Monday, May 31, 2010

Thanks George


  Award: Congressional Medal of Honor
Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)
Place and Date and date: Near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, 16 April 1967
Entered service at: Los Angeles, California
Born: 9 March 1946, Hanford, California
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Ingalls, a member of Company A, accompanied his squad on a night ambush mission. Shortly after the ambush was established, an enemy soldier entered the killing zone and was shot when he tried to evade capture. Other enemy soldiers were expected to enter the area, and the ambush was maintained in the same location. 2 quiet hours passed without incident, then suddenly a hand grenade was thrown from the nearby dense undergrowth into the center of the squad's position. The grenade did not explode, but shortly thereafter a second grenade landed directly between Sp4c. Ingalls and a nearby comrade. Although he could have jumped to a safe position, Sp4c. Ingalls, in a spontaneous act of great courage, threw himself on the grenade and absorbed its full blast. The explosion mortally wounded Sp4c. Ingalls, but his heroic action saved the lives of the remaining members of his squad. His gallantry and selfless devotion to his comrades are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon Sp4c. Ingalls, his unit, and the U.S. Army.


George Ingalls. Just another schmoe, who when called upon, rose to the occasion and did something extraordinary. I'll bet if you could ask him why he dove on that grenade, he would say that he did it for his fellow soldiers who were fighting beside him.

Please remember George and all of the others who have fallen in the service of their country and their comrades on this day.

Thanks for reading,
A humble Schmoe

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Dragons, kill 'em while they're small!

Spotted this baby dragon while down visiting the folks.

Prying open the jaws.

The dragon belches. A little belch, but a belch none the less.

Dragon done, not much fun!

Thanks to the Home Town F.D. for letting me take pictures. Thanks to you for reading.


Friday, May 28, 2010

First Due Blog Carnival

The First Due Blog Carnival is up and running over at Fire Daily. He has amassed eight quality posts (mine included) OK, seven quality posts, covering the wealth of information that has been passed down to us.

Several of this month's contributors have commented on my blog before and have presented thoughtful, useful information. I recommend going over there and checking it out.

Thanks to John over at Fire Daily for hosting this month's carnival.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Thought We Had a Winner

I thought we had a winner. He showed up early, that is always a good sign. He drove himself, another good sign. He told us that he had purchased his car with his own money - bonus points. Finally, he had a job. Wow. This was the most dialed in EMT student that we had seen this semester.

Then we asked him the question. It is a simple question, one that is so easy, anyone over the age of 16 should know it. Yet of the EMT students that my shift has seen this semester, only one has answered it correctly.

As a joke, we asked a student the question last semester and were surprised that they did not give us the correct reply. This semester, we have kept track of the number of students that were able to answer the question. To this point, one of three. Not too good.

I must admit after seeing all of the attributes of this student, I really thought he would know. I would have put money on it. Happily, no money was wagered, as the student didn't know the answer.

The question, you might ask?

What do the initials C.P.R. stand for.

Our student admitted that he did not know, but wanted to guess. He got "cardio" correct and guessed "pulmonary", but he fell flat on "resuscitation".

Of the four students he had this semester, two were more than 10 minutes late. One arrived right at the 0800 bell. One was early.

Two were driven by their parents. One had to call his mom because he forgot his jacket and was cold. One's father came to the station door in a bathrobe and flippy-flops to pick him up.

One of four knew what CPR stand for.

I can't wait for next semester.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taking the Wealth

This month's First Due Blog Carnival is being hosted over at The Fire Daily. The topic is Sharing the Wealth and is supposed to be about the vast amount of information that we share and learn from each other in the business.

I have learned so much from so many people. This is information that I use on a daily basis. It is so often used that I really don't think about a lot of it any more and don't remember who taught it to me.

One event in particular occurred in the early '80s when I was a probationary firefighter with the K.B.F.P.D. It involves a cast of characters from station 212, including Captain Stoneface, who was my captain.

The message is simple, yet it is often forgotten. I use it to reign myself in when tension is high and focus is required.

I hope you enjoy my entry in this months First Due Blog Carnival.


The smell of shit, blood and anti-freeze permeated the interior of the mangled car. The twisted metal wrapped around a palm tree, trapping the driver partially in his seat and partially on top of the center console. The driver's feet were entangled in the pedals and folds of steel from the floor of the footwell.

