Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Sabbatical

Tis the season to be jolly. I agree with and endorse this concept. However, since I am a scrooge by nature, it takes a lot of effort for me to maintain any level of jolliness through the holidays.

The first step I take is to not work. I save vacation time, do shift trades and burn CTO, so that I will not have to work during the month of December. I usually pull it off, unless someone that I owe time to calls me for the payback. That rarely happens, as most of the people that I trade with know that I am not really available in December.

 Being off serves several purposes. First, it allows me time to get all of the crap that I dislike doing done at a leisurely pace. Shopping, wrapping, cards, decorating, lights, hauling all of the stuff down from the attic - it's all stuff I'd rather not do.  If I can handle it at my leisure, it's a lot more fun.

Take that John - first one with the lights up! Don't
give me that crap about throwing your back out

Second, I don't have to put up with the traffic, increased call volume and tragedy that the holiday season brings at work. The less of that stuff that I have to deal with, the better. I'd rather be in the desert with the tortoises and tarantulas than with thousands of depraved shoppers, crashing their cars and burning up their houses. I'm just sayin'.

 One Happy Kid!

I enjoy the toy drives and the happiness that the season brings to children. It will be fun when we have grand kids and have them over on Christmas morning. In due time of course!

 Kids like fire engines almost as much as they do Christmas.

So, today starts my annual Christmas sabbatical, With any luck, I won't be back at work until after New Years. Trades and burning time is a small price to pay for some seasonal jolliness. A price that I am happily willing to pay.
Thanks for reading, 
A jolly Schmoe

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I heard

I heard his voice on the radio.

I heard the screams in the background.

I heard him ask for the Sheriff.

I heard him ask for the Chaplain.

I heard the lump in his throat.

I heard his voice crack.

That is why I don't work around the holidays.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The tones hit at 0330, waking us up from a sound sleep. We were responding to a person suffering seizures. The address sounded familiar, perhaps one that Engine 225 had gone to earlier in the shift.

We arrived at the house, a neatly kept home in a nice neighborhood. As I grabbed the wrong radio and had to go back to the rig, my crew found the patient first.

I entered the house and found the crew already at work. I peered into the front bedroom and saw a bed with a young male in it. A wheelchair and crutches were next to the bed, indicating something more than just seizures may be going on.

Our patient's wife was in the room, she was obviously upset and was telling the medic that her husband was having seizure after seizure, a condition that was not normal for him. He had suffered several seizures just prior to our being called. The patient was awake, but his answers to our questions were lethargic in nature and confused.

As it was crowded, I decided to remove the wife from the bedroom and obtain the patient's information from her in the living room. It was quiet in there and I knew that I would be able to communicate better with her.

"What medical condition does your husband have that causes him to have seizures?" I asked.

"He was injured by a roadside IED" she replied, shaking. "He lost his leg, had penetrating brain trauma and had a lot of internal injuries"

The lump in my throat grew from nowhere. My voice cracked as I asked what his normal mental status was.

She answered that aside from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, anxiety, insomnia and the occasional seizure, his mental status was usually pretty good, that he was usually alert, aware and very coherent. The six seizures in one day was not normal for him, nor was the vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. She was worried sick. I could also tell she was nearing the end of her rope.

It was then I started to notice my surroundings. The medals displayed in a frame on the wall.  Challenge coins displayed neatly on a shelf. A photograph of a young U.S. Army infantry soldier, displayed on the wall.

The patient's wife began to open up. "I don't know what to do. You guys took him to the hospital twice today, they didn't do ANYTHING for him. No CT scans, no medication adjustments no IVs no anything. They just watched him for a little while and sent us home. I haven't slept in I don't know how long, we don't have anyone here,I can't do this by myself!"

I didn't know what to say, except that we would explain the situation to the ambulance and that she could insist the patient be transported to a different hospital, one that might handle things differently.

Inside, I was screaming to myself. "Are you fucking kidding me? Is this what we do to the people that are being maimed while serving our country? We fix them up, best as we can - then cut them loose? Can't we do any better for him?"

The ambulance arrived and we briefed them as to the situation. They agreed to transport the patient to another town, one with another hospital. We told the patient's wife of the destination, she broke down and began to share with us how difficult their life had been recently.

Thankfully, my medic and my engineer had moved into the primary communications role with the patient's wife, as my emotional in-basket was suddenly full. The roller coaster ride of my kid's recent career choice compounded the outrage and sorrow that I felt about this soldier's plight and that of his wife. I left the house and walked a few houses down as my crew listened to the woman as her angst boiled to the surface.

After a few minutes, my issues resolved themselves and I returned to the house, just as the patient's wife hugged my medic. Somehow, he had been able to provide something that she needed, another human filled with compassion, willing to listen and to offer some practical advice.

