Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pull up a chair

Pull up a chair folks, Uncle Schmoe is going to offer you up some advice.

When sending out a snarky e-mail regarding a vacancy in the dick bureau due to the untimely demise of a not so popular detective, please please please make sure you click on the right "group" before clicking the send button.

This will prevent the Chief of Police from needing to have an apologetic tone in his e-mail, when he sends out the formal announcement of said detective's passing.

This action will also eliminate the need for you to send another e-mail, this one to the entire department, apologizing for the first e-mail. As sincere as it might be, no one who reads it will believe it.

Also remember that this kind of boo-boo may not result in formal discipline, but it will likely not be forgotten during the span of your career.

This is the best kind of advice folks, the free kind. Right now, there is an officer with a very thick layer of egg on his face. I don't think he'll ever get it off. I'm just glad he doesn't work for us.



Thanks for reading,

Accountability at Dusk

For those of you who are actually good photographers, please pardon the poor technical quality of this image. It was shot with a point and shoot and I feel lucky to have captured anything. Having said that, the reason that I am sharing it with you, is that I just like the way it ended up. I liked that the camera captured the time/lighting component and the way that the various crews were captured taking a break.

This is an off-duty image taken of the Home Town F.D. I knew the Battalion Chief and he allowed me to take a few pictures. The fire was in a single family dwelling and was ripping pretty good when the crews arrived. It was knocked down with a couple of 1 1/2" pre-connects. The truckies felt validated as they got to chop a hole in the roof.

For the uninitiated, the two boards visible in the bed of the pick-up truck are accountability boards. Every person on the incident has a removable passport, which was their named embossed on it. When a firefighter enters the fire building, or goes up on the roof, their passport is placed on the board. When the firefighter exits the hazardous area, the passport is returned to them.

This procedure helps keep track of personnel when things go really bad. It's use was developed from a price paid in blood. There are several different ways to perform this function, I am unsure exactly how Home Town does it. I do know they take it pretty seriously.

Hopefully, Santa Claus will read my list (sent in early!) and bring me that new camera. With it, scenes like this will be a lot easier to capture. Time will tell on that, we'll see if I can stay out of trouble.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I looked out over the crowd, sixty or so factory workers. They were staring at me, waiting for me to begin my presentation. I only had to speak for  fifteen minutes or so, as we had already used up another twenty minutes doing some master stream evolutions.

It was Safety Week at the rubber dog turd factory and we had been asked to give a presentation on disaster preparedness. It was the usual presentation covering earthquake and wildfire preparedness, survival and eascape plans.

I used a pamphlet as an outline, the same one that we handed out at the end of the presentation.  Some good information was presented, although I know most of the attendees will do little if anything to prepare for a disaster.If I can just get them to think about preparation and go out and get a flashlight and a couple of cases of water, I will view it as a success.

Before closing, I commented to the crowd about how the Big Rubber Dog Turd Company appeared to be committed to safety as we rarely went there on accident related calls. I further commented about how their forklift training program must be working as we never go there for forklift accidents. They have a bunch of forklifts bustling about the place, moving pallets of rubber turds and the raw materials needed to manufacture them.

I then closed, answered some questions and we left the plant.

We made it about one mile own the road before we were dispatched to the rubber dog turd factory for a fall victim. We went back to the plant and found plant medical services splinting a possible fractured arm . The patient was a contractor who screwed up, fell and broke his arm. Obviously, this patient hadn't been attending safety meetings.

Three shifts later, we received another call for medical aid at Rubber Dog Turd Inc. This was supposed to be for a fall victim with a foot injury. It was a foot injury alright, but it was quite mangled as it was the result of two forklifts colliding. This woman's foot had been caught between the two forklifts and had been crushed as a result. It was a rather gruesome interesting injury and would have made a great photo if it weren't for the HIPPA thing.

What are the odds of that? We hadn't been to the plant for an accident in a year or so, then within days of me commending them on their safety practices, two accidents occur, one of which was very serious.

Next time I have to speak to these people, I am not going to pay them any compliments. I am not going to mention anything about train derailments or plane crashes either.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, June 28, 2010

What kind of asshole?

Sir! What kind of asshole drives off and leaves his overturned horse trailer on the highway with a severely injured horse in it?

Was it because you have a warrant for your arrest? Was it because you were drunk? Was it because you don't have a license or insurance? Was it because you were afraid of being deported?  Was it a combination of the above?

Regardless, your actions were despicable. I hope someone followed you and got your plate number, although the likelihood of your vehicle being registered in your name is pretty low.

Hopefully, you now know that you do not have what it takes to care for another living being and you will not buy any more horses. You probably shouldn't have any kids either.

Thanks for reading,
A pissed off Schmoe

Sunday, June 27, 2010

End of an Era

We knew it was coming, we have been reading about it for months. It finally happened, Roanoke Engine #9, the Melrose Misfits, is no more.

 10/12/1929 - 6/22/2010

As part of a consolidation move, two older stations were closed and a new larger station was built to take their place. I am not sure exactly what is going to happen to the crew, but there were several transfers related to the closing that occurred at the first of the year.

Engine 9 RFD has been writing a blog for the last couple of years and posted for the last time yesterday. They had a slide show linked in the post that consisted of Engine #9 memories. Judging from the photos, it appears that the cast of characters that inhabited Roanoke Engine #9 might also inhabit the K.B.F.P.D.

Although Engine 9 will live on for a while in memories and in photographs, there will likely be a sense of loss for those who served at the Melrose ave. house. Events, both good and bad will be remembered and passed on to the next generation. Perhaps the blog will somehow survive and serve as a memorial to what once was.

Good luck to the members of Roanoke Fire Dept. Engine #9, I hope your new assignments are to your liking.

Thanks for reading,
A nostalgic Schmoe

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

We get people stopping by the station every so often, trying to sell us stuff. Car wax, dinner cruises, coupon books, energy drinks - all kinds of stuff.

