Friday, July 30, 2010

I Tried

I tried real hard not to doze off while attending mandatory drill this morning. I did everything I could to stay awake, except stand up and do jumping jacks. I did pretty good, too.

Well except for that 10 second spell where my eyes closed, my head started to nod and the beginnings of a snore escaped my sinuses. I caught myself and jerked awake before the instructor said something. My firefighter was just getting ready to kick me when I came out of it.

It's my bad, it's just that a darkened classroom, a boring pre-packaged delivery, covering material we have heard 15 times over the past two years makes it tough to stay awake. Just how many ways can "wildfires can be driven by, topography, weather or fuel" be said?

I should have had another cup of coffee before class, poor planning on my part caused me to run out of time. Might I suggest allowing coffee in the classroom, at least for this one class? I think it might help.

Have a great weekend, mine starts this morning.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Can't Remember

I can't remember the last time -
  • someone climbed on the roof of the station and threw a bucket of water on an unsuspecting target.
  •  someone was strapped to a backboard and hung in the hosetower
  • someone had I.V. tubing routed through the ceiling so that saline dripped on them as they slept.
  • someone had their bedding hidden from them while they were on a call
  • someone pulled, then hid the fuses for the air conditioning unit on a hot summer night
  • someone had to mop up the water down in the training chief's office because a water fight got out of hand
  • someone was thrown down the pole hole
  • someone had a bucket of ice water thrown on them as they showered
  • someone had their towel kyped as they showered
  • someone had their seat armor-alled so they slid around when the rig made a sharp turn
  • someone had grease or charcoal applied to the headband of their helmet
  • someone was "decorated" as they slept in a recliner
  • someone removed all of the toilet paper from the dispensers and from the supply room
Now it seems that most of the crap that goes on is more psychological in nature or involves  fake facebook accounts, photo-shop or tweeting.

Of course some of the stuff that happened way before my time would now land you in jail or at least the unemployment line.

The most infamous words in the K.B.F.P.D. were "There aren't enough of you bastards to..."

As an example:  "There aren't enough of you bastards ti paint my ass!" 

Guess what. There WERE enough of those bastards. Most of them were WWII or Korean war vets. They were tough as nails and more than willing to show someone how few people were really needed to hold someone down, access their ass and apply some paint. If they were really caring individuals, they might ask what the wife's favorite color was.

I'm glad that stuff was gone well before I showed up. I do kind of miss throwing water from the roof of the station though.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joseph R. Schmoe's Pic Of The Week

It was awesome.

Everybody stopped to watch. Luckily, I had a camera.

Thanks for stopping by,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The whore...

sat on the bed, the capillary ooze seeping from the abrasions on her arm, legs and her back. She was lucky, this whore. Lucky for an unlucky person. She was lucky the guy who picked her up didn't kill her right away, but tried to fuck with her before really hurting her. The two punches to her head served more to put her into survival mode instead of intimidating her. When the gun appeared, it was the triggering event for her to jump from the car and abrade her skin on the pavement as she slid across it.

Perhaps if it had been winter she would have had more clothing on, as it was a warm evening, she was in shorts and a skimpy top. Neither offered her skin any protection from the asphalt.

The leap from the car could have killed her, but yet luck intervened again and she survived her escape attempt. Two brushes with death in a few, short minutes, both with outcomes more or less in her favor.

Despite her severe road rash, black eye, lumpy skull and overall pain, she did not want to go with us. She knew she was a likely candidate for debridement and wanted no part of the experience. Despite our insistence that she allow us to take her to the hospital, she refused. As she was of sound mind, we had no choice but to abide by her wishes. She signed our form and we left.

Three days later, I pull an overtime across town. It was just before bedtime and we pull a run at an apartment complex for a person who had been in an accident a few days prior and was complaining of pain. No way, I thought to myself, it can't be.

It was. The whore was now laid out on her bed, wearing only panties. The abrasions on her extremities and her body were still oozing, but now raw, red and swollen.  The pain was too much, she told us. Her attempts at self medication,  using recreational drugs and alcohol, were unsuccessful. Now, she wanted to go to the hospital, we were happy to oblige.

None of us envied her immediate future, the thought of her wounds being cleaned and scrubbed with a stiff brush was more than I wanted to visualize. We placed a moist sterile sheet over her and transported her to the hospital.

She was still upset about the event that was causing her pain. The idea of nearly being murdered and of being fearful enough to throw herself from a moving car was nearly as traumatic as her injuries. Both will leave scars on an already scarred individual.

We could only hope that the trauma was enough to cause her to find another line of work.


Whore. A gritty word describing a gritty lifestyle. It was not meant to minimize her humanity.


Memory is a funny thing. I hadn't thought about this call for years. I saw something on TV and it all came back to me. Odd.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 25, 2010


It happened again. Through a combination of errors, we had a 20 minute delay in receiving a dispatch to a multi- alarm fire. I understand how it happened, it is a system failure as much as a human failure, but it still pisses me off.

I knew the whole thing was screwed up as soon as I figured out that we had been assigned to the incident and went en-route. By then, it was too late to resolve the issue, we responded anyway, by-passing several other available engines. The additional chaos that would have been unleashed by trying to correct the error would have created an even longer response time. We weren't the only unit that this happened to on this incident.

The only reason we found out we were assigned to the call, was when I happened to be near a scanner when I heard dispatch give the I.C. a run down on responding units and heard our unit mentioned.

Several policies and procedures were not followed during this incident, at least one of which would have caught the error and resolved it. The whole chain of events however, could have been stopped if the initial dispatcher had just done the proper procedure.