We asked her if she needed anything else from us, she said that she was OK for now. We said good by and cleared the scene. 


I am sure that we will see these people again, I don't mind. Our petty issues are nothing compared to what they are going through, I just wish that there was more that we could do for them.

The woman was wearing a Wounded Warriors Project sweatshirt, so I know that she has been in touch with them. I really hope that our patient was suffering a temporary setback and that he will bounce back to a less severe condition. Time will tell on that. Regardless, I just hope that they can find a way to get through this. 26 is a pretty young age to give up hope.


Sorry for the language, sometimes that is the word that works best for me. I actually did use self-control while writing this, you should have read the first draft.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Thankful

It's thanksgiving morning. I got home from work about an hour ago, after a moderately busy shift at the Healing Place. I entered my home through the garage into the kitchen and to the aroma of freshly baked rolls, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Three dogs greeted me warmly, their affection unconditional. My beautiful wife of 27 years turned toward me, her hands still busy in the sink. Her warm smile, and the love in her eyes remind me that she means more to me than anything on this earth.

I kissed her, then walked to the back of the house, lugging my bag, laptop and camera bag into our bedroom. I checked on my sons, both sleeping in after staying up way too late.

Later this afternoon, my parents, and my brother in law and his family will come over and we will eat a feast worthy of a king. We will visit, take pictures, watch a game and maybe share an adult beverage or two.

This evening, my extended family members will return to their homes with full stomachs, secure in their sense of place in our world. My sons will likely go out with their friends, enjoying their company and the optimism that only youth can enjoy.

The Saint That I Am Married To and I will likely retire early, a long night for me last night and a 48 hour shift starting tomorrow will prevent us from staying up late.

I have much to be thankful for. I love and am loved. I have a home, a job and a reasonable sense of purpose and security. All of my basic needs are met and I enjoy many things that others don't.

I can't ask for much more.

I thank God for my blessings and I thank those of you that make my life possible.


I am also thankful for people like these:

 Whose sacrifices allow me to enjoy many aspects of my life.


The first person in line at the local Best Buy:

He will have spent 48 hours in line when the doors open tomorrow. He wants to buy a laptop and has a pretty good idea which one is on sale and for how much. He won't say how he knows.

He expects to save $300 to $400 by waiting in line. I hope it works out for him, I just hope he appreciates those who are spending their thanksgiving far away from the comforts that only home and loved ones can provide.

Have a happy Thanksgiving. For those of you on duty, either here or abroad, stay safe, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families. For those of you who are off, I hope your holiday is peaceful and refreshing.

Thanks for reading,
A grateful Schmoe

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Surrender, Now Victory!

I ran into Steve at O'Malleys the other day. We used to work together at the big house of pain. He is one funny guy and I hadn't seen him for a while, so we sat down and shared a few laughs. I was running short on time and I got up to leave. He stopped me.

"Schmoe, I got something I have to show you."

He pulled out his Droid, worked it's magic and handed it to me. 

The image on the screen was one of a bright eyed little girl, about three years old. She had dark hair and a big smile full of very white teeth. She looked very happy as she was in the arms of one of our members, Denise.

Denise has no children, Steve has boys, all much older.

"Cute kid" I commented. "Who is she?"

"That's her" he replied. "She's the one from El Rio."

"Holy shit. Are you kidding me? How did you get this picture?"

"It was her birthday. Her mom and dad brought her by the station to say hi. Denise was there and sent me the pic"


She lives about an hour away from El Rio. She is a very normal little girl, one that has a loving family, a roof over her head and a full tummy. She has toys to play with, friends and pets. It would appear that she is well adjusted and that she really has a chance to succeed.

Some good choices were made on that day three years ago, it could have easily gone the other way.

Thanks for reading,
A grateful Schmoe

Shanghai High Rise Fire

As most of you know, there was a massive high-rise fire in Shanghai China last week. 58 people were killed and 70 were injured when a fire broke out at a 30 story apartment building. Most of the fire service blogs ran the story, so I won't go into detail.

Boston.com's Big Picture photo-blog ran with it yesterday and, as usual, obtained the best photographs of the disaster and compiled them in a post. As always they did a great job and posted the very best images, both from a photographic and an informational standpoint.

I love this site, they rock! Check it out.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 22, 2010

I almost forgot....

In my sleep deprived mind last night, I forgot to add a category called "They Tell Us Where to Go". one that contains blogs from dispatchers. Good thing I remembered it at 0445 when I woke up!

I added 911 This Better Be Good  to it, there will be more to come.

I plan on being better about updating the blogroll, but you know how plans go...

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unscheduled Maintenance

I  have been meaning to update my blogroll forever. I have been putting it off because procrastination is one of my many character flaws. Today, after receiving a reminder about an obsolete link from Michael Morse of  Rescuing Providence fame, I finally got on my ass and got it done.