Most of them never make it in the front door. Most of the time, they are selling crap and I just don't want them in the station.

We make an exception for this guy:

He arrives in a truck, we let him into the gate where he sets up to display his wares.

He has a lot of cool stuff in there, it's like a candy store for firefighters.

This guy does repairs on turn-out gear, does custom lettering on PPE and adds cool stuff to your gear like radio pockets, glove holders and mask pouches.

Need an axe? Perhaps something in an axe carrying strap?

Bins of accessories.

I have purchased several items off of this wall. Though pricey, the leather suspenders are sure nice. Fortunately, I received mine as a gift.

Although are kind of far from where this gentleman lives, he does manage to make it up our way every once in a while. He treats us fair and usually by the time he makes it up to where we are, we are in need of something.

The newer guys suck this stuff up. They spend a lot of cash adding stuff to their turn-outs and buying axes, scabbards and such.

Me? I am a sucker for flashlights and knives. You never know when you are going to need one.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, June 25, 2010


The level of damage was remarkable. Remarkable to the point where we actually slowed down on the bridge to look across the divider rail at the carnage. Three cars, darkness and closing time had proved to be an 
unsafe combination for someone.

We resumed normal speed and continued across over the span. It is my policy not to stop on the other side of a center guardrail or divider to handle an incident, especially at three a.m. Someone trapped in a burning car might cause me to re-evaluate my policy, but it would have to be that extreme for me to do so.

We heard the Small City engine go on scene as we exited the highway and turned back toward the bridge. They claimed the incident, named it and gave a size-up. As a victim was trapped in one of the vehicles, a heavy rescue was requested, as was an additional ambulance.

It was even more spectacular as we pulled up. Vehicles and debris were strewn across three lanes of traffic, the troopers were already there setting out flares. The S.C.F.D captain approached me as I stepped off of the rig.

"Can you guys check that car on the center rail? We looked in it as we passed by and didn't see anything. I just want to make sure".

The car he is referring to is a total mess. From our angle, it is difficult to determine what kind of car we are dealing with. Other than cars cut in half by impact, it is one of the worst that I have seen.

We approached the car with some hesitation. I was quite sure that buried within that ball of mangled steel, was a victim. The victim would likely be dead and would likely be mangled, much as the car around them. The passenger compartment no longer existed, it's void now filled with crumpled steel.

We began poking into the morass trying to find out what was hidden within. Our efforts were hindered by a coating of engine coolant and transmission fluid that turned the twisted metal into a slippery wad.

We weren't able to see very far into the wreckage, so I sent someone to get a halligan tool to improve access.

It was then that the Trooper walked up and told me that the driver of this car was safely seated in the back of his cruiser.

We continued our search, just in case there were two people in the car and the driver had forgotten about having a passenger. Fortunately, are efforts were in vain and no one was found. Whew.

Apparently, the driver had broken down on the highway and hadn't been able to drive to the relative safety of the shoulder. He exited his car and stood on the shoulder, watching as the truck slammed into his car at highway speed. The driver of the truck was uninjured as well, though he narrowly missed injury when vehicle #3 slammed into the back of HIS truck.

THAT happened three or four minutes after the first collision. I was glad that the troopers had completely shut traffic down by the time we arrived.

The driver of vehicle #3 was seriously injured and required extrication to remove her from the wreckage. That task was completed by S.C.F.D. after a few minutes.

All of that carnage and only one injury. A small miracle.

Thanks for reading,
A relieved Schmoe

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Firefighters HATE it when...

---the unit has to get towed to the shop.

This wasn't ours, we just happened to be at the shop when the tow truck arrived. No one likes to see their rig on the back of a tow truck. Fortunately, it's a pretty rare occurrence. I've only had to have a unit I was assigned to towed a couple of times over the last 29 years or so.

Preventative maintenance prevents most catastrophic failures. If a failure does occur, we try to catch it early and limp it to the shop under it's own power. Sometimes, stuff happens and the tow company smiles.

When it does happen, my boss and the maintenance chief don't smile. That's $400 or so that the district could use for something else.

As long as it isn't your rig, there is some giggle value involved. One can always bust somebody's chops when that somebody's rig is on a flatbed or a hook. In this age of camera phones, the event almost always gets documented for a chop-busting at a later date.

Of course, since I always have a camera with me, I don't have to use my phone.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Is it just the K.B.F.P.D, or has any other fire protection agency gradually evolved into "Chatty Kathies" on the radio?

The issue came to light for me a few months ago while responding to a reported traffic accident on the state highway. I needed to tell the other responding engine information about the location of the incident, but I couldn't get through due to traffic on the command net. The other traffic was on the correct channel, but what could have been said in a few words took about twenty seconds to get out. This was followed by dispatch repeating verbatim the flowery size up of the other call. While my traffic wasn't critical, it was more important than nothing visible from a residential ringing alarm.

Neither my incident, nor the other incident required the use of a tactical channel, nor the dedication of the command channel to our incidents. What each incident required, was that communications be held to a reasonable amount of information.

As an example: A single engine is dispatched to a residential ringing fire alarm. These are very common calls, they are false alarms 99 % of the time. Our agency sends one engine to these calls. Some agencies send an engine code-2, that is without lights and siren.

The engine arrives on scene and sees the above image.

Dispatch Engine 226 is on scene. We have nothing visible from a two story, wood frame, single family dwelling. Dwelling appears to be on it's roof. We will be investigating.

Or, the first in officer might give the following report on conditions:

Dispatch, Engine 214 is on scene. This is an inverted, type five single family dwelling with a concrete tile roof - I mean floor. It is approximately 2300 square feet in size and appears to be inhabited. There is no smoke or fire visible, or alarm sounding. No exposures are present, a water supply is located down the street. This will be the Lindbergh incident, Engine 214 - Captain Chatty will be incident commander and going into investigative mode.

The primary purpose of a report on conditions is to provide other responding units a verbal image of what the first-in officer sees when he/she arrives.  This is a single unit response. The report on conditions now serves as a heads up to dispatch and to the District Commander of what's up.

