you'll certainly enjoy the additional "special assignment" that is sure to come from the Prevention Bureau.

Ooohhh, behavior modification at it's finesssttt.

So here's to you "Mr. Argue With the Prevention Chief at District Wide Training". Now we'll see if you really are trainable, or if we'll have to go through this yet again next training session.

Real Man of Moron brought to you by Joseph Schmoe Brewery, Death Valley, CA. Please Drink Responsibly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Schmotographs - continued

I will finish up a cycle in the morning and quite frankly I am glad this one is over. Mayhem on the streets, undesirable outcomes, Black and Blue Friday drills and a bitter ambulance crew have made this cycle much tougher than it needed to be.

As a result, no lengthy dissertations tonight, just some photos that I have shot in the last few weeks.

We stopped and got lunch at a burger stand and this impromptu
car show was going on. This is why I always have a camera with 

 I love the interior of this car. Not a lot of padding on that steel dash 
though. It didn't have seat belts either.

 The S.O. landed their helicopter on an abandoned street and
picked up a deputy. For some secret surveillance perhaps? A
joyride is the more likely scenario. I am not being critical, as you
regular readers know, I am never one to turn down a joyride.

I have been working on my night photo skills and have a long ways
 to go. This was a rollover we had last week. Note the high voltage
  switch box that she landed on. I was glad she was out of the car
before we got there.

I snapped this as we were walking back to the rig. I liked the
purty colors.

This is my buddy Dave. I caught Dave at a confined
space drill a few weeks back. As soon as he saw
the camera, his hands cramped and his fingers
extended. I told him that I would post it on the web
and that it would be seen by millions of people.
OK, maybe hundreds.

My "weekend" starts tomorrow and I am ready. I hope to have a productive break, time will tell on that. Meanwhile, everybody stay safe and as always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sorry, Sir

I am sorry sir, this woman is not your property. I know that in your culture she may be treated as such, but here I have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that her medical needs are met, despite your desire to maintain control.

As your wife is conscious, oriented and alert and she desires treatment and transport, we are taking her to the hospital. No amount of ranting or threats over the telephone will change that.

Furthermore, I don't believe that I have any legal obligation to hand the phone over to her either. It is not in her best interest to have you berate and intimidate her. If you don't like it, you can call my boss. Or, you can kiss my big red ass.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, March 4, 2010


It had been an ugly shift. A 35 yr old female had passed away in front of us, the resuscitation effort had failed and the patient was pronounced after a 40 minute effort at the hospital. The call went OK, but as usual, there were a few small things that could have gone better.

That had occurred mid afternoon. The follow-up and procedures forms had taken up some time as had the re-stock and equipment clean-up. Dinner was late for us on Engine 224.

At around 10 PM,I had finished up the paperwork for the shift and was watching a little TV with the crew when the doorbell rang. As I still had my boots on, I was first to the door. A middle aged man and his wife were standing at the door, as was a twenty something female.

The introduced themselves as the family of the young woman that we had unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate earlier. In the 30 years that I have been doing this, this is the first time that I have had the family of a patient show up at the station after an unsuccessful attempt. They had no information as to how their daughter had passed, and wanted to know what had happened. A difficult conversation to say the least.

I told them what had occurred, what we saw and briefly, what we did. We didn't go into any details that would be considered HIPAA violations or get into dosages or protocols, we just told them what happened.

After about 30 minutes, they left. I called my district commander and told him what had transpired. He was as surprised as I was that the family had dropped in and was OK with our talking to them. I am sure the folks over at headquarters have some reservations about us discussing things with the family, but I felt that they had the right to know the basic details as to how their daughter died. I view it as a customer service thing.

One of the things I have always liked about my gig is that my role in a tragedy is short lived. The event occurs, we handle it and then we return to the sanctuary of the station and move on. Our exposure to the human drama that the family experiences is often intense, though very brief. This visit was outside that norm. Frankly, I found it unsettling and I didn't care for the experience.

My unease pales to the strife that the young woman's family is now forced to deal with. I just need to get over myself. My only hope is that the family found some shred of solace by our answering their questions, this incident will be on their minds for a long time.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thanks, Dick

It is a dark and stormy night. Nights are always dark, but here in the desert, it is rarely stormy. When it actually does rain, the poor driving habits of us dirt people come frothing to the surface and we crash our cars in alarming numbers.