I repaired a few links including Michael's and a Blog called Iron Firemen who is run by my buddy Capt. Wines from Roanoake Va. F.D. Sorry fellas for the bad links, my bad.

I added a few new categories. bLAWgs has a few blogs written by attorneys, ones that I would likely let live if I were made king.

I added a photo section and one on Alaska. Two topics that I enjoy.

I also added several blogs to the Aviation category, the Fire Service blog section and to the Blogs I enjoy section. Stop by and check them out.

I am pretty selective about the blogs I list on my blogroll. The ones listed are interesting, well written and maintained. I think that you will enjoy them.

Deepest apologies to those whose blogs I should have added a long time ago. You guys knew I was a turd after reading my stuff for a while, what did you expect from me?

Thanks for reading,

Water Supply

We are fortunate at the healing place, our entire first in district has a lot of hydrants and they are all hot. As a result, I don't worry about how a water supply is going to be established on one of my incidents. I either lay my own, or I ask the next in unit to lay in to me. It is a luxury that many of my brother and sister firefighters don't share.

We don't have four-way hydrant valves, almost all of our hydrants are high pressure / high volume. I would guess that the majority of our people would have to look at a four-way for a while to figure out how to use it, they likely have never seen one. Likewise with a tanker relay operation or even dump-valves and fold-a-tanks, we just don't need 'em.

It was with some amusement then, as I listened to a nearby rural county department on the scanner, as they struggled with establishing a water supply at a residential structure fire. The fire was well established upon their arrival and they opted to go to a defensive fire operation. The operational objective was to contain the fire to the structure of origin and there were a few minor exposure issues.

They initially didn't have enough engines to lay over the road from the closest hydrant, about 1/3 a mile away, judging from the radio traffic. No water tenders were staffed nearby (tankers for you easterners) so their options were initially limited. They ran out of water for a few minutes before enough people showed up to hand-jack across a couple of fields and through a few fences to a remote hydrant.

The initial operational objectives were met, no exposures were damaged - all's well that ends well. I did however, make a note to review alternative water supplies with my crew when I return to work after the break, you just never know.

I then opened a beer and began watching my beloved Packers go to work on the Vikings. I think that's going to end well too.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 19, 2010


I could tell he was elated. He was almost bubbly, he was so happy. The fire was out, the mutual aid units were sent home and no one got hurt. As this was his first fire as incident commander, he had good reason to be pleased.

That he was in charge was an anomaly in itself. As an engineer, his responsibility was primarily for the safe transport of personnel and equipment to emergency and non-emergent incidents. Of course, one of his ancillary duties is to be in charge while the captain is away, hence his authority on this day.

It wasn't really that much of a fire. A grass fire in the early afternoon, a couple of acres in size. Moderate temperature and humidity as well as a light wind helped resolve the issue. As the fire was on the border with two other agencies, plenty of resources were available to jump on it with little delay.

Our hero arrived first, automatically making him in charge, at least initially. He calmly broadcast a solid report on conditions and made the initial assignments for our agency. As he knew that units were responding from the neighboring departments, he switched to their frequencies, .gave them assignments and assigned them a common radio channel to make communications easier.

Then, he went to work, assisting the crew in starting the hose-lay. When the district commander arrived, things were well under way, with the desired outcome clearly in sight. The district commander decided to let our hero keep command and use it as a training tool.

Our hero and the district commander were both surprised when the Deputy Chief arrived a few minutes later, followed by the Special Services Division Chief. Both were returning from a meeting and were nearby when the call when out.

The Incident Commander continued to monitor the progress of his charges as they worked up both flanks of the fire and met at the head. The dragon was slain, all that was left was to mop up the remains. The three chief officers monitored his actions and offered no advice as none was required.

Units were released as their assignments were completed and the chiefs moved on to more important things. The ICS was terminated and the incident was closed. A job well done by a novice incident commander.

That is the beauty of how the K.B.F.P.D. trains and tests its engineers. We understand that on an engineer's very first day in the position, he may be called upon to act as captain. We also realize that when someone is acting as captain, even for the first time, that person may have an incident which involves multiple units and agencies.

That's why our engineer's test involves a lot of captains stuff and a lot of command theory. You just never know when an engineer is going to need those skills.

This event also shows the beauty of the ICS. It does not care about rank, it is based upon function and qualifications.

Regardless, our engineer/hero had good reason to be elated, he and the system both succeeded. Succeeded under the pressure of having three chief officers, five captains and eighteen firefighters watching his every move.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 18, 2010


On a cold desert hilltop:

I am still working on my night stuff and am making some progress. The first image shows a couple of engines pumping to a hose-lay. The reason it is so grainy is that i had to bump the ISO (equivalent to the film speed from back in the day) way up. I tried to process it out with minimal success.