It may not seem like a big difference, but throw in a few umms and aaahs in there and add the word for word repeat from dispatch - now the radio is tied up for a minute or more. A minute that propels Engine 224 down the highway nearly a mile while I am trying to tell them to get off of the highway and take the bypass tunnel to my incident.

The longer report on conditions would be acceptable for a working fire and I understand the need to practice how you play. All I am saying is that radio time can be precious and we need to be a little more practical in it's use. It's all about balance. There are ways you can practice without taking up air time.

This used be be more noticeable with new officers, but now even some District Commanders are spending too much time on the mike. It's too easy to micro-manage your people over the radio. That's another topic.

I would write a memo to staff about this matter, but it's going to be a while before I put my name on any district document other than my time card.

I'm just sayin'

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pardon me...

...for giving a shit.

District Commander Jones,
Words cannot express the utter disappointment I felt after our conversation last shift. I reviewed it in detail and still can come to no other conclusion than you are directing me to drop the matter and "get over it". I reviewed the original memo and found nothing accusatory, demeaning or negative. It is simply a statement of fact and a suggestion and was properly written in a respectful fashion. Nothing more, nothing less.

Obviously, it ruffled some feathers at administration. It is apparent by your statements, that the era of input, participative management and management/labor cooperation is drawing to a close. This is unfortunate, as the two groups have worked hard to maintain a good working relationship, efforts which have produced many wonderful things.

I am aware that we are like any other governmental agency, however I find the thought that we have to accept waste, inefficiency and the status-quo repugnant. I feel we should be better than that.

I'm just sayin'


Thanks for reading,
An offended Schmoe

Monday, June 21, 2010

Questions answered

Wayne C, posted a comment/question regarding my post "Wildland Firefighting Primer-Basic Apparatus" In the post. I mentioned the term "angle of departure". Wayne (and many others I suspect) was unfamiliar with the term.

Rather then try to explain it, I kyped the picture below off of the net::

Angle of departure is the angle formed between the line of  level ground and the line formed from the point of contact at the tire and the lowest protrusion from the vehicle. Similarly, the angle of approach applies to the front end of the vehicle. These features are important when designing and operating vehicles in rough terrain.

Wayne also asked about the term "protection line". In wildland firefighting, a protection line is a short section of hose (usually 50') that is deployed, then draped over the apparatus to use if things really turn to crap and the unit is getting overrun. On engines equipped with auxiliary pumps, the protection line may be kept charged while driving in areas experiencing high risk fire activity.

As an additional note, according to current doctrine, the last 1/4 tank of water is to kept in reserve for use by the crew to save themselves and the unit should things go bad.

Hope this helps, Wayne.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

First Due Blog Carniaval - "Wanted - National Fire Chief"

This month's First Due Blog Carnival is being hosted by Backstep Firefighter.  The topic is "Wanted - National Fire Chief". Submitters are supposed to pitch why they would be a good candidate for the director of the United States Fire Administration.

Although it has been a while since I have been under consideration for a job, I thought I would give it a shot.


Dear President Obama,

After assessing the function of the U.S.F.A. and it's position under FEMA and DHS, I strongly urge you to appoint anyone other than myself as Director, U.S.F.A. I possess none of the skills necessary to successfully administer the U.S.F.A. and I would be a detriment to the organization.

After 29 years of the fire service, I have learned that I chafe under the constraints of bureaucracy and I lack the skills to place the needs of the system over those of my immediate charges,  my mission and the public.

The thought of filling such an important post while wallowing in the political quagmire that stifles us as a nation nauseates me. The continual infighting over dollars, turf and blame would soon wear me down and cause me to be ineffective.  My many positive attributes would not overcome the challenges that this job presents and you would soon be looking for another replacement.

In addition, my appointment to this position would be a dishonor to the many fine Chief Officers who, despite the many impediments described above,  have done strong work while serving as USFA administrator.

Might I suggest District Commander Newby, from the Kinda Big Fire Protection District in my stead? He possesses many qualities which the captains from district #3, "A" platoon feel would enable to him to immediately perform as a high level federal official. I can provide 8 letters of recommendation upon request.

Thank you Mr. President for considering me for this position, however I think someone else would be better suited for the job.

Captain Joseph R. Schmoe
Kinda Big Fire Protection District
Death Valley, CA


Probably not what the Backstep Firefighter was looking for when he came up with this months topic, but what can I say? Stop by over at Backstep Firefighter to read the other submissions. Hopefully, they will be a little more relevant.

Thanks for reading,

Happy Day

Happy day to all you Schmoes out there guarding the nest!

I saw this while visiting the water tender doctor the other day!

Two eggs, obviously this water tender has been sitting here for
a while. Hopefully they leave it alone until the birds hatch and
fly off. From what the mechanic said, this water tender had 
some major issues.

We are on duty today, most of us have our families coming by for some grillin' and chillin' later on this evening. I sincerely hope all of you have a great Father's Day, wherever you are spending it.

Thanks for reading,
A thankful Schmoe

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wildland Fire Fighting Primer - Basic Apparatus

As mentioned previously, fire season has started out here in the west. Although we haven't had any major fires yet, we have had several in the 100 to 1000 acre range. This is not totally unheard of this early in the season, though it seems that it did kick off a few weeks earlier than usual.

In the area where I live there is a lot of emphasis placed on wild-land firefighting. Most departments have at least minimal wild land firefighting capability and many have a significant capability, both in equipment and apparatus.

Many agencies have specialized engines for fighting wildfire or fighting fire in the urban - wildland interface. While out and about the other day, I snapped some photographs of some of these specialized units.

This is a Type 1 engine, which means that it's pump capacity, water tank capacity and equipment inventory meets the requirements for a structural firefighting. This engine is unique in that it was designed to operate in the urban-wildland interface, that is areas where a community is located in or amid large wild-land threats. Features that facilitate use in the interface include short wheelbase, increased ground clearance, higher angle of approach and departure, tighter turning radius and a separate diesel powered axillary fire pump. Note the skid protection under the front bumper.