Our patient, Richard, is sitting in the back seat of a passers-by Escalade. Richard's truck is blocking the number one lane, its front end severely damaged after impacting the center divider. The other involved vehicle is parked on the shoulder of the highway a quarter of a mile farther down. It is minimally damaged with no injured occupants.

We have shielded the scene with our engine, as per district policy. Richard is telling us he is in tremendous pain but he isn't sure that he wants to go. As we only have one patient at most, I cancel the other engine and the truck.

Richard is oriented and alert. He denies neck or back pain and also denies hitting his head. His pain is primarily to his upper torso, bruising from this seat belt is already plainly visible. After some discussion, he agrees to be transported. As he has no spinal complaint and it is raining heavily, we decide to wait and place him in full precautions when the ambulance arrives. There is no practical way to keep him out of the rain and we are concerned that drowning, hypothermia and being washed away are less desirable that having him seated quietly in the Escalade with his head stabilized while we await the ambulance.

After 15 minutes or so, a Trooper walks up to us and asks us how long we are going to be. As we don't have an ambulance on scene yet, any answer from me would be a guess. I ask dispatch for an ETA on my ambulance and am told that the ambu is almost on scene. I look up and see nothing or hear nothing.

Another 10 minutes pass. Still no ambulance. I can hear several incidents working on the command channel, some are in our area, most involve ambulances. I know they are busy, but still. I can tell dispatch is hopping, so I decide to wait a few more minutes before bugging them for another ETA.

Finally, at about the thirty minute mark, I can hear the sound of an electronic siren and I know that the ambulance is mere minutes away. I tell the crew to start placing the patient on the backboard as the rain intensifies.

As the ambulance approaches our scene, I signal them to park in front of the Escalade. They stop short and advise me that they are not my ambulance, but that they have been assigned to another incident a couple of miles down the road.

The incident that they have been assigned to:
A. Occurred after my incident
B. Has one minor injury
I know this because I heard this go down on the command channel. The other engine originally assigned to my call came upon this on his way back to the barn after being released by me.

As a result, I am not a happy Schmoe. I was might have been a little less than polite when I stated suggested that they should take my patient and arrange for one of the other ambulances to respond to the minor. After all, mine did occur first.

The ambulance makes contact with their dispatch, I look over and still my patient is not strapped onto the board. My frustration level is on the rise as my medic advises me that the patient now does not want to be transported. He is trying to con convince the passer-by whose Escalade his ass is parked in, to give him a ride to an auto parts store where his brother will come and pick him up.

This guys car has major major front end damage. There was no air-bag and the steering column has broken loose from the mount. This guy really needs to go, plus he was just telling us how much pain he was in. My medic grinds on him a few more minutes while I tell the ambulance medic about Richard's reluctance to be transported. This news is received by the ambulance crew with some incredulity. I feel like an idiot.

My medic is unsuccessful, so I take a shot. Despite my mastery of verbal communication, my mad persuasive skills (after all, I did convince The Saint to marry me) and my firm command presence, Richard refuses to be transported and signs AMA.  While my medic gives the proper advisement and obtains the proper signatures, I look for a crow to shoot and eat. Finding none, I am forced to apologize to the ambulance crew for my boorish behavior.

Fortunately, they are a forgiving crew. They call their dispatch who tells them that my original ambulance had arrived long before we did and had determined that there were no injuries. The ambulance dispatch had either not advised our dispatch or our dispatch had not properly recorded the cancellation. Regardless, there was no ambulance coming to our incident and it would have been a while before things would have been sorted out. They would have found our skeletons out by  the side of the roadway in a few months. Sometimes, stuff like this just happens.

Many thanks to you, Richard, for signing AMA after I stuck it out there to ensure your medical needs were met. I hope the car that hit you didn't have insurance.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Firehouse Expo

#2 son and I played hooky today and went to the Firehouse Expo. It was held in San Diego. We were down visiting my folks, so we decided to go.

A lot of things to see

The exhibition hall was full of people and fire service equipment. It was old home week, we couldn't walk a hundred feet without seeing someone we knew.