I realized that I would have to settle for silhouette shots on the next two, I am glad that I did. 
I am going to keep working on the night shots, maybe in about 20 years or so I'll  get it.

Thanks for reading and suffering through my learning experience,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Procrastination Kills

The Event:  The Saint I Am Married To's 30th high school reunion

The Contest: Who's been married the longest?

The Prize: A large bottle of Costco champagne.

"If you were married in 1984 or before, and are still married" the DJ directed,  "please stand up". My wife and a handful of other people stood up.

"If you were married in 1984 please sit down" the DJ said. Everybody except my wife and a guy named Richard sat down. I liked my our odds, we were married in May, not June. I can almost taste the free champagne.

"If you were married in 1983, please take your seat" My wife sits down, that prick Richard is still standing. It turns out he and his wife were married in 1982, a whole year before The Saint and I.  She gets the second place prize, which is zero, zip, nada.

Dammit. I knew I should have married her sooner, that's what I get for procrastinating.Maybe Richard will get divorced by 2020 and The Saint will win. Of course by then, the prize will be a large bottle of laxative or something of the sort.

Whatever, I am sure we will find a use for it.

Thanks for reading,
A grateful Schmoe

Monday, November 15, 2010

Follow - ups

Here some notes to follow up on a few previous posts:

On A City Mourns : Well, they caught the bastard. A career criminal in his forties, the stupid moron didn't have the sense to leave town. He was caught within 5 miles of the crime scene, less than 48 hours later. The funeral is tomorrow, as I am working tonight, I doubt I can make the drive and get to the services in time. I may just stand on the procession route, we'll see how it goes.

On Capt. Schmoe Meets Sgt Ashmore : Number One Son held his ground and got what he wanted. He managed to pull an active duty slot with his MOS as a Military Policeman. He leaves in the spring, and will do his basic and specialized training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. After that, who knows. He went down to San Diego, took the physical, filled out countless forms and took the oath, making him official.

There are two silver linings to this cloud. First, he can't take his dog with him. (Sydney, the small evil one) Second, I will get #2 truck back, though it will take me six months to get it squared away. How come teenagers are so dammed tough on vehicles?

One other thing, a short time after hitting the publish button on the original post, a visitor from the US Army Recruiting Command spent a few minutes reading it. Coincidence? I don't know, but I find it creepy.

On So It Begins : I should actually do a separate post on this and call it "So It Continues". The permanent changes have been made, not everyone is happy. In addition, the movement caused some other people to try and slide into a spot that they desired, creating even more movement.

A couple of district commanders have decided to use the upheaval as an opportunity to make some personnel changes moving the captains on another shift around.  Add a couple of terminations and retirements into the mix and the faces of several districts have changed.  So far, my shift has been relatively unaffected, but my boss is getting transferred pretty soon and it appears that I will get a brand spanking new District Commander. Oh boy, who knows what this will bring.

He may decide to make wholesale changes. I hope not, everybody is pretty happy in our district on our shift.

On Why I Own A Jeep :

Another picture from that same trip. This is a sign warning us to stay out of a large military installation, located in the Mojave desert. 

There was an older sign, laying on the ground about 10 feet inside the fenceline. It was a nice old sign with the faded name of the installation on it. I figured it would take me about 15 seconds to go between the wires and grab it, but I ran out of balls. There was no one within 20 miles of where we were, but I figured there was a video camera with a long lens on it that would take my picture, read the license plate on the Jeep and cause me to be arrested for theft of federal property.

Puck-puck, puck-puck, puckaw.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 14, 2010


We pulled up to the stoplight, noting the homeless woman standing on the divider next to us. As is the normal custom around these parts, she was holding a sign made of cardboard. I don't remember what it said, but I am quite sure it mentioned god or work. I don't think it referred to her as being a veteran, but you never know.

As whatever demons that affected this woman had not yet had the time to ravage her, she didn't have the sunburned look of baked grime that people of her fate usually have. She did however, have the gift of gab.

As it was a beautiful day, Cyndi had left her window open, as did Miles. It gave the homeless woman the openings she needed to begin her spiel. While not a rant, it was somewhat unintelligible, lengthy and it was a request for money. As we were a captive audience, we listened to it until the light changed and we made our escape.

Of course we reviewed the event as we rolled toward the station. Some comments were likely not very kind and may have even caused some laughter at the homeless woman's expense. It did, however provide us some great entertainment for the short ride back. Besides, she would never know.

Twelve hours later:

The report was vague. A fall victim with a head injury, reported to be under a bridge near Goody's. Just by the sounds of the dispatcher's voice, I can tell that this is going to be an adventure, never mind the fact that it's three in the morning and that the only people under bridges at that hour are transients,  trolls and some form of hybrid between the two.