All of these features make it better equipped to handle under-improved roads, long narrow driveways and other areas where the "pavement queens" dare not go. These are a relatively new concept in the fire service, but are gaining popularity, especially in communities with a high interface risk.

This is a Type-3 engine that is designed for wildland firefighting. It carries minimal if any structural firefighting equipment, depending on the interface risk. It has a smaller main pump and is not required to carry ladders or structural supply hose. This particular unit is four wheel drive, and has a higher ground clearance and shorter wheelbase than the unit above. It too has a separate diesel powered axillary pump which gives it true pump and roll capability.

They carry a large amount of wild land hose, usually at least 1000' of 1 1/2" single jacket. Hose lays exceeding 3000 - 4000 feet are not unheard of, with all of it being packed in on someones back. The basic wildland hose lay evolution is simple yet highly efficient. A crew well practiced in it is a joy to watch.

 This is a water tender. Known as a tanker in other parts of the country, it's sole purpose is to provide water to engines when operating at a wildland fire. They usually carry only enough hose for a protection line and very little equipment. This one is rather small, which makes it more suitable to dirt roads, fields and trails. It holds 1500 gallons of water, just about enough to fill three engines. These units are extremely valuable in areas where water supplies are scarce and are always being called out to assist other agencies.

This is a crew bus, it's job is to transport hand crew, their foreman and their equipment to the fire. A hand crew consists of 12 to 20 firefighters who use chainsaws and hand tools to create fireline. It is grueling, hard work. This particular crew is an inmate crew, one who's members are in state prison and who serve their sentences working on a crew. Cal-fire relies heavily on inmate crews, most if not all Cal-Fire crews are inmates. Other agencies have inmate and non-custodial hand crews.

Typically, it is the hand crews who work the hardest on large wildfires, their work continuing long after the fire is out.

On the fireline, an inmate's personal protective equipment will be orange. those in yellow are not. In this photo, the guy in yellow is the crew supervisor. Strict rules are in place about interacting with inmates, contact with them is prohibited. Issues with inmates a relatively rare, as it is a privilege for them to be on a crew.One bad word from the supervisor and the inmate is back inside. On extended incidents, a prison guard will be present as well, though the guard usually does not go on the line.

As fire season progresses, I will likely have more pictures to share. Hope your weekend goes well.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ordering Points

I was listening to the radios in the rig the other day and heard a brush fire come in. The location was at an area where four different agencies come together. I could hear two of the agencies on my radio, both of which are area coordinators for the regional mutual aid system.

Both of the agencies that I could hear sent full brush responses, one included aircraft. I know the other two agencies sent units, because I could hear them trying to raise units from the first two agencies on their networks.

It sounded like a cluster, as the initial units committed to the incident went to their initial assigned tactical channels while  the various chief officers were on several command nets, talking, trying to determine who's fire it was and who the central resource ordering point would be.  I could sense the frustration in the chief's voices as they tried to talk to other chiefs on other networks while one of the dispatchers did not seem as helpful as some of the others.

Despite all of the communications heartache, the initial units were able to pick it up in short order. The chiefs we able to get their end figured out rather quickly and it was all good.  I'm just glad it was them and not me.

I am NOT being critical, but on the surface, it seems that some of these issues could be worked out, as these agencies work together all of the time. They have been doing this for the last hundred years and have spent millions of dollars on sophisticated communications equipment that allows them to talk to each other.  Yet, comm is still an issue.

Sometimes, I wonder if it is an issue that can truly be solved. Maybe, it is a problem that can only be managed and the goal should be to minimize impact rather than solve to solve it. Before dismissing this thought, run the following scenario through your mind:

Take six or seven type "A" personalities and put them in a room barely large enough to fit them in. Chain them to chairs and turn the thermostat up as high as it will go. Interject some form of loud, distracting background noise. Hook these hard chargers up to electrodes that are capable of delivering very painful electric shocks. Place ringing telephones in front of each one, with a little sign on them that says "urgent".

Now that the stage is set, give the group several major problems to solve and place unreasonable time deadlines on the issues . Then, give each participant a major issue of their own to resolve and place someone behind their shoulder to oversee their actions and breathe down their neck.

Tell them to get started, turn on the phones and shock them every time they don't make a correct decision or properly communicate important information. Give them a "love shock" every once in a while just to watch them convulse.

While all of this is going on, monitor the communication between the participants as well as the communication between the participants and the outside entities. I guarantee it will be less than ideal. And that is when everybody can look at each other, touch each other and is monitoring each others "channel".

In the initial phases of a multi-jurisdictional incident, all of the distractions are there, but none of the non-verbal communication tools are. You are reduced to dealing with a voice over a speaker at that point and often, you are trying to deal with several voices of several speakers. Each voice with their own system supporting them.

Again, I am not sure this issue will ever completely be solved. Maybe the best answer is to do away with all of these smaller agencies and form regional agencies or even state wide fire departments. At least then, we won't waste time trying to figure out whose fire it is.

Nahh. Well, at least not until after I retire. It has taken me almost 30 years to figure out the K.B.F.P.D. I don't want to start over again.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dr. Peter

The homeowner walked around to the front of the house, trimmers in hand. It was late morning and the day was heating up. He wanted to get the hedge done before the temperature reached a hundred and he knew that would have to hurry.

The homeowner worked at a steady pace despite the sweat running into his eyes. He stopped the trimmers and stepped back to make sure the hedge was level. He used the pause to wipe his brow and take a swig of water from the jug. As he lifted the jug, he thought he heard a voice, shouting in the distance.

He set the trimmers down and walked across his yard and into the street, pausing as he reached the middle of the pavement. He heard it again. It did seem like someone shouting and it sounded like it was coming from the creek bed. He finished crossing the road and went to the edge of the bluff, gazing down onto the hiking path that followed the  edge of the creek.

