Thursday, April 29, 2010

Heard At The Kitchen Table

"I've got court today," Davidson complained. "My ex is trying to strangle me. Eight years of my life - putting up with the spending, the anger, the drama, the chronic unemployment. Now, I gotta buy back half the house - which I paid for thank you very damn much plus I gotta pay off all of the credit card debt and I gotta pay three grand a month spousal support.. It's just not right. And, to top it off, my attorney says that I will probably have to pay both sides of the attorney fees. What kind of crap is that?"

Everyone at the table had heard tales similar to this before, a few had actually lived through it. There was some empathy present at the table.

"Why should I have to pay for that lazy-ass to goof off all day? I know whats going to happen, I'm sure plans are being made to hook up with someone who's got a little cash - then they'll move in together. It will be weekends at the river for them - overtime for me. I'm just glad we didn't have kids together."

"You had it coming Davidson" someone at the table quipped. "That's what you get for for marrying someone based on looks alone. You knew that was trouble when you walked down the aisle".

"I knooow" Davidson groaned. "But he was just so freaking hot! Plus, he had a job back then."

Although we all had heard numerous tales similar to this before, we had never heard it coming from the mouth of a female fire captain.

The times, they are a changin'

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BDF Engine 57

The paragraphs below will by my submission in this months First Due Blog Carnival. The subject for this month is "Influential Fire Reports" and is hosted by Backstep Firefighter. All of the links will be posted on the 30th, it will be some interesting reading.

When I first read the subject for this month's submission, I was initially going to give it a pass. I didn't want to get bogged down in the details of an after disaster report or the inevitable blame that gets passed out like rotten apples at Halloween. I knew the event I wanted to discuss, I have touched on it several times before, as it has had an influence on me and the way I look at things. It involves an arsonist, some firefighters and a near "perfect firestorm". In order to spare you from pages and pages of details, I am going to pare this down to what I consider the meat and potatoes of the event.

I must also add that people from both agencies involved read this blog on a regular basis. I am sorry if I offend anyone, this is just how I see it, nothing more, nothing less.


At approximately 1:00 AM on October 26, 2006 an arsonist started some dead vegetation on fire at the base of the San Jacinto mountains. Less than seven hours later, three firefighters were dead, two others were unsuccessfully fighting for their lives.

 Overview of the Esperanza Fire, taken on Oct. 26th.
Kyped from Fox News

The fire was initially in the jurisdiction of Cal-Fire, the state fire agency. It rapidly spread and units from the U.S. Forest Service - San Bernardino National Forest (BDF) and local agencies were requested to assist. BDF E57 along with several other USFS engines and a water tender (tanker for you east coasters) from a local air force base were assigned to structure protection in an interface area above and to the west of the point of origin.

 The remains of the "Octagon House" Taken Oct. 09.

BDF E57 found themselves protecting the "octagon house", a structure that was a second home and was unoccupied at the time of the event. The other BDF engines were parked at other structures in the area.

The conditions for disaster were ripe, as the weather pattern was what is known as a Santa Ana wind event was in place at the location of the fire. Single digit relative humidity, severe winds and elevated temperatures were all present at the time of the burn-over. The weather conditions were compounded by the topography, and the location of the structure that E57 was trying to protect. A natural drainage ran from E57's location down to the area of origin. In a horrific twist of fate, the wind direction was in nearly perfect alignment with this drainage, pushing the fire up the drainage. Finally, a long term drought had dried the fuel to critically low levels.

 Overview of burn-over site. Click to enlarge. Schmotograph.

 The size of the fire was estimated to be approximately 3000 acres at the time of the burn-over, the fire behavior was extreme.

As none of the E57 crew members survived the event, we will never know what went through anyone's mind or why they reacted as they did. All we know is that we lost five firefighters as a result.

The official report was produced by Cal-Fire and by the USFS. It is a massive document, 114 pages in length. It goes into all of the details and makes the usual recommendations about how this tragedy could have been avoided.

While I believe that these events should be studied and lessons should be learned, I also know that the very nature of these major wildfires, especially during the initial operational period,  prevent many of the usual recommendations from being implemented. Communications are going to be difficult, accurate intel is not going to be as accessible as we would like, sections of the 10 standard orders will be violated and the event will be loaded with the situations that shout "watch out!".