We pulled into the parking lot of Goody's, hoping to find the RP. As usual, there was no one to be found. Dispatch told us that the report was second hand from a passer by and that no other information was available. As I pondered our next action, an employee of Goody's emerged from the back door and walked toward the rig. I hopped out and met him.

"We had this lady walk up and ask us to call" he said. "She told me that her friend had fallen and busted up his head and that he was under the bridge."

I asked him if she gave any indication which bridge. Of course, his reply was "no".

About this time, the ambulance pulled up. I told them to follow us and stand by until we could figure out what was going on. I also requested the sheriff, as it was becoming evident that we were dealing with a homeless bridge resident and this might become a police matter.

There are three bridges worthy of human residency in this corner of the K.B.F.P.D. One crosses the state highway, one crosses a railroad track and one crosses a creek. As the highway was closest, I opted to begin our search there.

Poking around homeless camps in the middle of the night can be a high risk endeavor. I used to do it often, when I worked in the Arson Bureau. The very nature of being homeless precludes one to being fucked with, usually by someone who wants what you have. Weakness can exploited by other homeless people and is a trait which should be avoided. Thus, homeless people are sometimes quite defensive when in camp and may also be territorial.

They are also most vulnerable when they are asleep and they may arm themselves with a knife, club or other hand-held weapon. The trick is to wake them without alarming them, somehow allowing them to make the transition from sleep to cognitive awareness without the need for defensive measures.

I tried to keep all of this in mind as the three climbed through the fence and made our way down beside the abutment. Our hand lights illuminated the well worn path leading down under the bridge. I paused as my head cleared the bottom of it, shining my light under the span The form of a box and a shopping cart. became apparent, as did the form of a person sleeping between the two.

Traffic blasted by, fifteen feet below, twenty feet away, oblivious to our presence. The noise of which masked our presence to the person sleeping on the ledge. We walked toward the middle of the ledge, keeping apart from each other until  we were  were positioned on either side of the sleeping form. I shined my light on the sleeping person's face and could now see his face, which did not appear to be bloodied or injured.

Despite the lights shining in his face, the sleeping transient did not stir. A few "Hey Buddys" were added, each in increasing volume, still no result. Finally, I decided to nudge his foot while shining my light in his face and shouting "hey buddy".

Finally, success! His eyes blinked and I quickly followed up with inquiries about his well being. My elation quickly faded into disappointment as we determined that this sleeping man was not our patient. I thanked him for his time and apologized for disturbing his sleep. Actually, I was grateful that he was not angry with us. The ledge was not a place to commence hostilities.

We returned to the rig and proceeded to the next bridge, the one that crossed the railroad tracks. It was only a quarter mile or so from the first bridge, but parking was an issue. Darkness and a blind curve forced us to park a little past the bridge, then walk to our objective. Another hole in the fence, another path and another ledge.

This ledge was narrower than the last and was only a few feet below the road bed. I squatted down and shined my light under the bridge and could see the forms of several people laying on the ledge. Of course they were on the other side of the road, causing us to climb back up to the street, cross, then hike back down.

There was no hole in the fence on the other side, just a spot where people had been standing on the guardrail, then climbing over the fence and dropping onto a bucket. We opted for an attic ladder, the bucket not looking too stable.

After a few minutes, we accessed the  bridge and found that the person we were looking for was asleep under the bridge. We were speaking with a friend of our patient, one who saw what had happened. He told us that our patient had been drinking and had miss stepped onto the unstable bucket while returning home. The resulting fall had resulted in a goose-egg on the rear of the patient's head, along with some bleeding. Apparently, the patient had discussed the issue with his friends and had climbed under the bridge to fall asleep. Probably what I would have done at that early hour.

While we appreciated the report on conditions, we still needed to see and speak with our patient. Frankly, I was not looking forward to getting on my hands and knees, then crawling under the bridge. There was no room, either vertically or horizontally. The medic and discussed the issue, he shared my reluctance. Since the patient had been ambulatory after the event and had acted normally, we decided that we would approach the problem in a step by step fashion.

We asked the patients friend  to see if the patient would wake up and if he would, ask him if he was ok. If the patient did wake up and saiy he was ok, we would ask the friend to assist him in crawling out to the side of the bridge where we could speak with him.

After a few minutes, our patient crawled out from under the bridge and stood before us, swaying in the calm air. I could smell him from five feet away. The medics assessed him, finding him to be alert and oriented, though intoxicated. Very intoxicated. His pupils were equal and he denied losing consciousness.

He did, however have a large hematoma on the back of his head.. One that we felt should be examined by a health care professional with more education than ourselves.

I was starting to look at how we were going to get him back up over the fence and onto the street. Miles was trying to convince our patient that he needed to go and get checked out. Our patient was having none of it.