The car had impacted several objects before striking the palm tree. The car came to rest with trunk of the tree intruding into the driver's door by a couple of feet. Our patient was conscious but confused. He felt every bit of his pain, but he didn't know why he hurt or why he couldn't move his legs. Movement caused our patient to scream in pain, his damaged limbs and torso torturing him when moved.

The station had emptied for this one. An engine, the squad with the tools and the truck for manpower had all showed up. Stoneface got off of the engine, sized the scene up and had directed me and Arnie to take care of the patient. He told the squad to get the jaws and put the truck on a protection line and to assist the squad.

The squad went to work on the car, firs taking the roof, then the rear door and going to work on the B pillar. The tree became an issue, preventing the squaddies from getting to the driver's door and to the area below the A pillar.

Arnie and I covered the patient with a blanket while the car was slowly being removed from around us. We took turns with our heads under the blanket, trying to keep our altered patient calm.

The sounds of the tools at work: the tearing and cutting of metal and the removal of parts added with the sound of the Jaw's power unit created a surreal symphony of unpleasant clamor.

The squaddies cut on that car for what seemed like forever. Many parts and pieces were stripped away, but our patient remained trapped, the bent metal trapping his feet and legs not yielding to our efforts. It became apparent that the tree and the damage would not allow a purchase point to be obtained and that a different solution was in order.

Finally, Stoneface ordered that a wrecker be used to pull the car a few feet away from the tree, allowing access to the A pillar. Still the feet remained trapped. Each time the Jaws or other tools were used to manipulate the metal, pressure would be applied to our patient's feet - the resulting screams added to the din.

Our pt was now beginning to slide, his vitals were dropping as was his LOC. It became apparent that our patient would likely lose his battle with time if he was not removed quickly.

Finally, Tony D. reached down into the tangled remains of the footwell, strained and jerked the legs and feet from their entrapment. The patient's screamed filled our ears, the sound continuing as he was removed from the remains of his car and placed onto the backboard.

After it was all over, I approached Stoneface. I asked him how he felt about the call and about our actions.
He said that the conditions were difficult and that we had used all of the tools and the expertise at our disposal. He also said that we should always strive to do our job better and that he had learned some things on this call.

Then he told me the phrase which opened my eyes. "Schmoe, you have to remember that these things are not our emergency. They are our victim's emergency and it is simply our job is to straighten it out."

I use this concept when dealing with these difficult calls, as it helps me maintain a cool head when I need it most.  A simple concept to be sure, but a useful one none the less. Some might find it insensitive or crass. Perhaps it is., but it works for me.

Thanks for reading,

It Sucks When...

... You get left at the hydrant

and your teammates are first at the door.

I'm just sayin'

Thanks for looking,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If the Phone Had Been Bugged

Her: Hello

Me: Hey Baby, how ya doing?

Her: Good, how's your drill going?

Me: It's a disaster. Do me a favor.

Her: Sure. What is it?

Me: Open up the safe and grab a shotgun, preferably the black one, and a box of shells, then come down here. Aim for the big, ugly guy (me) and start shooting. Don't stop until the box of shells is gone.

Her: That bad huh.

Me: Not really. Actually its going pretty good. It's just the chaos thing you know.

Her: Well, that's kind of your business.

Me: I know. Speaking of chaos, I gotta go. I'll call you tonight. Love you, bye.

Her: I love you too. Bye.

The Saint never did show up with the shotgun and we got through the regional MCI/Disaster drill just fine. I really hate these drills even though they are vital to our mission.

This one was a big one, with numerous fire agencies, ambulance companies and local government resources participating. Even the special kids, Haz-mat and heavy rescue, got to play

If they are planned properly, they will challenge the participants right up to the point of overload and keep them there for a while. I always learn something. It's always a good review and I usually feel good about it when I am done.

Still I hate them, especially the early portion of the drill when chaos is still on the field and control is still on the sidelines. Whether as a "First In" unit, or whether I am filling an overhead position, the chaotic early stages always cause me some grief. 

The Saint says it's a control issue. I tend to agree.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, May 24, 2010


I thought about just picking him up and throwing him on the gurney. In his acute medical status, he couldn't have put up much of a fight. There were a lot of witnesses however and I knew that ultimately, the litigation and resulting loss of my career would not be worth it, even if it did save his life.

My medic, myself, the ambulance medic and the base station doc all tried unsuccessfully to convince our patient that he needed to go. I appreciated his concern. No one wants a collection agency calling at all hours demanding payment for an ambulance ride to the hospital, an ER visit and the resultant medications. He said that he had been through the collection process before, I believed him. But still, he needed to go.