It was from there that he saw the man, standing on the hiking path. The man was too far away for the homeowner to see clearly exactly what was going on, but it seemed as if the man had his back to him and was doubled over, his hands clutching at his midsection.

The homeowner ran back into the house and retrieved a pair of binoculars. He kept a pair near the front door, as the view from the top of the bluff was outstanding. He also liked to monitor activity on the path, keeping an eye on the perverts who liked to use it as a meeting place for their sordid activities.

The binoculars provided the homeowner with a better view of the man, who was still standing on the path. The homeowner could clearly see him, he had now turned so that he was nearly facing the homeowner. He was still bent at the waist, but the homeowner could see that there was something in the mans waistband and that the man had his hand on the object. The man moved the object, yelling as he did so.

The homeowner had two distinct impressions as he watched the man through the binoculars. First was that the man had shouted "help me", second was that the object in the man's waistband was a gun. The homeowner went back into the house to call the police.

Motor 27 took the man with a gun call. Although motors typically didn't take radio calls, Motor 27 had jumped this one as it was easier for him - he didn't have to stop and remove the gate to drive onto the path. Besides, you never knew what you would find down there, with all of the fairies hanging out.

The Kawasaki easily navigated the paved path as it wound it's way through the greenery next to the creek bed. Motor 27 spotted the man as came around shaded curve. He slowed the bike and saw that the man had his hands at his waist, grasping at what looked like the grip of a gun.  He drew his weapon while still seated and aimed it at the man, ordering him to raise his hands.

Motor 27 dismounted, covering the man as he moved behind the motorcycle, using it as a shield. He ordered the man to lie face down on the path, keeping his sights aimed squarely at the man's center body mass. The man complied and laid down on the hot asphalt, his arms straight out to the side.

The officer quickly cuffed the man and rolled him onto his side. The grip of a black object protruded from his partially undone pants. Unsure of exactly what the object was, Motor 27 jerked on the grip to remove it from the man's waistband. The man screamed as his pelvis moved with the black object.

Motor 27 let go of the object and finished opening the man's pants. He was surprised at what he saw. The object was a cordless drill motor, it's chuck firmly entangled with what remained of the man's foreskin. Motor 27 laughed, then radioed for medical aid.

Rescue 211 was at the store buying groceries when the call came in. Peter and Bob were just getting ready to get in line and were forced to leave their groceries in the cart. The box-girl took the cart and set it aside, the firemen getting  interrupted while shopping was not uncommon.

The rescue entered the park and drove to the hiking path. They pulled a ring of keys from the glove box, then set about the task of finding the right one and unlocking the gate to the path. Once the gate was removed, the rescue drove down the path, soon arriving at Motor 27's location.

Motor 27 couldn't help but chuckle as he told Peter that the man had been somehow pleasuring himself with the drill motor and had became entangled with it. By now, the cuffs had been removed and the man was standing there, holding onto the still attached drill motor.

Peter approached the man and took a look at the results of the event. Peter didn't like the idea of leaving the drill motor attached, It was disguising the extent of the injury and he felt that it would be too difficult to secure the drill motor during loading and transport.

Peter told the man to hold the handle and body of the drill motor, then dropped to his knees and began manually turning the chuck in the opposite direction until the foreskin was freed.

Bob couldn't believe what he was seeing. He wished he had a camera with him, the sight of Peter on his knees, hands at the man's crotch, the man's pants down around his knees too priceless not to record. Motor 27 was laughing his ass off. He couldn't wait to share this at roll call. Peter just felt that he was doing his job.

A dressing was applied, the ambulance arrived and soon the mangled patient was en-route to the hospital.

Now you know how Peter came to be called Doctor Peter the peter doctor, a name cemented into legend.

A legend furthered after another call, a month or two later. That one involved a man, a mother-in-law, a gun, a testicle and direct pressure.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I was reading a comment to a posting on a doctor blog that I follow. The commenter replied to the doc "t's funny how you can feel nothing for 999 patients, but there's always one that gets to ya."

I had to read it a few times in order to digest what he was saying. First of all, I think the commenter was throwing out a huge number for purposes of discussion, but still "feel nothing for 999 patients, but there's always one.."  Really? You feel something for only one out a thousand patients?

Maybe that comment was a literary exaggeration and he really meant to say "feel nothing for 99 patients, but there's always one.." Still, no feeling toward 99% of your patients?

OK, maybe the original comment was a giant literary exaggeration  and he meant to say "feel nothing for 9 patients, but there's always one.." Still.

Granted, I am not a doctor. But I have to say, I feel something for every patient I come in contact with. It might be feelings of disgust, anger, repulsion, sympathy, empathy, concern, interest etc, but they are feelings.

Has the doctoring business evolved to the point where it is common for an M.D. to have feelings for only 10% of their patients? Not even feelings of disgust?

I know there are a few M.D.s that read this blog, I don't know if any are ER docs, but I would be curious if this comment - even if only partially true - is a wide spread sentiment.


It takes a project like this:

... to remind me of one of the reasons  I decided to get into the fire business and out of the construction business. It was HOT this weekend. I should have taken on the task of redoing my back yard in January, not June. Stupid is as stupid does.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, June 12, 2010


It is almost midnight. A busy morning settled into a normal afternoon and a peaceful evening. My District Commander dropped by this evening, he wanted to check our facility for available space to store some equipment. We have the space, just not the right kind of space. I don't know what will become of that.

We discussed the results of the Captain's test, which was published this morning. Several friends of mine took it this year, after spending the better part of a year preparing for it. The candidates remaining on the list are all qualified, the ones at the top probably a little more so. Two of my friends who took the test didn't score nearly as well as they thought they would. I ran into one today, he appeared to be quite despondent over his placement on the list.

I told his captain that the had better lock up the steak knives back at the station, as I really don't want my friend to slash his wrists. This individual is knowledgeable, a reasonably hard worker and is pretty smart. So how is it he didn't score better on the list?