 We have two different dispatch systems in the district, about half of the stations and the overhead are on one system, half of the stations are on another. If dispatch tones a station on system "A" that uses system "B", nothing goes to that station. No tones, no gong and no printout. The station computer nor the MDC will receive any indication of a call.

Typical dispatch console. Image kyped from the internet

If that happens, dispatch is supposed to telephone the station after three minutes, if we don't come up on the radio or hit the responding key on the MDC by that time. That did not occur either.

It all started when the fire broke out in a community on the far side of the K.B.F.P.D. Once it was determined that they had a working fire and that units would be committed for quite some time, we were assigned to move up and cover a station that had responded on the initial alarm.

Apparently, the dispatcher toned us out on the wrong system, so we never got the word. Shortly thereafter, The IC started screaming for more units, including mutual aid from neighboring departments. We got lost amidst the chaos.

As system "A" had us moved up to another station, it assumed we were in that district and sent us to the fire when more resources were requested. But, we weren't there. We were still in our station, blissfully unaware that our services were needed.

My firefighter actually heard this dispatch on the scanner and brought it to my attention. I checked the printer and MDC, neither of which indicated anything for us. I also called dispatch to inquire whether there was traffic for us. The dispatcher who answered the phone advised me that no, there was not any traffic for us. I assumed my firefighter had heard it wrong and went about my business.

15 minutes or so passed before I heard us mentioned on the scanner. A second call to dispatch was met with an incredulous "I sent you guys twenty minutes ago".

Holy shit, not again. We went en-route, in a most expeditious manner. You see, I have received several phone calls over the past year, each one with the incredulous voice asking "you're still there?"

It's always the same issue. Toning us out on system "A" rather than on system "B". I am told that there is a list posted on the console which clearly states which station is on which system. I understand that when a fire goes to additional alarms, the workload in dispatch goes through the roof. However, there has to be a solution.

Therein lies my rub. This keeps happening, despite numerous memos, phone calls and personal conversations. 

We are trying to convert all stations to the same system, but it is a costly proposition. For now, the solution is going to have to be an internal one, using existing resources. The main issue is that we have NO control over our dispatch, it is controlled by law enforcement. Frankly, we are a low priority to the communication division management. I don't expect real change anytime soon.

Our agency dissolved it's communication center 20 years ago. We are still paying the price. As individuals, most of our dispatchers do a great job and have won numerous awards over the years. The system, however sucks.

Thanks for reading,
A frustrated Schmoe

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It Looked Good from Afar

It looked pretty good from afar, we watched it for most of the time we were on the road.

The closer we got, the less intense it appeared.

Finally, we arrived and reported to the staging area manager. As the units already on scene did such a good job, our services were not really needed and we ended up stuck in staging until we were released.

Later, we talked to one of the first in units while we were in the command post. They said that they arrived on scene and found an immediate structure threat. They were on their own for a while, but were able to save several homes.

I'm sure this wasn't our last vegetation fire of the summer, maybe we will get to play a little more on the next one. 

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Canoe Factory

"Schmoe, you need to be there at the autopsy." Words I wasn't really looking forward to hearing. I knew that I might have to attend one someday, but that might had just turned into a must.

The occasion was a fire fatality, one that had been initially thought  to be foul play.  You can read about the fire here.

I talked to a few of the homicide dicks, as I knew that they had been to dozens of these. Don't worry about it, they told me, I was assured that I wouldn't have to take notes or photograph the event, as the coroners office would handle all of that stuff and submit it in their report.

The autopsy was scheduled for 0900, I showed up at 0845. They made me wear a hairnet, some kind of special overalls, gloves and goggles. I assured the coroners aide that I really didn't need most of this stuff, as I wasn't going to get that close. He assured me that the primary purpose of the PPE was to prevent me from contaminating the dead people, not the other way around.

I thought about telling him:  too late, I had contaminated our victim plenty. I thought better of it and went into the autopsy room.

I met the pathologist, an MD that the county contracted with to perform autopsies. He was paid $275 per autopsy and would be performing three of them at one time this morning. He had already performed two at another location on that day and would be spending the rest of his day working on reports.

The assistant was a county employee who worked with the pathologist all of the time. He was in charge of the autopsy room and ensured that it was set up, cleaned and maintained properly.

I was surprised to see three of the tables occupied, the occupants awaiting examination. My victim was going to be first, as he was a little more odoriferous than the others. The assistant began by opening up my victim, then moving on to the next. The pathologist followed behind , removing various organs, weighing some, placing all on a table next to the gurney. All the while, he was speaking into a micro-cassette tape recorder, taking verbal notes to be transcribed later.

We had pretty much decided that our victim had died accidentally, but we needed the autopsy results before making final determination. There were two primary questions that we needed answered. We needed to know if the victim was alive when the fire got to him and we needed to know if he had been disabled before the fire. In other words had someone shot or stabbed him before the fire.

The first question was easily answered. The pathologist removed the victim's trachea and cut it open. It showed a significant amount of soot in it, a sign that the patient had been breathing at the time of the fire. The second question was answered by examining x-rays that had been taken prior to the autopsy. They revealed no fractures (other than the broken bones on the lower legs caused by me walking on his incinerated feet) or no projectiles embedded in the carcass. The cherry red color of the corpse indicated that the victim had suffered significant carbon monoxide poisoning and had inhaled a lot of smoke.

The pathologist determined that the victim had died from smoke inhalation and/or thermal burns. That worked for me. As we had determined the fire was an accidental one, I could finish my report and close the file.

The pathologist offered to let me stay and observe the next autopsy, but frankly, I had seen enough. Looking at my victim laying on the table, hollowed out like a canoe and knowing that a similar fate awaited the other two corpses was reason enough for me to take my leave.