The deputy rolled up at about this time, determined that we were dealing with the homeless, then left.

Another conference, this one with the patient standing right there as we discussed our options. We decided that since our patient could answer all of our questions correctly and clearly and that his friends were there to look out for him, if he would allow us to get vitals, perform a thorough secondary survey and sign AMA, we would leave him alone. Thankfully, he agreed.

As we were getting vitals, another person walked across  the bridge, stood up on the guardrail and peered over at us. This one was a female, a chatty one, who let us know that it was she who had walked to Goody's and caused us to be called.

I had to ask her why she didn't stick around to show us where her friend was. She said that she had to go to the convenience store next to Goody's to get cigarettes and coffee. She had to have seen us while she was in the store, it's entire front is made of plate glass. No matter really, one can't apply logic to the thoughts of another who does not live within ones societal norms.

Our patient lived up to his end of the agreement and his friend helps him get back into his spot under the bridge. We climb up the attic ladder and secure it on the engine. It is now past four and I know that I will be staying up until shift change. We load up to go and the chatty female shouts a thank you to us as we start to leave the scene.

There was something about the tone of her voice that caused me to realize - she is the same woman who asked us for money earlier in the shift.

Maybe we shouldn't have had a few laughs at her expense, even though there was no way she could have heard us. Maybe there is a cosmic payback machine that charged us ninety minutes of our lives as payment for our insensitivity toward her plight.

As a person who's spiritual beliefs lean toward a more traditional Christian perspective, I really don't believe in karma. However, the legendary fire captain Dwight "The Blight"  used to have a saying: "What goes around comes around".

That's a saying that I do believe to be true.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 12, 2010


"You know Joe", she said to me " Taking pictures of all that is going make it a lot easier for you than the last time".

"Maybe", I started to reply "but..."

She cut me off. "I know you're going to say it say it was an honor and all of that, I'm just telling you this one is going to be easier. That's all".

I thought about her words for a few seconds. "Well, I will be kind of hiding behind the camera lens, maybe it will be easier".

She was right, it was. Though it still was not as easy as I would have liked. Actually, it probably shouldn't be easy.

I was right too. It WAS an honor.

Sorry for the elusiveness, annoying but necessary.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 8, 2010

A City Mourns

A police officer was assassinated in the city where my folks live. He was in his late twenties and had served two tours in Iraq before joining the Police Department.

The irony of surviving two tours in a war zone, only to be murdered a few years after returning to the states is not lost on me.
The murderer is still at large, I am quite sure all available resources will be used in the effort to capture him.

My condolences to the officer's family, his agency and to the community.

He was just another Schmoe, one who died keeping" them" from "us."

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Off Topic - Capt. Schmoe Meets Sgt. Ashmore

Most of you will remember last month's post about #1 son wanting to enlist in the Army. In it, I was fairly frank about the conflicting thoughts and emotions I had over his decision.

The Saint That I Am Married To and I pondered the situation and came to appreciate the positive components of his decision while understanding that the negative aspects are out of our control. We affirmed our support and our enthusiasm for his choice increased as well.

Of course while this was going on, #1 Son was having some issues with the U.S. Army Recruiting Station. The only option for his desired MOS was a reserve position, one that had had him away for about six months, then be assigned to a reserve unit about an hour from our home. He would be on the hook for one weekend a month and a two week stint per year. Unless of course his unit was deployed overseas. The hook was that he had to leave for boot camp in five days!

I kind of liked that option, he would be in, but not necessarily gone. He would receive the training that he desired and yet still be in our lives. When he called me and told me what the deal was, I told him I liked it. He said that he was going to go the Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS) that night for processing in the morning. 

I received a text a few hours later telling me that there is no way he could leave in five days and that he had called the recruiter and advised him of such. Of course, I am at work and can't get away to speak with him face to face, so I called him.

He was honest, he said that he was not emotionally ready to leave that quick and that he was not real happy with the reserve position. He also said that his recruiter, Sgt Ashmore, was not happy and that he had been calling him all afternoon, pressuring him to sign the next day. He shared with me some of the statements that Ashmore had made, I recognized them as similar to ones made to me in 1978.  I told him to stick to his guns, Sgt. Ashmore's job was to look out for the Army's interests, #1 son's job was to look out for #1 son's interests.

Sgt. Ashmore was waiting in our driveway when The Saint pulled up after work. He was trying to contact #1 son, who wasn't taking his calls. #1 son wasn't at home so the Sgt. was out of luck. He bid the Saint good day, then left.

Several other exchanges between our son and the recruiters occurred over the next day with no resolution. Then, things quieted way down and we heard nothing for a week.

I happened to be in the town where the recruiting station was located the other day. On a whim, I stopped in to see if Sgt. Ashmore was there. I wanted to meet him and see who my son was dealing with. As luck would have it, Ashmore was out of the office, but another recruiter gave me his cell number. I called it and left a voice mail.