For me, it all boils down to two basic decisions, both of which turned out to be wrong. The first was the decision to send people into that area to defend those structures, the second being the decision to try to save the octagon house.

Both of those decisions were made by trained, competent professionals with years of experience. Both ultimately led to the deaths of  five firefighters. Both turned out to be disastrous.

If those people made wrong decisions, so can I. That reality troubles me. It troubles me to the point where I have made the trip down to the site of the disaster and have viewed the remains of the octagon house, the unnamed drainage and the neighboring houses. I can honestly say none of it is worth dying for.

 E57 Memorial, Alandale Forest Fire Station, Ca.
I grieve for the lost firefighters and I have great sympathy for the commanders who made the strategic and tactical decisions that led to the disaster. I am sure that they are living with their decisions and think of it every day. I hope that I never am placed in the position that they are in and I pray that the choices I make never harm anyone.

Detail of E57 memorial. Please click to enlarge.

If you would like to read the entire report, it can be found here. I recommend it, it is worth the time and effort.

 CA Hwy #243 - Esperanza Firefighters Memorial Highway

 By the way, they caught the bastard that lit started the Esperanza fire. His name is Raymond Oyler and he was convicted of five counts of murder. He is currently on death row, awaiting his date with the needle. As this crime occurred in California and under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he will likely die of natural causes before his appeals run out and he is executed. That is a switch I would gladly throw and not lose any sleep over it.

Stop by Backstep Firefighter on the 30th and see links to all of the other posts regarding Influential Fire Reports.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


It was time to clean off my desktop again and I found a few shots that I had intended to post with earlier posts but didn't for some reason or another. Rather than delete them, here they are:

A patrol helicopter with a municipal P.D. in SoCal. I caught it
as it was on short final to land. I thought it a nice looking ship.

We had to take our engine on a road trip to a specialty shop. As
we are working on getting the junior member of our crew trained
to operate the unit, we gave him some stick time on the highway.
Of course, I had my camera and snapped this in the rear view.

This one is for Gia, AnnT, Peedee and
the Observer, who all posted pics of the first 
spring flowers in their wintry locations. As
I am not a gardener, I had nothing until two
weeks ago when I went deep into the Colorado 
desert and found this lone violet wildflower 
amid a sea of white and yellow wildflowers.
That's whats cool about this blog - something
for everybody!

It's 2 A.M. and repairs are being made to a pipeline that supplies 
water to one of the communities that the K.B.F.P.D. serves. The
supply was shut down for 72 hours, we had to suspend training
using water and watering the lawns. When you live in the desert
water is precious. Ironically, it was raining for most of the 72
hour period. Odd.

Hope your week is going well. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 26, 2010


All good things must come to an end.

Last campfire

The ice chest was almost empty, well of the important stuff

The dogs were done and so were we.

A whiskey-tango weekend, dragging the trailers out to the regional park with lap-dogs, friends and cold beer. I can't wait to do it again.

A congrats to my niece, who was visiting all of us this weekend. 
Her boyfriend snuck out here from Kentucky, and popped
the question. She said yes, all is happy in Schmoeville.

Thanks for reading, your regularly scheduled blogcast will return soon.

A rested Schmoe

Friday, April 23, 2010


From the "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good" files:

Four occupants, all uninjured. Note to all jeep owners: Avoid
letting student drivers behind the wheel of your jeep. Especially
ones who have never driven on the freeway before.

This driver barely missed a tree and a concrete wall before hitting
this fence. The fence stopped him from going down the embank-
ment and landing on some railroad tracks. He was uninjured.

I'm camping with the Saint's family and some friends about 20 minutes from my house, so posts will have to be short and sweet for the next few days. It was sure nice BBQing and sitting around the fire this evening, even though we are still in town. I hope your weekend is as nice as mine is shaping up to be.

Thanks for reading,
A relaxed Schmoe

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Here's to You, Jake

A few days ago, I received a text from #2 son, who was at a crime victim's rights march. He was there, helping set it up and tear it down, in order to earn service points for school.

"you gon be down here? i see baby jakes sign, but idk if someones gon use it."