The assembly line nature of the process caught me by surprise. That the victims ended up looking like canoes was even worse. I can only assume that most of the removed material was placed back into the body and closed back up.. Regardless it will always be a canoe factory in my mind.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Schmotographs - Airfield

Today was the first time I was really able to experiment with the long lens that I bought with my camera. I grabbed my bag and headed down to an airport that I used to fly into back in the day.

This used to be a very busy field. People would fly here to buy fuel, as it was much cheaper than surrounding airports. There were several busy flight schools here and as a result, there was always traffic in the pattern.

As you can see, not a whole lot was going on here today.

This Cessna 172 departed while I was there, went to a practice area and had a lesson, then returned to the field and did a few touch and goes. The student told me that they worked on emergency procedures and off-field landings. It brought back some memories of flying lessons on hot summer days, ones where your back stuck to the seat of the aircraft.

This beauty arrived while I was there. It is a Cessna 175, I think. Notice that it does not have a nose wheel, but a small one in the tail. Tail draggers require good technique while on the ground and while landing and taking off. This pilot did a good job landing with a gusting, variable wind to contend with as he landed.

This is a Cessna 150 or 152, very similar to the one I learned to fly in. It is a very small aircraft and was a cramped learning environment. We were required to fuel the aircraft after each flight, no matter how short. The fuel is stored in two tanks, one in each wing.

Here, a mechanic is working on the nose wheel of a Cessna 172. He placed two sandbags on the tail of the aircraft, using it as a lever and raising the nose. Thant way, he doesn't have to use a jack to get the wheel in the air.

As I was leaving the field, I saw this gentleman securing his airplane. This is the same aircraft that is in the third photo above. A classic beauty for sure.

I only spent 90 minutes at the airport, yet I managed to shoot 400 plus images. A lot of it was because I was in fast sports mode, which shoots about eight images per second. Stay on the shutter too long and you can amass images in a hurry.

As I was using a long lens, most of the images were taken from pretty far away. All in all, I am pretty happy with the camera / lens set-up.

Sorry this wasn't fire related, bu there was NOTHING going on near my house today. I couldn't even shoot a training session with the Local F.D. At least aviation is a decent back-up.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Buddy Love Us. But He, He Hate Us.

Buddy is a motor officer for the troopers. He love us. He comes by the station all of the time, we laugh and joke. His wife works for a large grocery chain. She gives Buddy all kinds of goodies that are near their "sell by" date, he brings them to us.  We gave Buddy the combo to the gate and to the back door, so he can come in any time he wants, whether we are in quarters or not. Buddy will do some of his paperwork in the station, use the head, or just come in to get out of the rain/heat/cold. 

Every once in a while, Buddy will pull an overnight O.T, then ride his regular shift. On those occasions, he might forgo lunch and take his "7" in one of our recliners. I have come back come a call and found Buddy sound asleep in a recliner, his duty rig on the floor next to the chair. After a short while, Buddy is refreshed, puts his duty rig back on and hits the street. I actually feel kind of good knowing he feels comfortable enough with us that he can let his guard down for a little while.  We have met Buddy's family, they stopped in once while he was in the house. His wife seems real nice, it's too early to tell with his daughter. They are all nice at 18 months old.

We have never met Buddy's beat partner. I asked him about it once. Buddy told me "watch out for him,. he hates you guys."

"Really?" I inquired,. "Why does he hate us, we're nice guys?"

"I don't know, but he futhermucks you guys all of the time and brags when he can give one of you a cite."

I know who this guy is. Although I have never had a problem with him, I know that he has cited some guys at the next station up the hill for some pretty B.S. stuff. He is not a friendly guy on scene (at least not to me) but I can deal with that. I just wanna know, why does he hate us so?

We maintain a good relationship with most of the troopers, though we might fuss a little over lane closure issues once in a while.We get along with most of the coppers that we deal with, although one of the P.D.s from a city that we protect tends to get pissed with us around election time. Something to do with candidate endorsements.

I may ask him someday, if I get the chance. It will likely be a total waste of time, he will probably deny the issue even exists. Of course, he may actually tell me. Although my question would be answered, my reply to his statement might not be appropriate and then we could have an even bigger issue. Who needs that?

If I had to guess, I would say that the underlying cause of his displeasure is the different nature of our jobs and the public's perception of them. People tend to be happy to see us, not so with our brothers in blue. People tend to be honest with us, EVERYBODY lies to the Po-Po. We tend to have a better schedule, get more overtime and rarely get shot at. He just might believe that everyone loves us and that most people hate them.

Or, maybe the Evil Medic used to date his wife.

Regardless, I hope this thing doesn't get out of hand, no one needs conflict. It's bad for business.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Best Seat Out Of The House

This is the view from the best seat outside of the house:

This is a view of the best seat outside of the house:

The tiller box. The source of many smiles and much sweat. If you have never had the opportunity to tiller, I highly recommend it. It takes some training and a lot of practice to stay proficient, but it is a blast.

For those of you who are not in the fire service, the tiller steers the wheels at the back of the trailer. The tillerman does this from a box mounted on the rear of the trailer. The tiller box contains a seat, a steering wheel and a buzzer pedal. The tillerman communicates with the driver through a headset and intercom. Not much else is needed.
photo courtesy of San Jose Fire dept.

The purpose of the tiller is to allow a very large truck to have the ability to turn around and maneuver in area much smaller than vehicles not so equipped. When we fist started receiving tiller equipped ladder trucks, I was amazed at their immense size. I really thought that they would be impeded by their size and that we would soon be buying more "light" trucks, which are built on a smaller chassis.