Ashmore returned my call within 10 minutes. Fortunately, I was still in town and we agreed to meet.

Sgt. Ashmore is a very short wiry man with a gold tooth. He is in extremely good shape and is very polite. I could tell that he was a little uneasy at my presence. Another recruiter sat in a chair behind me, I couldn't help but think he was there to intervene if somehow I went crazy and tried to strangle Sgt. Ashmore.

We began to discuss my kid's situation. I am looking for Sgt. Ashmores version, as if it is radically different from #1 son's version, I will have additional issues to deal with at home.

Basically his version is EXACTLY the same as #1 son's, except that he places the blame on my son, as he won't sign unless he gets the MOS he wants, in the regular army. Inside, I jump for joy as it appears that he actually listened to my advice and followed it.

Of course, I felt the need to share my pride and advised the Sgt. of my advice to my son. I won't say that the good Sgt. was dismayed by my advice to my son, but I could tell he wasn't as pleased with the kid's following it as I was.

After a few more minutes, we shook hands and parted ways.

On the drive home, I pondered for quite some time over whether the meeting was such a good idea. I didn't really learn anything, really didn't offer anything and I really didn't feel any better about the whole experience.

The quandary of my kid's future is up in the air, as it seems that maybe the military thing isn't going to work out after all. Again, conflicting thoughts and emotions, all of the good aspects of military service will be denied to him if he doesn't go, yet he won't be in harms way either.

Two hours after me leaving the recruiter's office, my son gets a call from Sgt. Ashmore. Ashmore tells my son that a Regular Army spot opened up for his MOS and that he won't have to leave until April. My son agrees that is exactly what he wants and agrees to go down to MEPS on Tuesday evening for enlistment on Wednesday.

Coincidence? I think not. If not, why all of the bullshit games regarding the MOS. Couldn't they just check every day until a slot opens up, then plug my kid in? What about your kid, or the one down the street?

I understand that the recruiter has to fill slots and that some slots are harder to fill than others. I also know that these are the same games that have been played for eons. They are played because they work.

I hold no ill feelings toward Sgt. Ashmore, he is just doing his job. He just needs to understand that we need to do ours.

We'll see what happens on Tuesday/Wednesday, I'll keep you posted. Oh Yeah, his MOS? He wants to be an MP. An MP, a cop. We will definitely have to discuss that one.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why I Own A Jeep

It wasn't the most challenging road we traveled on today, nor was it the most remote. It did, however, bring us to this striking Joshua tree located in the middle of nowhere. A late afternoon light cast a red/orange hue upon it, enhancing it's beauty.

Had I not been in the Jeep, I never would have been there. The photo does not do it justice.

More on this trip later, it was an interesting day.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 5, 2010

But Can We Sell It On E-Bay?

We have all heard of somebody selling an item on e-Bay with a religious image miraculously appearing in it. Whether it is an apple with an image of the Virgin Mary on the peel or a tree trunk with an image of an eastern deity patterned into the bark, it seems like  there is usually something like that for sale, sometimes for big bucks.

I wonder what this is worth?

I know that Mickey Mouse is not a deity, but I also know that the city of Anaheim worships the tax revenue that Mickey generates. Shouldn't that count?

I mean what are the odds? A firefighter sweats his ass off for 18 hours, removes his shirt and POW, there's Mickey Mouse, outlined in salt on his T-shirt. I think the bidding should start at $500.

I know that I may be a little optimistic on this, but I told this guy not to wash the shirt, just in case.

Thanks for reading,


Kinda Big Fire Protection Dist.
Staff Report (abbreviated)
Topic: Toilet Tissue

Background: Since the K.B.F.P.D. disbanded the logistics division in 1995, we have been contracting with the County Supply System (CSS) to provide our logistical and supply services. Although this has been a cost effective alternative for us, the quality of some items obtained through CSS have not met our standards.

Although there are several areas in which the quality of supply is lacking, none is more critical than the issue of toilet tissue.

Current Situation: Currently CSS has two options for toilet tissue. These are both in stock and have similar price points. 

Product #1 - Smear More extra-smooth

 Product #1 - individual sheet and package

  1. Low cost point
  2. Low popularity = less usage
  1. Total lack of texture causes increased smearing and decreased hygene.
  2. Those employees who do choose to use this product tend to use a larger quantity at each usage. This tends to increase clogging and waste disposal issues. Paper towel and hand soap usage appears to be increased in facilities that use this product as well.