The Kinda Big Fire Protection District uses a combination of a written exam, an outside oral interview, a written composition exercise, an inside interview and a command simulation exercise. Scores can be raised by attaining "bonus points" for certain qualifications, activities and other considerations.The written exam and the outside oral are pass/fail events, though ones scores on these to events determine which group a candidate is placed in.

I don't know how well he did on the written test, but he felt that he did well on the outside oral interview and on the incident command simulation  . He is not sure how the written exercise came out and he felt nervous coming out of the inside oral interview.

 He might have lost a few points is in the areas of education and department involvement. If a candidate has 150 semester units but no degree, he is going to get fewer points than one with a four year degree. The same would apply for an associates degree. There are also points awarded for involvement in special department projects or assignments such as research and development committee, budget committee apparatus committee etc. Participation in these extra projects shows the department that a candidate is committed to the organization and gives staff an opportunity to evaluate organizational, communications and other skills which are not as evident during the course of a normal workday.

Candidates with young kids, pregnant spouses, businesses and the like are at a disadvantage, as there are more demands on their time. It then becomes a matter of priorities and there is always something or someone that gets neglected. Both of my captain candidate friends had children born a few months prior to the testing process so they may have been a little distracted.

My other friend really stepped it up this year and became a lot more involved in the department and also finished up some educational loose ends. He still placed pretty far down on the list. He isn't despondent, he is pissed.

He didn't place very high last year, so he spoke with the Deputy Chief about what he could do to raise his score. He addressed all of those issues this year, but placed about where he did last year. Like I said, he is pissed. Maybe he was a little overconfident in the inside oral or maybe he muffed a question, who knows.

Regardless, there is likely to be only a few promotions this year so if a candidate is not in the top four or five, it's probably not going to happen. Neither of these friends is in the top five.

Every year there are happy candidates and not so happy candidates. This year my friends are the latter. Maybe in three years one of them will do well enough in the testing process and get promoted into my vacant position. Until then, they will just have to keep playing the game.

It's after midnight and I am done. As always thanks for reading,

Friday, June 11, 2010

Even Skunks...

...can  have a bad day. We came across this little issue while assisting with a new construction inspection the other day.

This one apparently fell into an electrical vault at a construction site. The workers showed up in the morning and there he was. They tried to get him out and of course he sprayed. Fortunately, he didn't hit anyone. An animal control officer was called to take care of the issue.

It took a little while, but the skunk was removed from the vault without anyone being sprayed. I asked the A.C. officer what they do with captured skunks, he said that they are usually destroyed as they are notorious for carrying rabies.

However, as this skunk had behaved in a very proper fashion, the A.C. officer said that he was going to be released near the city dump, where he can live a normal skunk lifestyle.

Prior to this, I had never really watched a skunk close up for any length of time. This one was very curious about the 2x4 that was used to prod him toward the net and about the net itself. He only became agitated once and as soon as everyone backed off, he calmed right down and became passive again.

I hear they make decent pets once they are de-skunked. I don't think I'll give it a try though, somehow I don't think skunks and long-dogs would get along.

I am glad the AC officer let this one go, this skunk's day was bad enough.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Was Wrong

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey baby, how ya doing?

Her: Good, how are you?

Me: I'm good. we're at the store buying stuff for dinner. I'm in the rig, the crew's inside. We're having greek chicken by the way.

Her: That sounds good. Who's cooking?

Me: Dino I think. What are you up.... Holy crap! You should see this old lady in the parking lot. She just cut this guy off -  Shit! She's gonna hit the front of the rig! - I gotta go I'll call you later.

Well, I was wrong. She didn't hit the front of the rig. She swerved around the front, the pulled it in tight and hit the back of the rig.

Absolutely no damage to the rig, you can see her car. Did I mention that we were parked?

As I watched the event unfold, two things were evident:

#1 - The look on her face was one of utter bewilderment. She was clueless and had no business driving. The deputy was going to dime her off to the DMV after he finished the report.

#2 - Orange cones only work if the offending driver has a clue.

She was sweet lady by the way, I kind of felt sorry for her. Until I was on the last page of the accident report that is.

This happened a few years ago. I was going through old pictures on my phone yesterday and found this one. It seems kind of funny now. Ha Ha kind of funny.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

El Jefe

I saw the man's face as he drove by us. His expression and the wave of his hand was that of a man who knew us. He was driving a Chevrolet Pick-up, a '99 I think.. I didn't recognize the man or his truck, but I noticed the Mexican plate affixed to the bumper as he parked a little farther down the alley, behind the big house of pain.

The man walked up to us, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. He told us he was from a fire department in in northern Baja, about an hour south of the border and he was looking for Manny or Rodrigo. He seemed disappointed when I told him that Manny had retired a year ago and that Rodrigo was off duty.

My firefighter offered to call Rodrigo, he had his number stored in his phone. While we waited for the call to be made, the man asked if I spoke Spanish. Despite growing up in the barrio, I had to tell him no. Although he didn't seem comfortable speaking English, he spoke English well enough for us to converse.

The man told me that he was el Jefe (Chief) of his department, a fairly large department by Mexican standards. He said that he had about 175 bomberos under him and that he had just been appointed Chief a few months ago.

He said that he had come North,  looking for surplus wildland firefighting equipment. He told me that his department had little gear, adding "you know how it is in Mexico".

My firefighter reached Rodrigo and handed the phone to el Jefe.  They conversed in Spanish for about five minutes or so, then El Jefe handed the phone to me. Rodrigo told me that he had given el Jefe the number of another member of our district, one whom controls safety apparel and equipment. Rodrigo also said that el Jefe was likely out of luck, as we really don't have much surplus equipment right now, our spending on new equipment has been reduced drastically.

As we had to return to our station, I wished el Jefe well, jumped on the rig and we returned to the healing place. I do wish el Jefe well. He has the same goals that I have. He wants to lead an effective team and he wants his people to be equipped as to operate with a certain degree of safety.