After a few training sessions, it became that the tiller equipped ladder trucks could out turn the light trucks as well as the much shorter engines. We continue to buy tiller- trucks to this day.

I am not going to go into how to tiller a truck, but it does take quite a bit of training. More than a few dents and scratches have been put on ladder trucks by improperly trained tillermen. 

As with any coordinated operation, communication and cooperation is the key to success. The driver and the tillerman need to communicate continuously about conditions, intentions, hazards and other matters. The driver needs to remember that the tillerman is back there and be proactive in order to reduce his workload. The tillerman needs to communicate his situation and needs to the driver.

When coordination fails, events like this might be the result:
Photo kyped off of the internet

I don't know anything about this accident, other than it must have been a traumatic event to all involved. We have been fortunate at the K.B.F.P.D, most of our mishaps have been minor.

Although I was never assigned to a ladder truck as a tillerman, I spent a lot of years on a truck as a captain. As a result, I was trained to tiller and did so often. I enjoyed the challenge and it was just plain fun. 

The truck from our district stopped by the other day to drop off some equipment and I climbed up into the box just to see if it had changed at all. I am happy to say, it had not. Although I prefer engine work over most truck work, I still kind of miss the box. 

Not enough to transfer back into the Big House of Pain though.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Christmas in July

After posting yesterday morning, I staggered out to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. As I passed through the family room, I noticed several soot stained boxes laying on the floor in front of the chimney. My immediate fear was that someone had managed to sneak an IED into the house and was waiting to blow me up.

My fears were calmed after one of the dogs grabbed on of the boxes and gave it a wiener dog kind of shake. I plugged my ears and waited for the boom which never came. Further examination revealed that the boxes contained a new camera, a couple of lenses and an external flash. YaaHoo!!

When I spoke to you all last week, I promised that the very first photograph from my new camera would be posted here and would be fire service related.

 As you can tell, not much was going on in my home town today, so the back of this Mobile Command Post will have to do. Note the security camera on the top. This will help prevent theft of the tires and wheels when this unit is parked in bad areas. Now that I have kept my word, we can move on.

 This is not my dog. This dog is a fire service professional. If I told you his name or what he does, I would have to kill you. I will say he is photogenic, charming and is a total camera whore.

 The fire service professional in action. Notice that he is focused on his trainer. He is superbly trained and a delight to be around. 

Another action shot. It is slightly out of focus, It was solely operator error. I know what went wrong, I am just learning how to use this camera. I included this image as I liked the look on the dog's face.

I am pretty happy with this first outing, The quality of my photos will improve as I learn more about my camera and it's capabilities. You might have to suffer through some more photos in the process, I hope it won't be too bad.

As always, thanks for reading,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Day

The start of my day, though productive, wasn't that enjoyable.

The mud got here just before eight. We were hoping to get it earlier, because it was supposed to be 105 degrees today. As we were second in line, we didn't get the 6:00 a.m. truck time that we were hoping for.

The pump/pour went well. As I was busy humping hose, I didn't get any pictures of that. Here, Lenny is putting a groove in the slab, one that serves as an expansion joint, the theory is that the slab will crack at the groove and therefore will be unnoticeable. Though it only reached 100 while we were working, it did cause the mud to set quick and we were done by noon.

The end of my day was far more enjoyable. As it did reach 105, we decided to make the drive and head toward the coast.

It was a lot cooler at the coast, but still hot by beach standards. It was heaven to us desert dwellers.

A lot of people, both desert and coastal, had the same idea. It took us a while to park, but it was worth the effort.

The lifeguards were busy placing buoys for an open water swim that is happening tomorrow. #2 son is participating in it, he has never done open water before. Good luck to you, kid.

While we were on the pier, I spotted this dad, teaching his kid to surf.

Here they are, paddling out.

They have spotted a wave that is looking like it might have potential.


If I ever hit the lottery, I am going to buy a place on the coast. It is just a pleasant place to live, especially in the summer.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reflections on a Captain

You are reading this at least 24 hours after you should have. It should have been written on Wednesday evening, for a posting at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, It didn't happen.

I don't have a good excuse. Although I was at work, it was a rather mundane evening, one I was grateful for. Not only was it slow, it was rather unproductive. We watched the latest episode of Deadliest Catch, followed by After the Catch, which had both been recorded on our DVR in the day room. Not a good use of my time, but that's what happened.

I am sure many of you have seen Deadliest Catch. It has been on for several seasons and is the number one watched show on The Discovery Channel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Deadliest Catch is a documentary  that chronicles life aboard crab fishing boats up in the Bering Sea.

The crab fishing lifestyle is one based solely on greed. The objective is for each boat to catch it's quota of crab in the shortest amount of time possible. This seems to be done with little regard to labor laws, OSHA or any other regulations except for those of the Coast Guard. There is a potential to make a lot of money in a short period of time, but it comes at a cost.

It makes for exceptional television. Extreme weather conditions, severe working conditions, unique personalities and the crab fishing sub-culture provide interesting material in every episode. Many of the boats are run by families, with sons, brothers and fathers on the same crew. There is no conflict like family conflict. It is displayed on the screen and adds to the already intense nature of the show.

Each boat has a personality. It appears that the captain sets the tone on the boat, whether intentional or not. The captain's personality is reflected in the crew that he hires and trains. As I watch each episode, I see traits in the boat captains that I see in the leadership of the K.B.F.P.D. Some of these traits I view as positive, some not so much.

On the episode that I watched last night, Phil Harris, the captain of the fishing vessel Cornelia Marie passed away from a stroke that he had suffered while in port, several weeks before the taping of this weeks show. All of this went down back in February and even though I knew it was coming, it wasn't pleasant to see. As a fan of  Deadliest Catch I have my favorite captains and though Phil wasn't my favorite, he was in the top three.