Product #2 - Ready Grit #150

Product #2 - individual sheet and package

Advantages - 
  1. Low cost point.
  2. Extreme texture is very effective in cleaning the desired area, meaning fewer sheets used.
  3. Low popularity = less usage.
  4. Product can also be used in numerous station improvement and maintenance projects, particularly those involving the removal of rust or paint.
Disadvantages - 
  1. Excessive tissue (human) removal causes increased sick leave usage.
  2. Stiff nature of the tissue causes increased clogging.
  3. Rectal irritation is causing personnel (particularly command staff) to squirm and shift in staff meetings.

Alternative - Kirkland Signature Embossed Bath Tissue

Alternative - individual sheet and package

  1. Low cost point. Approximately 7% less than above products.
  2. Softness, appropriate texture and absorbency makes for happy employees!
  3. Efficiency should mean less usage.
  4. Product usage has resulted in less clogging issues.
  1. Purchasing product outside of CSS would require approx. 2 staff hours per month to purchase and distribute product to District facilities. As this would be an operations staff member performing this function while "on-duty", it is a zero cost issue.
  2. Purchasing this product would require a district Commander to use his "Ready Purchase" card to pay for the product. The appropriate paperwork would then be required.

 All three products - individual sheets.


It is my recommendation that we go outside the CSS, purchase and distribute the alternative, "Kirkland Signature Embossed Bath Tissue".

Respectfully submitted,
Joseph Schmoe
Capt. E226 "A" 


We've been whining about the toilet paper for years, it's been a lesson in futility. Actually, if that's all we have to whine about, it's a pretty good place to work.

Most of us bring our own in anyway, it's amazing how many grown men prefer diaper wipes. It's amazing how fatherhood changes your life. Sorry for the "crappy" post! 

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Night Shift

The fire has been knocked down for the most part. Fifty acres in size, the once raging wildfire is subdued. It's fury wreaked havoc in the jungle like wild life preserve for several hours, the efforts of hundreds of firefighters were required to bring it under control.

As the fire is waning, so is the daylight. The helicopters are continuing their work,  hurrying to complete as many drops as possible before darkness falls and they stop flying.

Although he large bodies of fire have been extinguished, thousands of smoldering hot-spots remain. They produce lots pf smoke, but not enough heat to cause the smoke to rise in the hot fall air. The resulting blanket of smoke is not unlike fog, only smelling much worse.

As darkness nears, the crews start thinking about the next operational period. Who gets to go home, who has to stay and mop up the fire overnight. One hopes a rational system is used to determine who stays, but often it seems like it is just a random decision.

Frankly, fires in the area are a complete pain in the ass. The vegetation is a jungle-like matte of vines, shrubs and trees. Moving through it is hazardous in daylight, doubly so in the dark. Burned out trees present a hazard to the firefighters, the falling branches and trunks are called widow makers for a reason. Footing is always treacherous, the uneven terrain, clinging vines and dense vegetation make each step like taking twenty.

Just as the sun drops below the horizon, a decision is reached at the command post and we receive word that we have been selected to work the night shift. We are assigned to overhaul a stretch of road about a quarter mile long, 200 feet into the burn. Other engines are responsible for similar sections of the fire and several units have extended hose lays thousands of feet into the center of the burn.

We begin working our section of the roadside. Progress is slow. Roots, logs and poor water supply impede our progress. Each smoker within 200 ft. of the roadside must by dug up and extinguished.  Steam from the water mixes with smoke to reduce visibility. Ash drifts through the air, disturbed by our footsteps and carried by the wind.

Cel-phone photo

We toil for hours, digging, spraying and pulling hose. Our progress can be measured by how far we move along the road. We can hear the hand crews sawing their way through to the center of the burn. Occasionally, we speak with the units on both sides of us, each with similar challenges.

Every so ofter, another palm tree torches off, sending more embers into the sky, increasing the chances of spot fires outside of the control line.

Cell phone photo

Finally, around one or so, our objective has been roughly met. We are all tired, we have been on scene for 12 hours and are starting to make silly mistakes. I decide to stop operations and just monitor our section of the line.

As it is a cool night, we try to find a position of comfort in our seats and cat-nap. Every half hour, I get up and walk our section. On two occasions, we pour water on to a stubborn, smoldering root system and tree trunk that has been giving us trouble all night. 

The tree and several branches are severely burned through, working under them is asking for trouble. I opt to have the crew apply water from afar until we can get a faller in there to remove the hazard.

Finally, dawn rolls around and the sky goes from black to gray to blue. I walk the length of the line, meeting up with the other crews. We are told that we will be relieved soon and pick up our hose and equipment. 

The day shift arrives and we are released. Back to quarters we go, clean-up and showers before heading home.

All of the big plans that I have for the day are canceled, sleep and laundry is the order of the day. Fortunately, all - nighters for me are rare. I like it that way.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 1, 2010


...am really getting

tired of

 click to enlarge

This shit.

It seems as if we just start coming around from one tragedy, another occurs. I don't get it, this has been the worst two years that I can remember.