As I had recently been through a call where a person with a similar medical condition had not survived her ordeal, each refusal was like a sharp fingernail, picking at a scab on my emotional well being.

Our patient wanted to wait until a clinic opened in the morning, then have his wife drive him for treatment. That was not acceptable to us, as the medication that was being given to him would wasn't working as well we would have liked and would have worn off well before then.

Finally, we badgered him to have his wife drive him to the ER immediately, rather than wait the six hours until the clinic opened. Hopefully, the medication would last until the ride was complete and he would survive the trip.

I was more than a little concerned that the medication would only last long enough for our patient to make it into the jurisdiction of the neighboring city fire department. At least then, It would be them who would be attempting resuscitation efforts on the side of a dark road, worrying about the patient dying and the crew being hit by a drunk driver. Sometimes, it's a matter of self preservation.

Our patient stood up and struggled to get into the bedroom where he found a shirt and some shoes. He was noticeably paler upon his return to the living room, his distress level had increased. He looked at me and asked if he could go with us.

Inwardly, my relief bordered on elation. The path to his death had just been lengthened. The gurney was back inside the apartment and our patient loaded upon it in just a few seconds. He was loaded on gone within a few more minutes.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me as the incident came to a close.  Our previous customer couldn't deal with her life and used our services needlessly, without ever thinking of the bill. Yet, this patient, who truly needed our intervention and  transportation by ambulance, was willing to risk death over paying the bill.

In the end, it wasn't our persuasion or the pleading of his wife that caused our patient to change his mind and allow us to transport him. It was the effort of putting on a shirt that pushed him over the edge. Simple as that.

Thanks for reading,
A relieved Schmoe

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Hero. A term that is tossed about a little too much these days. You want to see a hero, watch this.

Hero. It's about sacrifice, take notes people.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Small Airshow

Some recent photographs of air operations at a relatively small vegetation fire. Click to enlarge the pics.

Group #1 - Copter 18 sequence

Copter 18 on the Hydrant

Waiting for the tank to fill

Loaded and departing

Departure Continued


The Drop

The Return


Base leg

Turning Final

Final Approach

Short Final

Perform steps one through twelve, then repeat. Total turn around time was approximately five minutes, no more than six.


Fixed wing operations were being conducted at the same time.
An S2T Tracker from Cal-Fire prepares to drop

Laying "Pink Line" between the flames and the houses

Another S2 makes a drop

Above it all:

"Air Attack", an OV-10 from Cal-Fire circles a couple thousand
feet higher than everyone else and makes sure no one runs into 
each other.Actually, Air Attack coordinates the entire air game,
working with the Incident Commander to ensure the drops are
made where they will do the most good.  These guys are pros.

I was lucky and was in a place where I could shoot these aircraft at work. As these were taken early in the season, they may be a busy group of people this year. If so, you will have to suffer through a lot of airplane pictures this summer!

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And So It Starts

The rains of winter are long gone and now the heat of the summer is looming on the horizon. Rain spread out over several months have given us a heavier than usual crop of annual grasses, a warm spell this spring has turned the grass brown already.

As a result, there have already been a few vegetation fires that have spread a little farther than usual for this time of year.

We stumbled across this one while down south a few days ago.

I heard that this one went to 500 plus acres. We saw engines from several agencies responding to this and were kind of surprised that this went down in early May.

It seemed to me that this fire was more like a June fire than a May fire. You can never really tell what a fire season will end up like by what it starts like. It is always dependent upon the weather over the season. As far as major wind-driven fires go, it usually boils down to what happens in October and what comes first, the winds or the rains.

This fire looked like it burned pretty dirty, leaving some heavier fuels unburned. I'll bet the pilots were glad to get some work in and fine tune some skills that will be needed later on. I saw at least two helicopters on this and later saw a couple of fixed-wing aircraft flying toward this fire.

Sorry for the crappy pics, they were shot one-handed through the side window while traveling down the road. It's not illegal to photograph while driving is it? I mean if you don't use your cell phone.

As I have an obsession with aircraft, look for a few posts this summer on aerial firefighting. Fire and aircraft, you can't go wrong with that.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pardon Me Ma'am ... there a reason you were driving around without any clothes on before you crashed into this tree? If there is, like you were fleeing a deranged axe murderer or you were assaulted or something, I totally get it. If not, please refrain from doing it again.