The reason I liked Phil was for a different reason than I like the captains who are higher on my list of favorites. Phil appeared to be a unique individual, one who lived life hard, both in work and in play. Phil was flawed and he recognized some of his own shortcomings. Despite his deep issues, Phil was a man who overcame much and achieved success in his world. He reminds me of people I care about and I see myself when I examine some of his issues.

Phil ran a balanced boat, he  treated his crew fairly and considered safety when appropriate. For me, the acid test is whether I would want my sons to work on a particular boat. I would feel comfortable with my sons working on the Cornelia Marie with Phil at the helm.

My favorite boat and captain on the show? The Time Bandit, captained at different times by brothers Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand. I just like the way they run their boat as compared to the way other captains run theirs. They are dialed in, balance production and safety, make sound decisions and they can work together. All of these abilities and several more lead to a well run boat, one that I would let my kids work on.

Eight point five million viewers watched this weeks episode, which for a cable show is pretty high numbers. Next week will be a two hour "Remembering Phil"  episode, one that I will be sure to watch.

The season is coming to a close, this will be the last one with Phil. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Time Bandit and whether the vacuum of Phil's leadership can be filled.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I followed this link that reader Frank Ch. Eigler left in the comments section of my mast post. Apparently the A.P. news article that I read left out a few details  on Mr. Garner's actions that day.

Details like there were three sets in the residence, not one. He took the phone and the smoke detector with him as he left.

As a result, I feel a little better about my assessment of Mr. Garner. I have a feeling he just might be in that "special" place.

Thanks for reading,

Hell has a special place...

The state of Ohio executed William L. Garner yesterday. Garner, 37 years old, was convicted for the1992 murders of five children, ages eight through twelve. The five children perished in a fire that Garner had deliberately set in order to cover up a burglary, where he had stolen some household electronics. A sixth child, a thirteen year old boy, managed to escape the fire by jumping from a window.

Garner knew the children were inside the home when he lit the fire and had actually spoken to one of them as he was burglarizing the residence. Garner admitted to starting the fire, but said that he thought the children would make it out. Garner started the fire by tossing a match onto a couch.

I am pretty ambivalent about the death penalty. As much as I like the idea of revenge, the process has degraded to the point where I feel that it's usefulness has passed. Likely by design, the amount of time that a prisoner is kept on death row and the cost of  the appeals process far outweighs the cost of keeping a prisoner incarcerated for life. Except in extreme cases, just lock them up and don't let them out. Ever.

In my most humble of opinions, this was an extreme case. To kill five kids by arson is heinous beyond belief. I am not buying his argument that he thought they would make it out either. He committed this act to cover up a crime. At least one of the kids spoke to him, what good is burning the up the house while letting an eyewitness survive?

Death penalty opponents have pointed to Mr. Garners limited mental capacity, poor education and abusive upbringing as reasons not to carry out his penalty. Without delving into these points myself, I can't opine on that. I can say however, that an overwhelming number of abused, uneducated, slow kids do not light houses on fire with six kids sleeping inside.

Accounts of Mr. Garners last day state that Mr. Garner seemed truly repentant and sorry for his actions. His behavior both inside prison and on the outside indicate a very damaged, hostile person.

Whether society or his victims forgive him his not important. He has been held accountable to us. That is for our satisfaction, not his redemption. What happens next is between him and God. I believe that God has the capacity to forgive anyone, no matter how severe the offense. Should God determine that Mr. Garner was not sincere in his repentance and that his spirituality was a charade, then Mr. Gardner's fate is sealed.

If so, I hope he's in a special place, one reserved for the worst.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'm not sure but...

... I thought I heard sleigh bells last night and maybe a ho ho ho or two.

I dunno, it was kind of late and I did eat Chinese food last night. If and when Santa does bring this bad boy to the Schmoe house, I swear that I will post the VERY FIRST pic, no matter how bad. I also promise that it will be fire service related.

Thanks for stopping by,
A hopeful Schmoe

Hey! You!

This event happened years ago, going through my patch collection the other day reminded me of it.


We went mutual aid to the Tiny Fire Protection District, which was just down the highway from us. It was a warm summer evening, a good one for riding on the tailboard. I could see the smoke from my vantage point, the swirling dark mass rising into the twilight sky.

We rounded the corner and I could see that the Tiny Fire District was engaged. The paid engine and two volunteer engines all had hose lines off and another crew was laddering the building. The fire was well established in a shabby, old corrugated metal building that held a couple of specialty shops, a bar and a vacant suite.

As there was not much going on in Tinyville on that evening, the locals were out in force, standing across the street hurling insults at the Tiny F.P.D. Tinyville was (and is) a perpetually impoverished community inhabited by the working poor and a very large contingent of the permanent underclass. These folks never were reluctant to offer their opinion on firefighting techniques, law enforcement practices and social issues, usually in a very loud and expletive filled fashion. Tonight was no exception, it looked like things could get out of hand.

As we rolled to a stop, I stepped off of the tailboard when I heard the spring brakes set. I walked up to the cab just as the the captain closed his door. We were met by a captain from the Tiny F.P.D, who was shouting back at the locals.

It was then that I noticed a short, white man dressed in polyester pants and a golf shirt run across the front of our engine and toward the building. The man made it to the building and started frantically pulling on some plywood that covered one of the windows. I had seen enough. As the Tiny F.P.D. captain was ignoring this intrusion into our scene, I took it upon myself to restore order and shouted at him. "Hey! You! Get your ass back on the street!"