What he was referring to is a poster sign of Baby Jake, a customer of mine who was born about 6 months before my son was. I carried Baby Jake's sign two years ago, #1 son carried it last year. I responded:

"I'm at work, carry it if you can"

Usually, from what I'm told, family members and friends of victims carry the signs in the march. Court employees had carried Baby Jake's sign for several years before I did it, two years ago. Now, they save it for us.


"Thanks son, I appreciate it"

No one knows who Baby Jakes father was. We hear that his mom's drug use precludes her from any involvement in the march, candlelight vigil or participating in parole hearings. Grandma is supposedly old and tired and is just done with it.

My beer use doesn't preclude me from participating, I have done so twice. I'm not old and not that tired and I'm far from done with it. As no one shows up at parole hearings anymore, I am hoping to connive my way in so that someone can speak up for Jake.

I wasn't involved in Jake's murder, but I had some involvement in his birth. Jake was delivered by the Local Ambulance Company and the Kinda Big Fire Protection District. He was the toughest baby that I ever met.

Jake played a role in one of my best days at the K.B.F.P.D. and the worst.  I carry a little baggage with Jake, but I know it's not his fault. He was only a vicitm.

I'm kind of proud of #2 son for picking up Jake's sign and carrying it in the march, I am only sad that it had to be done.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Little Surprise!

In an earlier post, I mentioned the wall of a cabinet located in my garage. Affixed to it are little mementos of my career, a few I use as reminders of things that could have gone bad but didn't.

I added this item yesterday. This one wasn't a big deal, but it will serve as a reminder that things aren't always as they seem. The incident happened last week, but I needed to clean this item up a bit as it was pretty heavily damaged by fire.

I peeled this label off of a fuel tank on a semi that had suffered a brake/tire fire. When we first arrived on scene, the four driving tires were burning pretty good and the fuel tank was located just in front of the tires. I saw the tank, realized that it was a matter of concern, though minor as the fire was being brought under control rather quickly. It wasn't until after the fire was out and I saw the above label that I realized the fuel tank wasn't your ordinary diesel tank, but one that  contained Liquefied Natural Gas. Apparently, the state helped pay for this truck and a few others to convert to a dual fuel LNG/diesel system.The fire just happened to occur on the liquefied natural gas side.

A slightly different risk to be sure, although the tank is designed to withstand flame impingement for quite a while. It is also designed to be resistant to impact. The thing with this was that it surprised me and I didn't catch it sooner.

The fire had conducted into the container and was smoldering in some baled material inside. Dur to our location, we decided to tow the trailer to another location before off-loading it. Before we could that, however, the four tires on that side needed to be replaced. The whole process took forever and we ended up  playing  with damn thing all evening. The LNG tank stood up well though with no structural damage to it, only paint and labeling damage observed.

Had it gotten really hot, it would have vented and we all would have known about it. As it was, a good lesson for us all.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


1 - 1999 Ford Explorer SUV, Totaled - $4500

1 - BLS Ride to the hospital via ambulance - $800

1 - Assorted tools and equipment strewn about the highway - $750

Knowing that Capt. Joseph Schmoe, E224 "A", K.B.F.P.D. has given you his word and WILL  NOT leave your dog alone on the freeway - priceless.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Do you have a dictionary?

I watched you struggle throughout the morning, using those crutches to maneuver around the pool area. It was quite obvious that merely moving from your chair to the vendor's stand took a lot of effort, but you managed to complete your task. Your friends did not assist you, I know now that you probably wouldn't let them if they had offered.

I, poor judge of people that I am, assumed that you were the brother of one of the swimmers and that you were here to root your sibling on as they competed in the water. I saw that despite you issues with mobility, you were constantly on the move, speaking with friends and other competitors. It must have been exhausting, I could tell you were working so hard.

As I was so absorbed in conversation, I failed to notice you laboriously crutch your way to the starting block, lay your crutches down and be lowered into the water. I didn't hear the race announced or the sound of the starter's horn. I didn't realize anything was out of the ordinary until I heard the cheering of the crowd intensify. I looked up and noticed that something unusual was going on, as everybody in the pool area was watching lane #1.

I moved closer to the pool and could see that the other 7 swimmers had completed their 50 yard sprint and were standing in the water, watching, waiting for you complete your mission and finish the race. As you neared the wall, the sound from the crowd became almost deafening. I know there were people watching to make sure you didn't get into trouble, but their concerns were unnecessary, as you made it safely to the wall.