El Jefe seemed intelligent, educated and he seemed like a nice guy. The most noticeable difference between us, was that he felt forced to travel North, seeking donations of surplus equipment. I guess it would be like me, if I had to drive south to Beverly Hills and ask them for surplus gear.

I don't envy el Jefe. After all he is just a Jose Schmoe, trying to keep los lobos from la puerta. He just doesn't have the tools.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another milestone

I couldn't help but notice the 20,000th visitor to this blog dropped by this afternoon. It would appear that they are from the Chicago area and are a Comcast customer. Hopefully, they are a Cubs fan as well.

Thanks to you visitor 20k, I truly appreciate your readership, as I do all who drop by.

Thanks for reading,

The List

I occasionally utilize lists, as they are a useful tool for me to use as I go about my daily life. I started using lists as a teenager at my first job. They helped me remember to do all of the chores that I was assigned. When flying, I used all sorts of checklists to ensure that all of the necessary tasks are performed to safely fly the aircraft.

Even today I still use several lists. Some of the lists that I keep are the "must kill" list, the "might kill" list, the "may let live" list, the "should let live" list and the "shall let live list".

These five lists are to be used when my conquest of the planet is complete and I become the exalted ruler of Earth.  It will be time for me to clean house. Just kidding.

You don't need to call the FBI, I am not going to go on a rampage and hurt anybody. I am basically a non-violent kind of guy - more of a negotiator than a fighter.

These lists are nothing more than a humorous way for me to classify my opinion of a person (usually a public figure) at any given point in time. For those who know me, it is not an issue. For those who don't I don't mean to offend. Unless, of course, you are on one of the first two lists.

Call me foolish, call me stupid - you may be right.

Having said all of that, you should know, I've added the unnamed "Company Man" from British Petroleum to the "must kill" list. While I was at it, I added the management team who hired this arrogant dumb-ass to the "might kill" list.

I am that disgusted with BP and the decisions that led to the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform disaster.

The unnamed "Company Man" is the idiot who made the decision to take shortcuts in the process of disconnecting the drilling rig from the well. These shortcuts were made over the protestations of the driller, tool pusher and operators from the Deepwater Horizon and resulted in the reduction of safety measures. This decision was also made despite the fact that the well was sending signals that something might have been amiss.

I can't think of any risk/benefit analysis that would have affirmed the "company man's" decision to do what he did and I think that he and BP need to be severely punished for their actions. The longer this thing goes on, the angrier I get.

As pissed off as I am, he is safe from me, as it is unlikely I will be appointed exalted ruler of earth anytime soon.

As such, I guess we will have to rely on the criminal justice system to punish him, but I'll bet it won't be severe enough for my taste. Lets not forget that eleven men perished in this incident and many more were injured.

The "company man" just better hope I don't get elected King, as he is #1 on my #1 list. He better stay out of O'Malleys too.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the rant.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What the Hell?

I open up my mail box on Saturday and this little jewel is in there to greet me -

An AARP membership card was enclosed.

What the hell? Is this some kind of sick joke? I mean, my kids think I'm old, but I won't qualify for the Senior Club card  at Hometown Buffet for another eleven years. I still have all of my teeth (well, except for that one I lost at O'Malley's) and most of my hair. Not any gray either (beards don't count).

The American Association of Retired People didn't get their money's worth when they bought my address from whomever. I'm just not that old. 

It's bad enough that my e-mail in box is full of viagra spam. Now I gotta put up with this crap in my mail box too.

After scanning it, I tossed it. I don't want to be reminded that I am not thirty any more.

Thanks for reading,
An indignant Schmoe

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Station Fire - ORC Strike Team 1400C After Action Report

It's kind of funny. Not Ha Ha funny, in fact far from it. Two fires, a country apart, a couple of years in between, the same name. Both tragedies. Ironic kind of funny maybe.

Ask fellow blogger Michel Morse of Rescuing Providence fame about the Station Fire, he will tell you of the Station Nightclub tragedy that killed 100 people and injured another 230 or so in West Warwick RI..

Ask any firefighter from the west coast about the Station Fire and they will tell you about the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history that killed two firefighters and inured scores of firefighters and civilians.

As I am from the west coast, I had many friends and a few relatives assigned to the station fire. It was a monster and it dominated the skyline and the news for quite a while. In addition to the fatalities, there were quite a few close calls during the incident.

Smoke Column from Station Fire, Taken from 70 miles away.

One event happened to ORC (Orange County Fire Authority) Strike Team 1400C while assigned to the Station Fire. They were assigned to protect structures in one of many hamlets located within the Angeles National Forest and experienced extreme fire conditions which resulted in civilian injures.

An after action report published by the Orange County Fire Authority is posted on Wildland I think the report has been out for a few months, but this is the first that I have seen of it.

Some may disagree, but I think that this report shows what good planning, strong leadership and sound decision making can do to ensure our safety while assigned to a major wild land event. It also shows how chaotic these events can be and explores a few areas where things could have been done a little better.

It is only eleven pages along, is an easy read and has some good pics. It is definitely  worth a look.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Milestones (passed)

For some reason, I thought I started this blog in June. I went to check on the date and found that I actually posted for the first time on May 22, 2009. This thing is a year old! Another milestone that I let slip by last month was my 200th post.

When I started it, I thought I would try it for a year and see how it went. After assessing the last year, I am pretty happy with the way things went.

It has been an interesting year blog-wise. Starting the blog was incredibly easy, thanks to blogger. Keeping it going has been a lot harder than I imagined, though it has been worth the effort.

The growth in readership has been steady though not meteoric. I'm happy with that, especially since I try to write a little something for everyone and not just focus on the job.

My original intent was to post every three or four days. Now, I try for something every day and manage to reach that about 70% of the time. As much as I enjoy writing, I have to keep it in balance with the rest of my life.