I was a little surprised when the man stopped what he was doing and walked toward us. Again, I kept waiting for the T.F.P.D. captain to say something to this guy, but again I was disappointed. Finally the man stood in front of me, glaring silently.

Finally, the Tiny F.P.D. captain found his voice. "That's our Chief" he said with an embarrassed grin on his face. 


The Chief never said a word to me, he just turned around, went back to the building and finished pulling the plywood off of the windows.

We received our assignment from the captain and went to work. A short while later I watched as the chief climbed a ladder to the roof, grabbed an axe off of one the firefighters and began chopping. I could tell it was the chief, as I recognized his golf shirt from earlier in the evening. He didn't have gloves on nor a helmet. 

I really don't remember how the rest of the incident went, other than the building ended up being a total loss. I halfway expected to get in trouble for yelling at Tiny's chief, but nothing ever came of it.

The Tiny F.P.D. was dissolved a few years after that. The district opted to contract with the county to provide service. The fire chief was the only Tiny F.P.D. member who didn't get a job with the county.

I ran into one of the former Tiny F.P.D. members a few years back. I asked him what ever became of the former chief. He told me that the chief has Alzheimer's really bad and is living in a con home.

Ever since I heard that, I can't help but wonder if the chief's actions on that night were an early sign that he was suffering from Alzheimer's.

In a way, I hope that they were.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, July 12, 2010

To My EMS/Fire Readers in Florida

Dear Floridian EMS providers,

Please be advised that Steven, a K.B.F.P.D. regular, has somehow managed to obtain a plane ticket and is relocating to your wonderful state.

Although our members had almost daily contact with Steven, they really aren't going to miss him very much. It's not that Steven was usually unpleasant, he just generated a lot of business, the kind which we really don't need.

In Steven's defense, he never called us. It  was always passers-by, who were not used to seeing a passed out man laying supine on the parkway, next to his wheelchair. Steven always woke up and often refused treatment and transport.. Sometimes. however he was too altered to leave on the street. As he was in a wheelchair, the sheriff could not take him so he had to be coerced to be transported. That got a little old for the squaddies, but they always prevailed.

Despite Steven's chronic alcoholism, he usually manged to keep a fair about of wit about him. Who else would feed the parking meter while he parked his wheelchair in the marked space, then sleep it off in the parkway? Steven was often charming despite being a besotted mess. He remembered the crews and usually displayed his sense of humor.

It is hoped that Steven will not be homeless when he arrives in Florida. The purpose for his relocation is that he will be able to get some of the help that he needs and be close to logistical support. Unless he gets the drinking issue resolved, sooner or later he will be back on the street. When he does, you Floridian EMS providers will start running into him.

Please keep in mind that as far as regular street customers go, he is not all that bad once you get past the aroma. He will usually try to be humorous, so get some laughs out of your time with him. Treat him fair and whatever you do, please don't send him back.


I personally have never met Steven, however his fame as a chronically intoxicated regular has made him sort of famous among the District #3 crews. I worked an OT at the Jungle Gym and heard the squaddies say that Steven was en-route to the sunshine state. The squaddies will enjoy a few less calls per cycle for a while, then someone will move in and take Steven's place.. That's the way it always happens.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Swearing at Inanimate Objects...

...rarely corrects the issue. The damn drain pipe is still broken, the damn repairs are still not completed, the effing idiot who was operating the trencher (me) when he ran over the damn pipe is still an idiot.

See, it didn't work. I was supposed to have the irrigation in by tonight as the concrete guys are coming on Tuesday morning. I took out the drainpipe late in the afternoon on Friday, dug it out and started the repair, then ran out of light. I went to work yesterday and got off this morning.

I will finish the repair up this morning, then start laying irrigation pipe. To ensure that I am ready for the concrete guys, I took a vacation day tomorrow. As much as I hate burning days for stuff like this, I am glad my gig has the flexibility to allow me to do so.

At least I am not dealing with rattlesnakes like my friend Captain Wines. That would be all I'd need.

I gotta get busy.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Airshow - Just Another Dork With a Camera

I went to an airshow a few weeks ago. I wasn't going to go, but I woke up to a clear sky and a clear schedule so I grabbed the camera and went.

This is a personal favorite of mine. Designed in the '40s the Antonov AN-2 has been a workhorse for over 60 years. Over 17,000 were made, most in the Soviet Union. They are the Chevy truck of airplanes. The 1940's Chevy truck that is.

This is a close-up of the propeller on the An-2. This unit can move some air. It's pretty good sized for a single engine airplane.

I don't remember what kind of airplane this was, but the owner had polished the aluminum skin to a mirror finish. The picture is actually of the dad with his kid on his shoulders. This would have been me 15 years ago. All kids should catch an airshow at least once.

Nothing special about this plane, just an aging Cessna 172. Nothing special except that I have about 50 hours flying it. When I used to fly, this plane was owned by the club I belonged to. A good time machine for sure. Despite all of the time I have in it, this is the only picture that I ever took of it. I was surprised to see it here, someone must have flown it to the show. I haven't flown it since 1995. Sniff.

One of the performers, climbing with the stick in his lap. In these aerobatic planes, its all about horsepower over weight and maneuverability. What these pilots can make the aircraft do is simply incredible. Come to think of it, every adult should catch an airshow at least once.

It was while shooting this performer that I turned around and took this photo:

It was then I realized - I am just another airplane dork with a camera!

Have a great weekend everybody! Catch an airshow if you can.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Island

A big fuss is going on in northern California. A brush fire burned for almost five days, burning over five hundred acres and destroying five homes. Numerous cars were lost as was other property. Not a large fire by California standards, where hundreds of homes are lost each year to wildfire. Why the fuss? Not one firefighter responded to the fire and the locals are pissed.