I had never seen a standing ovation at a high school swim meet until that day. I wanted to congratulate you and tell you how much I admired your strength and your tenacity but I know you just want to be treated like any other kid.

Now, people from all over will know how tough you are and that you have what it takes to prevail. Strong work laddie, strong work.


If you want to know what this kid looks like, grab a dictionary. Look up the word courage. Then try perseverance, tenacity, determination, toughness, grit, guts - you get the picture. Those definitions should paint a pretty good picture of what this kid is.

Then look up inspiration. That's how he affected me.

Thanks for reading,
A humbled Schmoe 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Five Stages of Not Having to Cope With After Midnight Calls

Before going any further, read The Five Stages of Coping With After Midnight Calls. My apologies to Lt. Morse, Providence F.D, Rescue #1.

The Five Stages of Not Having to Cope With After Midnight Calls

"Attention Squad 212, request for medical aid at the homeless shelter, 21178 Yeager Rd. for a reported tooth-ache. Time out 02:30"

Stage #1 - Denial

The truck company captain can't believe the squad is getting up for yet another B.S. call in the middle of the night.

Stage #2 - Anger

The truck company captain is pissed - the squadies laid on the siren as they left the station, prolonging his period of sleeplessness by another 30 seconds.

Stage #3 - Resentment

"What is it with those squadies? Not only have they been using too much siren when they leave the station at night, but they have been kind of noisy when they come home. I might have to find a 'special' detail for them to do next shift"

Stage #4 - Acceptance

"What am I so pissed off about, I am only awake for 45 seconds or so 4 times a night. I'll just do the 'truckies roll' and go back to sleep".

Stage #5 - Closure

The wake-up bell does it's job and gets the truck company captain out of his rack. He scratches himself as he walks to the kitchen, clad only in his chonies and a Disneyland Fire Dept. T-Shirt. He gets his cup and heads to the Bunn-O-Matic. He stands behind the squad medic, who is making another pot of coffee. He feels pretty good and feels compelled to tell the squad medic that "last night wasn't too bad" and that he "feels pretty good".

The squad medic is making the second pot of coffee, the first being consumed by he and his partner some time after picking up the dentally-challenged tweaker at the shelter and before picking up "Pissy Pete" from behind O'Malleys.

The It takes every bit of self-control that the medic has, not to throw the fresh pot of coffee on the truck company captain.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Not my story, but a good one none the less. This happened to a friend of mine, it was the first of several surrenders that have occurred at the K.B.F.P.D. Some creative liberties were taken to protect the innocent and the guilty.


Panch pulled onto the back ramp, parked his truck, gathered his stuff and went inside. He was not surprised to find the station empty, El Rio was a busy place. Panch liked El Rio. It provided a lot of action, plus they always had a boot and the challenge of training new people appealed to him. The busy nights were a drawback, but it was eased by having a good crew. Besides, he reasoned, you can always sleep when you're dead.

Panch made his way through the silent station and into the kitchen, The Bunn-O-Matic was empty and dark. Wherever the engine was, they had left before anyone had been up. Panch made a pot before moving into the office and checking the computer.

The unit status function showed that the engine was on a medical aid call that had required follow-up to the hospital. It looked like they would be tied up for a while. He also checked the training schedule to see what the plan was for the day. It looked like nothing to important was going on.

As Panch returned to the kitchen, he heard the back door open and the sound of someone lugging a duffel bag across the tile floor and into the locker room. The solitude of being the only person in the usually noisy station was broken. As the other crew members showed up for work, the activity level would surely increase.

They met at the kitchen table, Panch with a full cup of hot coffee, Steve with the paper. They chatted about the game and the odds of the Cowboys making the playoffs. Panch was used to taking shots over his loyalty to "America's Team", it made him an easy target. He had just taken his third hit when the station doorbell rang.

As Panch was closest to the doorway, he jumped up and blocked it, forcing Steve to trail behind Panch as they walked into the office. Panch opened the door and was surprised to not see anyone standing there. He looked up and saw a woman standing next to the passenger side door of a pick-up truck stopped on the street. He started to walk toward her, but sensed something at his feet.

He looked down and noticed a well-used blanket, bundled up and placed right in front of the doorway. Still not comprehending, he looked up again and saw the woman wave at him, get in the pick-up and close the door. He was still staring as the truck drove off.