It changes the whole extrication dynamic when your hoo-hoo is exposed to open air. It doesn't really make a difference when we pull the roof off or take the door and b-pillar, but it does make it a bit awkward when we have to reach down and disentangle your injured legs from the gas and brake pedals.

It's OK to drive around nekked if you want (Motorcop might have an issue with it though) and it's OK to crash into a tree - stuff happens. Just don't do them both at the same time.

I'm just sayin'

Thanks for reading,
An appalled Schmoe

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pure Syrup

30 years ago this month, the Saint That I Am Married To and I started dating. We officially became a "couple"  on the night of her prom. 3 years after that, we were married.

The way I look at it, she had two good opportunities to say no and run like hell for the hills. That she wasted both of these opportunities (and many more) was to my good fortune. I like to think my good looks, charm and my mad romance skills somehow overpowered the warning signs that she must have seen.

In reality, 17 year old girls are not known for their good judgment when it comes to men. This is a trait that my wife did not grow out of until it was too late. Now she has three teen-aged boys in the house, me and our two sons.

To celebrate our thirty years together, I surprised her by taking her to a few places that we went in the first few months of our relationship.

The first place we went to was an amusement park down south. We had gone there for her "grad night" in 1980. For those of you unfamiliar with the custom, graduating seniors were loaded up onto busses on the night of their graduation and taken to the great big amusement park. The event  didn't start until 11 PM and lasted all night. If I remember correctly, we got back into town around 6 AM, leaving me just enough time to change and go to work. Coming home from work that afternoon was the only time I have ever nodded off whil riding a motorcycle. Fortunately I woke up before falling off or leaving the road.

This time, we strolled through a section of the park that has some talented street performers, including this percussionist.

This gentleman was quite good and had quite the kit.

Interspersed with the street performers are numerous shops and restaurants. Of course, we strolled through most of them, looking at stuff that brought back memories of the park from when we were kids.

After our time at the great big amusement park, the nostalgic evening continued as we went to the very same restaurant that we went to on the night of her prom. It's known for it's view and the food is pretty good as well.
The sun sets into the fog. It was a great view and
it brought back some great memories. Of course
this time, I knew enough to tip the hostess and
was able to get seated at a window. Well worth
the price.

If you time it right, you can catch sunset and see from afar, the 
fireworks at the great big amusement park. This is the view as
we left. 

To be true to the nostalgic theme, we should have driven to the beach and made out for four or five hours. The truth be known, I had to work the next day and we had a long drive home, so we called it a day. Responsibility is a bitch.

Thanks to The Saint for putting up with my sorry ass for all of these years. Hopefully, she won't smarten up and throw me out - I'm pretty fond of her.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Recovery House Zone

Picture if you will a neighborhood. It is like many other upper middle-class neighborhoods with manicured lawns, one acre lots, tremendous views, BMWs in the garage. Peaceful, reeking of success, this suburban neighborhood is about to enter the recovery house zone.

Please meet Mr. Foo. Asian-american, 26 years old, stupid, with a chemical dependency issue, Mr. Foo resides in a recovery home located in this up-scale neighborhood. Mr. Foo is able to live here, because a corporation has figured out how to purchase upscale houses, turn them into recovery homes and then charge recovering addicts large sums of money to live there, as they transition from re-hab to the real world. Mr. Foo is fortunate that his family has money and can afford to send him to this recovery home. This serene up-scale neighborhood is not so fortunate, as Mr. Foo is no longer recovering.

Please observe Mr. Foo running down the quiet lane, shouting, ranting, striking mailboxes. Notice how he runs through the yards, alarming the few residents who are at home on this weekday morning. In some neighborhoods, this type of behavior would barely be noticed. Here it is noticed and is rapidly called in.

Notice as the black and white patrol cruiser slowly rounds the corner, looking for the ranting out of control man. Observe as the deputy sheriff stops the cruiser near Mr. Foo, gets out and demands that Mr. Foo lay on the ground.

Ponder, if you will, the possible outcomes as Mr. Foo focuses his attention onto the deputy, then screams as he charges toward him at full speed. Admire the purpose of motion as the deputy steps to the side, un-holsters his taser, aims and fires it into the charging Mr. Foo.

Admire too the effectiveness of the taser, as we observe Mr. Foo instantly stop his charge, fall to the ground in a heap and begin writhing in the gutter.