The fire was located on Bradford Island, which is located in the Sacramento Delta. Bradford Island does not lie within the boundaries of any fire department or fire district and therefore is not protected. Surrounding fire districts will respond to the island if there is a credible threat to life safety. Assessments of the fire were made by surrounding fire districts and it was determined that there was no significant risk to life. Therefore, no one came.

The local media, both print and broadcast have made a point to tell the world that no firefighters responded to the fire. The anti-firefighter corner of the populace is having a field day with this story. As usual, the media is only reporting part of the story, according to some local residents.

Property owners on Bradford Island have in the past voted down the opportunity to be protected by a neighboring fire district. They didn't want to pay for it. As a result, they are not protected. They don't have any police protection either.

The comments section on the story posted on a TV station web site is a mixed bag. The firefighter haters leave comments about how real heroes shouldn't observe boundaries. A lot of comments show no sympathy for island residents, as they knew they weren't protected and they didn't want to pay for protection.

Frankly, I agree with the latter. Why should island residents get service for free, when every resident in the district pays for it?

We have a similar situation in my home town. Hometown surrounds an unincorporated community on three sides. Hometown has offered to annex this area into the city  and provide fire, police and other services. Twice, the residents of the unincorporated area have voted not to come into Hometown.

The residents of the unincorporated area do not want the additional taxes, which are minimal by the way, nor do they want the additional codes and ordinances which would impact their lives. They might not be able to park junk cars on their lawns for example.

The unincorporated area does have fire and police protection, they receive it from the county. It's just that county fire engines literally drive past a Hometown fire station when they respond into this area. and a  second Hometown engine is closer to the area than the closest county engine as well.

Of course Hometown will respond to a call in the unincorporated area if a life safety risk is present or if requested through the mutual aid system. As a Hometown tax payer, I am OK with that. I just don't think I should subsidize fire protection for the unincorporated area.

I am quite sure that if the unincorporated are burns, the residents will raise hell with Hometown F.D. and the media will jump on board. I just hope someone will remember the two prior votes.

Maybe these are arguments for true regional fire protection, with no boundaries or borders. Between jurisdictional disputes and the cost of providing service, perhaps it should be looked at.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Somebody is Getting a New Engine

I stopped by the fire engine store the other day and spotted this beauty.

It is going to the San Bernardino National Forest, located in Southern California. It is a Type 3 engine, one that is designed to meet the Forest Service's needs  while fighting wildfires.

I have always liked USFS engines, I think they are well designed, functional and built to last. This one has a few unique features which I like and think the K.B.F.P.D. would do well to copy.

I like the rear mount pump panel. I think it provides for better visibility when pumping. Just a few steps and you have a great view of three sides of the unit. It might be a disadvantage when working on a highway, but it might not be a common occurrence for this engine. I also like the ladder to the top of the rig and the step to the ladder.

It has a fairly spacious cab and plumbed in foam. One thing it doesn't have though, is four wheel drive. I like the added margin of capability that four wheel drive provides. Obviously, the USFS doesn't think this rig needs it, so they saved the added expense. It is still a very nice engine.

This new engine also came equipped with fancy new yellow safety vests. I felt safer just knowing they were in there. Maybe they counteract the added risk of a rear mount pump panel.

I am not sure what station this engine will be assigned to, I don't recognize the number. To my knowledge their stations are assigned two digit numbers. Regardless, some lucky crew is getting a new ride.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I received a phone call today. It was from a friend that I have known for years. We used to work together, back in the day. We have both moved on to different agencies although we see each other occasionally on large incidents.

Apparently, my friend is in a bit of a jam. He did something that his chief didn't like and his chief seems to be making an issue of it. The behavior in question wouldn't be considered a big deal by most of the district commanders and division chiefs in my agency, but it might be a cause of concern for a few.

After listening to my friends explanation of the event, it wouldn't be a concern of mine either. Obviously, his chief  feels different and that feeling is likely made worse by the fact that my friend had a similar episode with this officer a few years ago.

Now, my friend's presence has been requested at a sit-down with his chief. Needless to say, he is a little nervous.He called to see what my opinion was on the matter and to ask how I felt he should handle the meeting.

Here's the funny thing. I actually know his chief. In fact, I know him pretty well. We took Fire Officer certification classes together and attended a company officer's academy together about 15 years ago. He also lives not too far from me and I run into him all of the time.

As a result, I know some of this chiefs pet peeves and I know that he doesn't care for my friend all that much. Keeping that information in mind, I presented a few ideas for my friend to mull over.

I told my friend that his chief probably wants to exert a little chiefly authority and have a little con-fab about the undesirable behavior. I advised him that this was appropriate and that the chief has a right to do it.

I also told him to ask the chief whether the findings of the meeting could result in discipline.

Should the chief waffle on that one or admit that it could result in discipline, then my friend should pause the meeting and request representation from his union local.. You see, as far as I know, the transgression is not a violation of policy, but merely an act which this officer finds objectionable. Thus, the chief can offer opinion as much as he wants to and even suggest that my friend change his behavior, but formal discipline would likely be overturned.

I told my friend that he should listen to what the chief has to say and not be confrontational, even when presenting his position. Any mention of discipline will have to be handled through the grievance procedure and the disciplinary process. I hope my friend can follow my advice.

Having once worked with him and having known him for years, I know that he is a good employee who is a "giver" rather than a "taker". I also know he can be a little abrasive at times and that he can rub folks the wrong way. I hope the latter trait was not the real reason behind the meeting.