Bewildered, Panch looked down again and saw the blanket move.

Hoping it was an injured animal, Panch peeled back part of the blanket and saw the head of a newborn infant. Finally comprehending what was going on, Panch looked up at Steve, then scooped up the blanket and moved inside.

Steve was shocked. He was mentally and psychologically unprepared to deal with this so early in the day. He hadn't had a cup of coffee yet and mentally he was still off duty. He struggled to remember where the Safe Surrender packet was filed and tried to remember the procedure that was supposed to be followed. He failed at both, so he just called dispatch and requested that an engine, an ambulance and the P.D. respond.

Steve and Panch looked at the newborn girl, laying on the blanket. She appeared to have decent color and was moving pretty well, her umbilical cord was still attached. As the engine was not in quarters, they had no equipment. All they could do was keep her warm and continue to assess her. As Steve and Panch assessed the baby, both mentioned how lucky this little girl was that they always came in to work early. Steve couldn't help but think of his own young sons and how they had come into the world. Baby's can't choose how they are born, he mused.

After a short time, Engine 219 arrived and took charge of the baby girl. It turned out that she was in good shape. Panch remembered where the safe surrender packet was filed and began filling out the forms while the guys from #219 placed the ID bracelet on the baby's tiny ankle.

The mother's bracelet remained unused.


The ambulance arrived shortly thereafter and soon the infant was en-route to the hospital, the system and hopefully, someday, a good home. The District's PIO was notified and soon the local paper had a reporter and a photographer at the hospital. Panch and Steve were sent down to talk with them and pose for pictures.

The event made the front page of that community's paper in the next edition, helping to get the word out about the "Safe Surrender" program. As the district is "Kinda Big", we have had several surrenders in various communities that we protect. I haven't had it happen to me, the odds are I won't.

It is much better to find a live baby on the front step of the "Healing Place", rather than a dead one in the dumpster behind K-Mart. "Safe Surrender" save lives.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On the Hook

This post is rated PG13. It contains language that some people might find offensive. Parental discretion is advised.

The engine pulled out from the curb and rolled down the quiet residential street as the captain switched the radio over to the command channel and cleared the call. He adjusted the volume down, as it did now did not have to overcome the wail of the siren.

"You know Cap, those guys on that county squad were sure polite" the voice over the headset  said, "They must have gotten the word about how you attacked their buddies on A shift."

The captain couldn't believe what he had just heard.. "Me, are you kidding? You were the one who got into it with that asshole, if anything, they should be afraid of you".

"Did you hear the way they kissed the captains ass?" Piped the usually quiet firefighter. "It was sickening. Yes sir, no sir, of course sir. Sheesh."

"Their medic told me that everybody is talking about you captain",  the medic said. "They're saying you caused problems for that guy and how he hasn't worked since. They are thinking you got him suspended."

"Hold on" the captain screeched " They're saying I got that knucklehead suspended? Me? all I did was diffuse the situation and now I am the bad guy? That's bullshit!"

The comments now began flying over the intercom. "Oh yeah, Rock went to a PALS class and one of the county guys said that the medic was suspended and the other guy got transferred out to another battalion."

"My wife talked to that female firefighter from county 12's at the gym the other day. She said that they all think you are out of control."

"No wonder they were so polite - it was out of fear"

The captain tolerated it for about thirty seconds, then had enough. "Hold it! hold it!. Pull this goddam engine over! Pull it over! This is effing bullshit! I don't know what the hell those assholes are spreading around, but goddam it, all I said was "that's enough!" He started it, you called him on it, I fucking squelched it and now this? I can't believe it!"

The engineer obediently pulled the engine over , set the brake and expectantly looked over the doghouse at the captain.

The captain was really warmed up now. The rant continued for another 30 seconds, the language became more profane and more impassioned. It was an odd sound that mad him look into the back of the cab. There, he saw the medic and the firefighter laughing their asses off.

It was then that Captain Joseph R. Schmoe, from the Kinda Big Fire Protection District, knew that he had been HAD!

I usually pick up on these things pretty early, but this time the planets were aligned, the right buttons were pressed at exactly the right time, they hooked me up and they reeled me in. We all had a good laugh over it, it was a good way to close out the cycle. It was good we could finally laugh at this thing, even if it was at my expense.