 Tasers Save Lives Schmotograph

 Mr. Foo's freedom is now gone as we see the deputy apply handcuffs and place Mr. Foo into the back of the cruiser.

We can see and hear as the fire engine and and ambulance enter this formerly quiet neighborhood and assess Mr. Foo. We can see the surprise on Capt. Schmoe's face as he hears, through Mr. Foo's ranting and screaming, the medic and Mr. Foo converse about their previous meeting, one not too dissimilar than this one.

Ponder if you will, the fact that the serenity of any neighborhood can be broken by entering the Recovery House Zone. Even up here by the healing place.

 Our guest medic on that day had met Mr. Foo when he had behaved in the same manner at the recovery house. The deputies had gone inside and had pulled out numerous crack and meth pipes. So much for recovery.

I don't have an issue with recovery homes in general, but I do have a problem with the fact that in my state, local government has NO control over them. NONE, as long as they have fewer than seven residents and two staff members. That is by state statute.

Most are reasonably well run, but some are not. There is one of these recovery homes on my street. They run a pretty tight ship. In the three years they have been there, we have had no problems. As the residents usually only stay there a few months, there is a high turnover of people. A problem child might have moved in today while I was at work.

At the house on my street, the clients are each charged around $600 a week. For that, they get to share a room and receive three meals a day. The staff are people who have completed the program. They get free room and board and get a few hundred bucks a week for spending money.

The mortgage on the house is probably about $2000 a month, the owners bought it at a repo auction three years ago. Do the math.

So when there is a problem house, there is little that municipalities can do about it. Meanwhile, the owners rake in the cash. Usually, one owner will own many of these houses. 

Maybe I should turn my crib into one of these when I retire.

Thansk for reading,

Someone's Getting A New Engine

We had to take our engine to the doctor's the other day. It needed some work that our shop was not able to do. It's quite the road trip, but it is kind of cool to see the various rigs that are usually there.

This time, there was a brand new engine sitting in the repair bay. It is destined for Santa Clara County Fire in California, It is having some last minute stuff installed before heading to it's new home.

When it comes to apparatus color, I have never been a traditionalist. I really like white, especially when trimmed in blue or red. This one is trimmed in white and gold which is nice as well.

I am told someday all apparatus will have the same reflective pattern on the rear of the unit. I am sure it is safer, though our problem usually isn't visibility. It's usually drunk or stupid people losing control of their cars and slamming into us. I am not sure this reflective chevron pattern will cure that.

I found this interesting, a camera mounted on the rear of the unit. I know that they have been around for a while, I just haven't seen one until now. If it keeps you from squashing one kid, it is a bargain. I am curious about one thing though, if a unit has a camera, will a "back-up man" still be required?

All in all, a nice engine for Santa Clara County. I am sure they will get many years of service from it and is a good looking ride to boot. Enjoy it folks.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Grampa Would Just...

...shit if he saw his garden looking like this" I said aloud to myself as I looked at the jungle of weeds.

"You know Dad", #2 son commented "the only reason it looks like this is because he passed away".

I guess you know where I will be spending the next few days off!

Thanks for reading,
A busy Schmoe

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Missions

The call was at the transit authority station,.for some type of medical aid. As usual, our patient was a transient. As usual the complaint was not for an emergent condition, but was one of a chronic-maintenance nature.

As it was a summer evening, the crowd of the usual suspects were present, with the usual chemicals on board. As usual the local Po-Po were dispatched to this location with us, as the usual suspects tended to cause the usual kinds of trouble.

We accessed our patient, heard his complaint and began our assessment. It was at about this time that our ambulance rolled up, followed immediately by the beat cop.

As usual, the usual suspects were full of energy and noise, offering diagnoses to us and advice to our patient. As usual, the beat cop was in a grumpy mood.

As we were the only thing going on at the TA station, the crowd was growing and were closing in. No worries for us, we opted to load and go. It was at that time that the grumpy beat cop decided that the crowd needed to move along.

"Awright you motherf*&^ers, back up."

Not a very diplomatic statement, but was very clear and to the point. Unfortunately, it did not produce the desired effect.

"I said, assholes, back the f*&^ up."

This brought protests from the crowd, some profanities came back toward us. Further inflammatory statements went back toward the crowd. I think that additional P.D. units were requested at about that time. A few seconds later, a bottle could be heard shattering against the concrete.

We expedited loading our patient,  saw that the additional coppers were arriving and we left. Hurriedly.