I have enjoyed reading others blogs, many of whom read and comment here. I have seen some long time blogs shut down and go away and I have seen others start up,  grow and develop their own following.  That is good to see.

I have some regrets about this blog. I regret that I need to be secretive about certain aspects of my job and some of my friends. Important stuff has happened, of which I could only tell you tiny bits and pieces. I hate that, even though it is really beyond my control. Maybe when I retire I will come clean with some of the details in my life, we'll have to see about that.

All in all this has been a great experience and I plan to keep it going.  Thanks for your support, I will continue trying to deliver a quality product.

As always, thanks for reading,

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around

When I started at the K.B.F.P.D. we did a great deal of maintenance and improvements to our equipment and our stations ourselves. We painted our stations, performed plumbing repairs, poured patios and the like. Over the years, the district has relied less on our labor for these types of projects and had contracted them out.

The theory was that projects were affecting response times, that they were taking away from inspections, training, pre-planning and the like and that our time was better utilized directly supporting our primary mission. That worked for me. I didn't miss having to keep an old ratty uniform around to paint in or bringing my extensive tool collection in to work for a project.

After a district wide staff officers meeting the other day, a memo came out stating that the capital improvement / maintenance fund has been all but eliminated and that if we want anything other than emergency maintenance done on our facilities, we will likely have to do it ourselves.

I read a post in a blog titled Two in - Two out regarding the same subject. Two in - Two out is written by a firefighter's wife and comments on the fire service from a spouses perspective. In this post, she laments about how her husband is not a landscaper, electrician, mechanic, carpenter etc, but is often required to perform these other tasks. She also makes the point that the city where her husband works has issued a similar policy, and that she finds it absurd.

I agree with most of her post in concept. However, in our culture (The K.B.F.P.D.),  there are some angles that need to be explored before taking too strong of a stance against this change in policy.

First of all, we have not lost a single position in the operations division of our district, nor have we taken a cut to wages or benefits. We have frozen all step raises and COLAs and we absorbed a pretty hefty increase in our medical insurance costs, but considering what some agencies are going through, we are doing well.

Second, our culture has always been one of making do with what's available to us. Making chicken soup out of chicken shit. That's what we do, that's what we have always done. I have seen departments pool their skills to build fire stations, apparatus and support vehicles. I have seen cesspool stations made livable by crews using materials stolen requisitioned from the county yards and sweat equity.

Third, I don't think anyone disagrees that our district is hurting financially. Tax revenues are down, costs are up. Typically, local governments fiscally lag behind the rest of the economy by six months to a year. If, the worst of the recession was actually a year ago, we (meaning the district) will be hit hardest right about now. Yikes.

Fourth, many of our younger firefighters and medics have little experience working with their hands. Many have had no other employment than going to college / medic school, working for an ambulance company and then working in the fire service.A little manual labor might be beneficial.

Finally, there is a lot of anti-public employee sentiment out there. Public employees have become the new whipping boys, often the targets of hit pieces in the printed media and the electronic media.. The Sept. 11 hero stuff has worn off, now firefighters and cops are often viewed as just another group of unionized public employees, lined up at the trough.Anything that we can do to correct this perception, the better off we will be.

Taking these factors into account, I guess I can tolerate picking up a paintbrush or a hammer. Trust me, I would rather have someone else do it, but for the money that they pay me, a few brush strokes ain't gonna kill me.

I do however, find it ironic that we are regressing to practices from the old days. It's funny what fiscal constraints can achieve.

While you're at it, drop in over at Two in - Two out, I think that you will like what you find.

Thanks for reading,
An appreciative Schmoe

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


0400. I just finished a report and updated the log. If I try to go back to bed, I will likely toss and turn until 0600, then fall asleep. The wake-up bell will ring about 0615 and I will feel worse than if I stayed up. I usually stay up.

I am up because we just got back from seeing one of our regular customers. As with a lot of our regulars, Larry has a myriad of medical issues. That he is confined to a wheelchair and is a raging diabetic are two of the main reasons that we know him so well..

Larry's dependence on us is cyclical. We will go on him several times in a two month period, then we won't see him for eight or nine months. Most of my contact with Larry has been to assist him in getting up off the floor, after he has slid off his bed or fallen from his wheelchair. 

Larry has a reputation of being a total jerk when his blood sugar drops below 80. He tends to be verbally abusive to his wife and to us when we arrive. I must admit that until this morning, I had never seen this side of Larry first hand. Luck of the draw I guess, he has always been pleasant when I have been around him.

Due to his physical disabilities, he doesn't pose a real threat when he is combative, though people who have seen the ugly side of Larry keep an eye on his arms and hands.

He took a swing at my medic a few years ago. I was on vacation, but my crew told me of the event. The swing missed and the momentum of the movement caused him to fall off of the bed and onto the floor. My crew let him lay there for a minute or so as they continued to get info from his wife. After a short while, Larry calmed way down and asked my medic for "a little help". They picked him up and placed him on the gurney, a more subdued Larry than before.

We could hear Larry yelling at his wife as we approached the door of his home. She was waiting for us on the porch, two leashed yellow labs by her side. As she knows we know where they live, I have to think that she was outside more to be away from Larry, than to wave us down.

Larry was in his bed, conscious and calling his wife names as we entered the room. He recognized us and knew what we were there for. He let us take vitals and test his blood sugar, all the while insulting his wife. Larry didn't want the first treatment offered to him, nor the second. Trying to avoid a confrontation, we offered a third, one that he accepted.

After a short time Larry stops calling his wife names and calms down. He agrees to eat some cereal and his blood sugar is soon within normal limits. Of course now he doesn't want transport, so he has his wife sign the appropriate forms and we left him alone.

As we had not been on Larry for quite some time, I wonder if we are starting a new cycle of visiting Larry. If so, I will be sure to keep an eye on his arms and hands. After all, no one wants to be known as the guy who got his ass kicked by a guy in a wheelchair.

Thanks for reading,