I'll get them back. Sooner or later.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good luck, Matt

Dear Matt,

Matt, it is now 17:30 hrs on the west coast. You have been at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California for about 17 hrs. If everything went to plan, you spent all day yesterday in Los Angeles with your recruiter before getting on the bus and arriving at MCRDSD in the middle of the night.

By now, it has been quite some time since you had any sleep. You have been extremely busy and it will be a long time before you will be allowed to rest. This is to prepare you for the mental and physical challenges that you will be forced to endure over the next seventy-some days. You must abandon the normality of your former life and adapt to your new one, the one of a warrior.

Even though you will get some sleep and will be adequately fed, you will always be hungry and will never be rested during your time at MCRDSD.  That is part of the process of turning you into a Marine. The limits that restrained you during your old life will be erased and reset farther than you could ever imagine.

I spoke with you on Saturday, you seemed eager to start your new life. I hope that when you return to your family, you enthusiasm for your decision remains as high. I wish you well Matt and I hope that you are kept safe, that your leadership makes sound and wise decisions and that after your enlistment is over, you can return to civilian life an whole and healthy individual.

 Joseph Schmoe (KG's dad)

Number 1 son's friend matt left for the Marine Corps yesterday. He is a good kid and I wish him well. I know his mom isn't to happy about it, but there is nothing she can do. Godspeed Matt.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, April 8, 2010


It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I am not really sure what sin that statement is supposed to address, but I think it probably has to do with slothfulness.

I intended to post yesterday before work, but ended up getting in a discourse with a fellow blogger and then I intended to post yesterday at lunch, but the damn doorbell kept ringing and before I knew it lunch was over.

I then intended to post a little somthin' after dinner, but we pulled a truck fire that ended up being an eleven hour job.  Although we only spent five and a half hours out there, by the time I got back in the barn and did the NFRS report, plus a couple more EMS reports, training records and my log, it was two A.M. and I was done for the day.

As I was up pretty late, I slept till six, so posting in the early AM was out. After work, I hung out for an hour or so and washed my jeep as I had to pick up #2 son from a friend's house that is only half an hour away from work. After getting him home, I then had to run him over to another friends house (this one a little closer to home!) I am now back from that and a few other chores.

Frankly, I am going to try and catch an hour or two of sleep before either:

A. - I have to pick up #2 kid and then take him somewhere else, or

B. - The Saint I am Married To gets home from work.

So for now, this will have to do. Although I intended to post a quality piece yesterday, it just didn't happen. I really don't think it was due to slothfulness or even poor planning. Sometimes stuff just happens.

I may even try again tonight. You might note that I didn't say "I intend to post tonight."

Thanks for reading,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ara and Spirit

I read many blogs. I subscribe to over a hundred and I check Google Reader several times a day to keep up with them. My tastes vary, the primary requirement for me to subscribe to a blog is that it keeps my interest.

Some blogs keep my interest because of the subject of the content. Fire, police, EMS, dispatch, aviation related blogs tend to fall into this category.

Others hold my attention because they are so well written, even though I may not usually be interested in the subject, their narrative grabs my interest. Several blogs I follow are funny, others are photographic in nature and I find the images interesting.

One blog that I follow is called The Oasis Of My Soul. It is written by a man named Ara Gureghian. It chronicles his life on the road with his dog Spirit. Ara has been on the road more or less for five years or so. He appears to be nomadic in nature and when he lost his son a while back, felt compelled to leave behind many of the things in life that we usually hold dear and hit the road. He travels riding a BMW motorcycle with a sidecar. Ara usually drives, Spirit usually rides in the sidehack.

Ara spends a lot of time in the wide open west. Places and concepts near and dear to my heart. Ara is a talented photographer and captures amazing images of the things that he sees. He writes of his experiences and of his thoughts as the miles and hours pass by. Words that inspire thought and express emotion in a way far different than mine.

Recently, Ara has started shooting video. Last week, Ara posted a video that he shot in South Texas, where he and Spirit have wintered the past few years.

The vast openness of the Chihuahuan desert, the solitude of the dirt road and the trusting looks that Spirit gives Ara, all combined to impress upon me the beauty and diversity of our world and make me appreciate it all that much more.