Oddly enough, that was our last call of the shift.

The next morning, I got off duty and returned home. I walked in the door and checked the machine. There was a message on it, asking me to call work and talk to my counterpart on the other shift. I called Eddie, thinking he was going to offer me some OT.

"Hey Schmoe, the resuscitator is missing off of the rescue. Ya know where it is?"

Shit. I knew exactly where it was. Or where it had been last night.

I took a quick shower, threw on some clothes and headed back to downtown Metroville. My first stop was the transit authority station. Of course, the resuscitator is not where I left it, nor is it at the security desk. The guard on duty did say that he saw one of the usual suspects with it earlier in the morning.

From the guards description, I had a pretty good idea of who had it. The guy was a transient who hung out down town and had a severe drinking problem. His only mission in life was to get cash to buy booze.

I figured since he needed to convert the resuscitator into cash, he would start visiting the local pawnshops and try to hock it. I was right. The very first pawn shop I visited said that someone had been in about an hour before me, trying to pawn a piece of medical equipment.

There were six pawn shops in downtown Metroville at that time. I visited them all. My resuscitator had visited them all on that day as well, just earlier. None of the pawn shops wanted anything to do with the resuscitator, there just wasn't a big enough market for it to allow them to make any money. By the time I hit the last pawn, I was only 30 minutes behind him

I drove the streets for a little while, looking for my resuscitator and the person who had it. Sadly, I had no luck. I finally decided to stop by the TA station on the hope that I could find someone to tell me where this guy might be..

I was quite surprized when I opened the door to the TA station and saw the transiient standing at the security desk with the resuscitator in his hands.

I was kind of a jerk. I walked up and grabbed it from him. I chewed him out for not turning it in when he found it. He let me grind on him a little bit before he told me that I needed to look at it from his perspective.

Basically, he told me that when you live on the street, everything you see and do is evaluated as a potential income source. A can, bottle or an unlocked car all have the potential of producing income of some kind. A transient's job is to exploit these opportunities to their maximum potential.

This guy knew what he had was valuable and thought that the pawn brokers would give him the most money for it. He just didn't know how narrow the market would be for a used resuscitator. He decided to turn it in to the security desk at the TA station in hopes that a reward would be given.

I opened up my wallet and gave him $16 dollars. It was all that I had. I figured that I had been spared a written reprimand, plus promotional exams were coming up and I didn't need the publicity. I also was grateful that he hadn't just tossed the resuscitator ib a dumpster somewhere, once he figured out no one was willing to pawn against it.

Looking back, I realize that both of us completed our mission that day. I recovered my equipment, he got enough cash to buy more booze. We both won, it was a small price to pay to get it back.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Absurditites in Absurd Cities

The word came down the other day that several communities which we protect want to start charging an "inspection fee" for fire inspections performed by fire suppression crews. As fire prevention is one of our functions, these communities feel that it is a way to fund part of the cost of providing service.

Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of showing up at a business, announcing my presence, then holding my hand out and asking for payment. Of course, it is doubtful that any money would be collected at the time of inspection , but knowing that  a fee would be collected for a service which we have provided for free does not set well with me.

After my initial indignation wore off, I did some research and found that the practice is not as uncommon as I had originally thought. Numerous communities throughout the country are currently charging these fees. Although the practice appears to more common in medium to large cities, several smaller cities and some county fire departments are getting into the pockets of businesses as well.

One city that I found which charges inspection fees actually performs inspections twice per year. I wonder if the inspection frequency increased the year that inspection fees were introduced?

Although the fees appear to be small in most cases, I am sure they will go up as time goes on. I have never seen a fee or tax go down in my thirty years working in government. With increased pressure on budgets, it will be hard for administrators to "just say no" and resist the temptation to increase fees.

At what point will local businesses become burdened with these types of fees and taxes to the point of saying "no mas" and actively take on the locality to fight for less service, not more? The fire service has traditionally been viewed as one that has been "givers" not "takers". This move is one that would shift us farther away from being a true public service and closer to being yet another revenue generating DMV-esque type bureaucracy. We all know how much the public loves the DMV.

I hope that this does not come to pass, though I am confident that it will. There is money involved after all.

Thansk fo reading,

Monday, May 10, 2010


The evolution had not gone well. I really hadn't expected it to, but I had hoped that the initial phase would have been successful. We could have built upon it from there.