Hopefully, the meeting will be a simple affair and the matter will be closed. Hopefully, blood from either side will not be shed. Hopefully, my advice was sound.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year on July 5th, I was transporting my beat-up son home from Nebraska after a July 4th four-wheeler accident. The fractured tibia was cured after eight weeks in a cast. His torn ACL was repaired in late fall by using some poor dead guy's Achilles's Tendon in it's place. Thanks to the donor, the orthopedic surgeon and the physical therapist, he is now 99%.

This was taken last year on the way home. He was miserable, every bone in his body hurt. This year, he swore off four-wheelers and has decided to stick with Jeeps.

This year, we opted to stay home and work on the crib. We had some family members over for some grillin' and then went to the public fireworks display.

We went to our usual spot, a church parking lot that overlooks where the fireworks are launched. We have gone  there every year that we were home for the past 28 years. The church charges a small fee, the money goes toward the youth group. It's the best deal in town as far as I'm concerned.

The fireworks show was a little smaller then usual, budget issues I suspect. I commented on this to Saint I Am Married To.

Her response was that she really didn't care as this was our place and this was our show. It is what we do and where we go on the Fourth of July.

Ya know, she was right.

Although some of the family members that used to come along are no longer with us, it won't be long before new ones start showing up. I expect that someday, grand kids will be coming to watch the show from the church parking lot.

Regardless, I can tell you that this year's Independence Day was far superior to last. I hope yours was as well.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. Can you tell I haven't been at work for a while?

Monday, July 5, 2010

No Mas

As a younger firefighter, I actively collected fire department shoulder patches. I would go to musters, answer classified ads in Firehouse Magazine and visit stations in order to expand my collection. It grew out of a hobby that I had as a kid, collecting military patches.

There are advantages to collecting patches as a hobby. It is inexpensive compared to my other hobbies, they are easy to display and the collection doesn't take up a lot of room in storage.

I don't actively seek out patches any more, my more costly pastimes take up my spare time. Most of my collection is in a box, I only have one board displayed and that is in a station that I worked at many years ago. I still get new additions to my collection, people in the district send me patches that they have picked up here and there. Collecting patches is not nearly as popular as it once was.

I keep them  separated by state and in some cases by county. It was as I was filing some new patches to my collection that I came across a patch from a department that no longer exists. It stood out because it was one of my "goal" departments back when I worked for the Very Small City Fire Department.

That led me to go through my collection from just four counties located in Southern California. Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. Out of those counties, I culled the following patches:

All of these patches are from fire departments that no longer exist. All but two have disappeared during my career. These do not represent all of the departments that have disappeared during the span of my career, just the ones that I have a patch for and that I remember existing. Some of those agencies HAVE BEEN ABSORBED TWICE!

Some months ago, I wrote of a friend whose department may be absorbed by Los Angeles County F.D. He lamented on some of the feelings that he had about the prospect of changing organizations.

The future of his department has not been decided as of yet. If it is absorbed, he will not have any options and will go to work for L.A. County. As he is a professional and is adaptable, he will make this change successfully.

In the short time I have left at the K.B.F.P.D. I am sure that I will be adding more patches from the above counties to the group in the photo. The continued economic issues in the region have caused the subject of consolidation to come up in many communities. It has not been discussed in my agency, of that I am thankful.

As for my friend, I would not be surprised if his patch showed up. I will likely know within a few more months.  Not to sound crass or self centered, but better him than I.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Holiday Routine

Holiday routine. A phrase which everyone in the Kinda Big Fire Protection District likes to hear. The Fourth of July is no exception, although the term's relevance varies depending on which community we protect.

There is no policy covering holiday routine, though the practice is so well established in our traditions that none is required. I perused through the K.B.F.P.D. Rules and Regulations book dated Sept. 1, 1926 and found no reference to holiday routine, however I am quite sure the practice was followed, even then.

Technically, any holiday which the county observes, we do as well. Some holidays are observed more stringently than others. The daily routine on Christmas will be far more relaxed than on President's Day.

Today will start out as Holiday Routine for most members of the K.B.F.P.D. Station maintenance will be performed as will any tasks vital to the operation of the district. Shopping will occur, in preparation for a BBQ this afternoon. Perhaps a ball game will be watched in the early afternoon, if call volume allows.

A few companies might head to a training tower for a drill session, though only companies with probationary firefighters are likely to do that.

Dinner will be eaten early, usually around four or so. This allows the dishes to be done, the kitchen to be cleaned and the digestive process to be started before things start to get busy.

There will be a few small fires in the afternoon, the result of fireworks and poor judgment. Fireworks of all kinds are illegal in most of the communities that we protect. However, there are some areas which allow "safe and sane" fireworks nearby and fireworks of any kind are available less than five hours away, so there are plenty of them available for misuse.

Several communities within the district put on commercial fireworks displays. Quite a few of our companies will attend one of these displays, some by choice, others by mandate. These commercial displays get quite a crowd and often generate a few calls. Some of the commercial displays are at parks with significant vegetation nearby. Occasionally, a brush fire erupts during the show, adding to the public's entertainment experience.

From nine until eleven- thity or so, the cumulative effects of  alcohol, fireworks and relatives kick in and things really take off. Fights, wrecks, fires and family drama occur and requests for our services increase. On Independence Days such as this, where people may have the following day off, these factors are increased further adding to the call volume.

Things usually return to normal by midnight and hopefully the shift will be completed without any major events.

Although I don't mind the routine on Independence Day, I enjoy spending the day with my family even more. I usually ensure that I get it off. This year is no exception.

I hope you all have a great Fourth of July and find some way to enjoy it, even if you happen to be working. For those of you who happen to be from another country, I just hope you have a pleasant Sunday.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 2, 2010