I would not enjoy living as Ara does. I enjoy my creature comforts too much and I do much better in life while in the presence of The Saint That I Am Married To. However, there is a part of Ara, the nomadic lifestyle, the quest for the open road, the loyalty of his companion, that appeals to most of us. For me, this video visualizes the commonality  of our lives and causes me to appreciate the differences.

Some day, our paths will cross. I will introduce myself to him and to Spirit. Hopefully, the part of our lives that we have in common will make for an interesting conversation. And, hopefully, Spirit will not be disappointed.

Thanks Ara, for allowing me to post this video.

As always, thanks for reading,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A whole lot of shakin' goin on

I am near my Mom's in So Cal for the holiday. A few hours ago, the house starts to shake, and its a rolling type of quake that we can feel for quite a few seconds. When this happens, you always wonder if it is a small quake near by, or it's a big quake far away. This time, I was pretty sure that it was a big quake far away.

Turns out, it was a 6.9 quake about 45 miles south of the border. It was around 200 miles from where we are and we could feel it very well, thank you very much. 6.9 has potential for serious damage, especially where building codes are lax.

I did a bit of preliminary intel and it appears that there are several small towns within 20 miles of the epicenter. I talked to a firefighter in Calexico CA, which is on the border and he said there is some structural damage there, apparently minor, but a full assessment was just getting started.

I am afraid there will be some injuries if not deaths in Mexico, I hope it's not too bad. I know it's not a matter of "if" around here, it's a matter of "when".

It may be a long night for some folks.

Thanks for reading,
A Jittery Schmoe


The first time that I can remember meeting Dennis was on a summer morning many years ago. GQ and I were on the rescue, two 26 yr olds, under-supervised with too much freedom.

The call came in for a snake bite at a car wash. I remember thinking that was kind of odd, although we work in the desert, that district was heavily populated and had been so for some time. The chances of being bit by a snake was extremely rare, even more so for a venomous one. We pulled up to the car wash and found a male, somewhere between 30 and 60 years old, standing next to the pay phone.

We determined that our patient was named Dennis and that the snake bite he was complaining about had occurred 4 years prior to our being called.. We also determined that Dennis was stinking drunk. I mean stinking drunk and stinking and drunk.

Dennis had been on the streets for a while. It was obvious that he had stopped taking care of himself, his instinct of self preservation had long since left him. As this was our first time meeting Dennis, we had him remove his shoe to look at the "snake bite".

Dennis' foot was a mess to say the least.Not only did he have the terminally nasty feet that only a homeless alcoholic can have, but he had some sort of festering, ulcerous wound to the top of his foot. Just guessing, but I don't believe it was ever a snake bite.

We played the game with Dennis on that first encounter. We took his vitals, obtained his info and applied some sort of dressing to the wound. The ambulance arrived and we passed Dennis over to the paramedic.

Over the next few weeks, Dennis became a regular customer. We were usually called out at least once every shift or two. Sometimes Dennis called us, sometimes a passer-by would call. Dennis was always within a few blocks of the station, he was always pissy drunk and he was never quiet. His complaints moved off of the snake bite and became more outlandish. Dennis couldn't shut up. He ran his mouth from the time we arrived until we shut the door to the ambulance. He then started on the ambulance crew. He was never combative, just verbally offensive. He usually managed to insult us all  within a few minutes.

It became harder to take him serious as it became obvious he was a drunk bullshit artist. My patience began to wear thin and, as I had all of his information memorized, calls for Dennis degraded to waiting with him for the ambulance.

We began to hear through the ambulance company, that the downtown hospital's patience was wearing thin as well. They started complaining to the ambulance crews that Dennis should be transported to the county hospital, not to the closest. Dennis however, knew that the ambulance had to take him where he wanted to go and he wanted to go to the downtown hospital.

We didn't see Dennis for a few weeks. Frankly, we didn't miss him. We had assumed that he had moved on or that someone had shanked him. When Dennis did return, we on C shift saw him one more time. It was in front of a hamburger stand, Dennis was laying in the parkway. He was hammered drunk as usual, verbose and unable to walk.

Dennis had a cast on his foot, although he had manged to break it to the point where it was almost worthless. It was filthy dirty and had blood seeping though the plaster.  He had lost his crutches and had a bag of french fries in one hand and a hamburger on the ground next to him. He was running his mouth and manged to piss me off within a second of our arrival.