I let Cyndi discuss it with the boot for several minutes before approaching them. I could tell from afar that Cyndi was a little agitated. I knew she wasn't going to be happy, but she appeared a little more animated than usual.

As I neared the two of them, I could hear Cyndi lighting into the boot. The boot didn't know I was behind him, Cyndi did and was not deterred. After a minute or so, I stepped in. I began by pointing out how the initial objective was not met and therefore, the remainder of the evolution was of no value. I then broke it down, step by step.

It while discussing the second step of the evolution that the boot began rationalizing his actions with superfluous drabble that did nothing to justify them. This prompted a question from me which, in turn generated an answer that was not only wrong, but appeared to have been invented from an active imagination.

I was annoyed, Cyndi was livid. I gathered that Cyndi's conversation with the boot had been similar to mine I let Cyndi have a minute or so of rant time, then I took over - though in a little more supervisory fashion. I discussed the need for honesty on both side of the training equation, specifically, the need for him to tell me "I don't know" rather than trying to B.S. his way through.. We also talked about him trying to rationalize his improper actions away, rather admitting that he screwed up.

The boot agreed with my position (as if he had a choice) and we moved on.

The second attempt at the evolution went much better. The primary and secondary objectives were met, though not without error. The post evolution confab was delivered, then received without excuses or bizarre rationalization returned.

It was on the way home that frustrated us all. We stopped for one more task to be performed while topping off the water tank. An omission was observed, one quite significant. When called on it, the boot stated 'twas not an omission, but a deliberate act. One committed so that it would serve as reminder to perform certain functions each time the tank was topped off.

This response stunned the Evil Medic, who immediately called B.S! It released a short but sharp comment from Cyndi and a "that is not acceptable" from me. I could see the confused look upon the boot's brow, but what was on his brow did not concern me. The faulty logic of the act was my concern, as was the boot's need to find another method to ensure completion of the necessary tasks.

The boot took our final comments and direction without excuses or the expression of faulty reasoning. Maybe there is hope.

I am sure that this boot will succeed in the completion of his goal, but it will take a lot of work on his behalf. Work and the ability to shut-up and listen. Advice that most of us could use at one time or another.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Voted

I finished reading all seven essays for the E-One Fire Engine give-away. As I predicted, all of the finalist's entries presented valid reasons why their department should receive the new fire engine. In the end, I voted on emotion, as I love New Mexico and I thought it noble that the department I voted for was nominated by a neighboring department.

I voted for the Poverty Creek VFD written by Winston-Chloride VFD. Rural New Mexico, like much of rural America is a place where self sufficiency is not only desirable, it is a necessity. Poverty Creek is pretty much on their own and can surly use a legitimate pumper. Plus, I love the desert and mountains of the American Southwest. Sometimes, ya just gotta vote with the heart. Stop by the above link and read the stories, then vote. If ya trust old Schmoe, click on the Poverty Creek link and vote for them.

Speaking of heart, happy day to all you moms out there. PeeDee, Gia, Mrs. B,  Maxwelton and Hallie B. who I know are moms and also to The Observer and to AnnT. who might or might not be moms, but I want you to have a happy day regardless.

Also to The Saint I Am Married to for being such a good mom to our boys and to my mom, who I love, even though she drives me nuts sometimes. And to you Auntie Flo-Bee if you stumble onto this.

Have a great mothers Day to everybody else - call your mom!

Thanks for reading,

Poverty Creek VFD written by Winston-Chloride VFD

Tales and Trucks

Emergency One is a fire apparatus manufacturer based in Ocala Fla. They have been making fire equipment since 1974 and have made over 30,000 pieces of fire apparatus. I have worked on several E-Ones over the years, they have served me well.

They are finishing up a contest right now, with the grand prize being a fire engine that will go to a fire agency that has a genuine need for an engine and can't afford to purchase one. The contest was an old fashioned essay contest, with seven finalists selected. The public can go to the E-One website, read all of final submissions, then vote for the essay they thought best. The website can be found HERE.

I have read through three of the finalist's essays, all are worthy of the grand prize. I'll finish reading them today, then decide who I am voting for. Since most of you seem to enjoy reading and have an interest in the fire service, this may be a way for you to help a worthy fire protection agency receive a new rig while getting some entertainment value. A win-win in my book.

I hope you enjoy the essays, have a great weekend.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Forty Grand

Want to know what $40,000  of fire related damage looks like in a sprinklered apartment?