Fallbrook Firefighters had this beauty on display.

Here is something you don't see every day, a two headed fire engine.

Many vendors were present, including Phenix Fire
Helmets, personal favorite of Capt. Schmoe.

What's an antique engine without a Dalmatian?

It's how they roll in the 90210.

Oceanside's new Pierce. Nice grill!

After we were done at the expo, we went into the Gaslight District and had lunch at a Persian restaurant. The food was great and as the weather was perfect, we decided to eat on the sidewalk.

Two guys pushing a cart full of chairs through downtown San Diego.They went up the street for several blocks, before turning down an alley.

All in all a great day. As the last four posts were all words (fiction no less), I thought I'd throw some images your way. Have a great week and as always, Thanks for reading.


The Calls - A work of fiction (final installment)

Telephone conversation #1

"Metro fire, Chief Boxer"

"Hello Chief, this is Cal Worthington. I'm a captain with the Beach City police department. How are you today?"

"I'm fine thanks. Call me Dave, please. How may I help you today?"

"Well, Dave, do you have a firefighter named Thadeus Mitchell who works for you?"

"The name sounds familiar, give me a second while I check. Ah yes here we go. He works for us as a firefighter/paramedic. Looks like he's been here about eleven months, which means he is still on probation. Why do you ask?"

"It seems that Mr. Mitchell was involved in an incident down here in Beach City over the weekend. He wasn't arrested, but he probably should have been. One of our officers cut Mitchell a break and didn't take him, now the other party is making that an issue with us. I think that there is a possibility it will be an issue with you."

"What exactly happened?"

"Mitchell, his wife and another woman were drinking at a bar down here named Barracuda's. Apparently Mitchell and his wife started arguing, loud enough that other people started to notice. A male sitting at another table said something to Mitchell's wife, she went off on him. One thing led to another and it progressed to Mitchell and the other guy rolling around on the floor. We had an officer who happened to be riding a segway past the front of the place and heard them going at it. He goes in and pulls them apart before anybody gets hurt."

"Who appears to be the aggressor in this?"

'Well at that point, it was hard to tell. All of the people involved had been hitting it pretty hard, so neither side was thinking clearly. The officer was just trying to get everybody cooled down and out of there. The other party had been convinced to leave first and was walking toward the door when Mitchell rushed at him from behind and swung at him with a chair. Fortunately, the officer got to Mitchell just as he swung the chair, so he missed."

"You're kidding! How is it that he wasn't arrested?

"The officer told us that after the chair was swung, he hooked Mitchell up and let the other guy go. After the other party left, the officer decided as the chair never hit anyone, he would give Mitchell a little love and show him some professional courtesy. The cocktail waitress knew the other guy and told him that Mitchell wasn't arrested. He's threatening to go to the paper if we don't do anything. With the way things are right now, I can't guarantee this will go away. Needless to say, we are reviewing our own policies, some disciplinary measures may be coming down. I just thought I'd give you the heads up."

"Well I appreciate the call. I will probably have someone from our admin/personnel division getting in touch with you. Good luck on your end."

"Thanks, take care."

Telephone Conversation #2

"Metro fire, Chief Boxer."

"Hi Dave, its Tony over at HR."

"Hey Tony, whats up?"

"I spoke with the City Attorney again, he talked with the City Manager. We all agree that to keep Mitchell in our employ would be a higher level of risk than we would like to accept. Unless this guy is a superstar or you can come up with an outstanding reason why we should keep him, we need to let him go."

"Yeah, I agree. Can you shoot me an e-mail?"

"Sure thing. When do you think this will take place? We'd like it done as soon as possible."

"I'll have the paperwork started today soo it'll probably be Monday morning."

"That'll work, Thanks"

Telephone Conversation #3

"Station 22, Hardy speaking."

"Hello Bob it's Dick Bong. How are you today?"

 "Hey Chief, how are you?"

"I'm good thanks. I know it's early, but something's come up. Your B.C. and I need to meet with you first thing this morning, probably right about eight - eight thirty. Is this going to be a problem?

"No chief, it should be OK. Can I ask what this is about?"

"I really rather not discuss it until we meet. I'll see you in a bit. Thanks"

"All right, see you later."