The ambulance was right behind us and I was far less than polite as we picked his drunk ass up and plopped him on the gurney. He asked for his hamburger and, out of anger and frustration, I told him that he didn't need it.

I was angry that a doctor had taken the time to treat him, repair what damage was done to his foot and cast it. Dennis didn't care enough to even try to help himself by taking care of his foot.  So, I denied him his hamburger. I may have even taken the fries out of his hand and set them on the ground next to the hamburger.

We loaded Dennis into the ambulance and stopped for a minute to tell the ambulance crew about Dennis. As we were standing at the rear of the ambu, a citizen walked over, picked up the hamburger and fries and brought them over to where we were standing.

He told us that he had just bought that burger and fries for Dennis and that he wanted him to have it, whether we felt he needed it or not.

I instantly felt like a total asshole (rightly so) and tried to tell the citizen about Dennis and our history with him. The citizen didn't buy it, Dennis was in need and we were supposed to help him. The citizen left, the doors to the ambulance were closed and Dennis went to the hospital. We never saw nor heard about Dennis again. I can't imagine he is still alive and can't help think that he was deliberately drinking himself to death.

Although we never denied Dennis transport or treatment when he really needed it, I personally could have treated him better, especially during our last encounter. I remember so much about Dennis, I have to think it is because of how I failed Dennis and how I let him get to me. As I am much older now and, hopefully wiser, I like to think that I would behave better should the same situation arise again. Yet, sometimes, I am not sure.

Sorry Dennis. Drunken turd that you were, you deserved better.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Flesh vs. Steel and Flame

Last week, I related a story about a car losing control and smashing into the rig of a neighboring agency. I titled the post Steel for Flesh and spoke about how I would sacrifice my rig for the safety of my crew, other first responders and the public.

Today, first responders in San Diego County Ca. had their worst fears realized when an EMT was struck and killed on the freeway while working at the scene of a traffic accident. The accident occurred this morning at about 7 a.m. on state highway 162 in San Diego Ca.

Details are sketchy, but it appears that Esteban Bahena, a 24 yr old EMT for San Diego Medical Services, a private company contracted by the City of San Diego to provide EMS transportation, was killed as he was placing flares at the scene of a minor traffic accident.

As he was doing this, additional collisions occurred, causing him to be struck in the process. The driver who struck Esteban had her blood drawn at a local hospital to determine if she was under the influence.

San Diego TV Channel 6 has the story HERE .

I have never met Esteban, I don't know what his goals and dreams were, but I know that before 7 this morning, he was just another Schmoe who was trying to keep wolves from peoples doors. Now, he is a huge hole in his family's and friend's hearts.

Over the next week or so, first responders from all over the county will be pulling their Class "A" uniforms out of the closet and getting ready for yet another funeral.  They will pay homage to Esteban and then go on with their jobs, fighting off wolves.

For some, they will never forget Esteban and will remember his contribution to their efforts. Rest in Peace Esteban.


I wasn't going to mention this, but a young firefighter in suburban Chicago died from injuries received while fighting a structure fire on Tuesday night.

Brian Carey, 28, a firefighter with the Homewood Il. Fire Department died from injuries received while fighting a residential structure fire. One occupant of the home perished in the fire, another escaped on her own.

Carey's partner, Karra Kappas suffered first and second degree burns in the incident. She is reported to be in stable condition at the hospital.

Dave Statter at Statter911 has all of the details.

Rest in Peace Brian, a fast recovery to you Karra.

I usually don't post these types of things, there are many blogs like The Fire CriticThe Fire Geezer and STATter911  that do a much better job than I with them..

Something about the age of the victims in these incidents struck home. Perhaps it's because I remember being 21, 24 and 28 and I always felt that it could never happen to me. Now, pushing 50, I realize that my feelings of invulnerability were misguided and that it could have very easily been me. Regardless, two young people killed, one seriously injured while "living the dream".

The other thing that these incidents bring to mind is that both of these calls were "routine" until they went bad. They could happen any time or any place. Yet another sign of our vulnerability.

Regardless we all need to remember that nothing is routine, and we need to be careful. It's hard to do.

Thanks for reading,