Little bit of smoke damage to the ceiling.

This cabinet might have to be replaced.

So far, what are we up to?  Paint two rooms, $500 plus another $500 for the cabinet. So where is the other $39,000?
The replacement of the carpet and vinyl flooring has to be a grand.
Notice the drywall has been removed 10 inches up from the floor.
That had to be done throughout the apartment, another grand. 
Now the whole place needs paint to match. The blowers
belong to the restoration company.

Carpet has been removed in here, the drywall as
well. Two of these dehumidifiers will be running
nonstop for two weeks pulling all of the moisture
out of the air, clothes, furniture etc.

The second dehumidifier, this one in the living room. The
furniture was soaked last shift, today when we dropped by, they
seemed dry. The dehumidifiers will run for a week or so, then the
reconstruction will begin. 

Doesn't look like much damage, but the restoration is costly. The fire was a grease fire in the sink, it was extinguished by the sprinkler system. Four heads popped, the carpet was floating when we walked in. We never even pulled a line for this, just squeegees.

The heads were fast response, low GPM heads. Each one put out about 15 Gallons of water per minute, so figure 60 GPM total. They probably flowed for at least 15 minutes, so maybe 750 gallons of water on the floor. Of course, some of it was flowing out the sliding door, but we still had water over the tops of our boots when we first got there.
Personally, I don't see anywhere near 40K worth of damage here, but that's what the resto company is telling the apartment complex it is going to cost. I must be in the wrong business.

Critics of sprinklers would argue that $35 thousand worth of water damage is too much and sprinklers should be optional. I have no idea how big this would have gone had it not been sprinklered, but it could have gutted the apartment and extended upstairs. As such, I think sprinklers are a good idea.

I'm just glad we got on this quick enough and were able to keep the water out of the next apartment. I'm also glad this happened on the ground floor.

Thanks for reading, 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Priceless #3

One door to specialized transportation equipment, destroyed - $2500.

One chrome plated halligan tool - $380

The look on 70 bystanders faces when the halligan tool flies 30 feet through the air and clatters to the floor after the specialized transportation prematurely resumes normal operation - Priceless

Lock - out / Tag - out. Don't leave home without it.

Our neighbors at the Small City Fire dept. dodged a bullet with this one, no one got hurt. Wish I could have been there to see it. Off duty with a camera that is!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Unlikely Superhero

DISCLAIMER - This post in no way signifies that I am one of those "comic geeks" who spends all of his spare cash at the comic book store. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I already have expensive hobbies and I don't need another. Plus, they take up a lot of space, which at my house is taken up with jeep parts, firearms, books and other stuff.

DISCLAIMER PART II - This post in no way signifies or implies that I have any infatuation with an eleven year old female superhero or actress. That WOULD BE WRONG as well as creepy, sick and any number of bad things.

I have seen the future of superheros in America and the future is:

Hit Girl

Hit Girl is a character in the new movie Kick Ass. Hit Girl is eleven years old and is the daughter of Big Daddy, a former cop who was framed and sent to prison. Since his release, Big Daddy has become a superhero and has trained his daughter to be one as well.  
Their ultimate goal is to take down the organized crime boss who framed Big Daddy and indirectly caused the death of Hit Girl's mother. During the process, they cross paths with the film's main character, Kick Ass.
Kick Ass is a regular kid who decides to become a superhero after seeing how complacent society has become.

For me and many others, The Hit Girl character stole the movie, overshadowing Big Daddy, played by Nicholas Cage and Kick Ass, who was played by Aaron Johnson. Totally loyal and dedicated to her father and his mission, Hit Girl operates with an almost demonic passion as she goes about slaughtering bad guys.

The imagery of an eleven year old girl mowing through hordes of evil-doers, using an assortment of weapons , skills and her wits was superbly done. Hit Girl is definitely a non-pc superhero, but an extremely effective one despite her young age and diminutive stature.

Although I really enjoyed Kick Ass, this movie is not for everyone. It is incredibly violent with some adult content and language. Plus, not everyone is ready for an eleven year old killing machine. A movie usually works for me when it nudges up against the border of being absurd, but really doesn't cross it. This movie does just that and is well written, casted and directed.


For people who like slightly outside the box movies, this is definitely worth your twelve bucks. I predict that the sequel will focus on Hit Girl, we'll see if she can deliver.

Oh yeah, one other word of advice. Don't piss her off.

Thanks for reading,