Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celebrity Hoarding

For those of us in the emergency services business, hoarding is another of those whacko things that we run into every once in a while. We, like everyone, find it incredible that anyone can live like that but, in it's basic form we know that it's a crazy freakin' world out there and that hoarding is just another crazy freakin' symptom of that world.

I normally don't get all that excited about hoarder stories or photos, but I found THESE PHOTOS  to be remarkable.

I have seen worse hoarding, in fact much worse. What I find incredible is the scale of the hoarding in these pictures.

You see, the photos are actually those of a 1/6 scale model that the photographer, Carrie Becker built and photographed. She calls the series "Barbie Trashes Her Dream House" and describes it as a "more current view of  Barbie's lifestyle."

Ms. Becker did a great job with this. The only way that it could have been made more realistic, is if she could have depicted Ken and G.I. Joe trying to advance a hand-line through "the maze", with smoke down to the floor, stuff falling on them, roaches crawling on them and cat turds sticking to their knees and gloves. But hey, I'm just being picky!

If you have a few seconds, click on the LINK and check out the photos. You'll get a kick out of them.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bowl Season

The Fire Explorer advisor called and let me know that they would be playing a football game last week. I told him that I would stop by and take a few pictures, as I always enjoy photographing the explorers.

The explorer program renews my faith in youth, it is refreshing to see such dedication and enthusiasm in the members of the post. Whether they all become firefighters is irrelevant, it's their focus and the things that they learn that will help them succeed in life, not their job title.

It was a beautiful December afternoon, the kind that is common here in SoCal, the kind that led my grandfather to move here from Indiana in 1956.

The odd thing about this game is that it was played in turn-outs. Even the Roanoke Rampage don't do that. It was a flag game as well, an effort to reduce the risk of debilitating injury.

Fifteen or sixteen kids showed up, more may have come later, I had to leave at the half.

As in most games of this type, it was all about offense. I think that the score was 212,345 to 212 ,352 at halftime.

It seemed that the smaller players did very well in this game. It was very hard for the larger kids to their hands of their flags.

It was good to see the explorers participating in this team building exercise. It gave them something to do  while on Christmas break, they built a little camaraderie and, judging from the looks on their faces - they had a good time.

If the green turf and the blue skies in the photos are giving you an urge to move here, think about it some more. The job market is still in the tank and we have too many people here already. Should you ignore those factors and move here anyway, don't worry about fire protection. From the looks of these kids, you would be well protected for quite a few years.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, December 26, 2011

"What's at Willies?" - Innaugural Post

Willie owns a auto repair shop. It was founded by his grandfather in 1934, who ran it until he passed in 1972. Willie's dad then ran the shop until he passed in 1991. Willie has been running it ever since. Willie and my brother in law have been friends for years, they went to high school together and still work together on various car related projects.

 Willie's shop is located on the route that we used to get to and from the training tower when I was assigned at the healing place. One thing that I noticed when driving by is that there is ALWAYS something cool or interesting there. Whether it's a customer's hot-rod or classic car being worked on, or just someone stopping by, there was always a bitchin' car parked in the drive.

We actually stopped a few times on our way back from the tower. Though no one on the crew was really a "car guy", we all appreciated unique cars and the work that went into them. We didn't stay long, we needed to get back up the hill to protect it's denizens and Willie is all business when the shop is open. The last thing he needed was an engine company in his way, drooling on his customer's cars.

After giving it some thought, I approached Willie and asked him if he minded me stopping by once in a while to snap a few pictures of cars and posting them on here. Thankfully, he thought it a great idea. As a result, this is the first post of a semi-regular feature here on Report on Conditions, one that we will call What's at Willie's?

I stopped by late last week and was not disappointed. This beauty was parked in front of door #1, a 1958 Ford Fairlane.

I don't think that the Ford Fairlane enjoys the popularity of the various Chevrolet products of the same year, but this car is really well done. It is beautiful, and appears to be accurately restored to factory shipped condition.

I admired the grill, a tasteful compilation of chrome and form.

Someone has spent a great deal of time and resources on this car, the end result appears to have been worth it. Again, not being a car guy, I'm no expert but I found a high degree attention to detail on this project.

I enjoyed shooting this car, it reminded me of a late '50s Ford Galaxie that my grandparents had in the early '60s. I have to say that the Fairlane was a much better looking car.

If you want more info on Willie's shop, visit the Ed Martin's Garage web-page.

I hope you all had a wonderful and peaceful Christmas, we sure did at the Schmoe house. It was nice having relatives over at the crib, some that I hadn't seen for a while.

If you happen to watch the Saints - Falcons game tonight, please root for your team, but root for me in that neither team scores exactly 33 points tonight.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wherever you are...

Should you get stuck working tonight or tomorrow - stay in the barn, keep your boots dry and keep the latex gloves in the box.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyous Christmas.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Missing - Final update

Bakersfield Now is reporting that the two bodies found earlier today near Randsburg are those of the two off-roaders missing since early Sunday. The bodies of Chris Rice, 29 and Daniel Carbonaro, 27 were found in a deep ravine near Government peak area according to the post. The Razor ATV was found nearby.

It has not been determined how long the victims had been dead or the exact cause of death.

Deepest sympathies to all connected with the victims, this was not the outcome that everyone was hoping for.


Missing - Update

Bakersfield Now, the web site for KBAK TVand KBFX TV (Bakersfield) is reporting that Kern County Sheriff Francis Moore has confirmed that the bodies of two men were "found not too far" from the Kern County Sheriff's Dept. command post. A vehicle was reported to have been found near the bodies according to the post. The sheriff stopped short of saying that the two bodies were those of the two men who have been missing since early Sunday morning. THE PAGE CAN BE FOUND HERE

Regardless of whether the two bodies were those of the missing off-roaders, deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased persons.

Despite it's beauty, the desert can be a hostile and unforgiving place. I'll post again when further details are available.



I don't think LA media has jumped on this yet, but the Bakersfield press and the net are abuzz about two men who have been missing out in the Mojave desert since early Sunday morning. The two men, ages 29 and 27, left the the Cottage Inn motel, located in Randsburg CA, about 02:30 AM on Sunday morning to take a "night run" in a Polaris Razor XP900 ATV. The men have not been seen or heard from since.

Randsurg is a former mining town that now caters to local "desert rats" and to the off-road community. I have been there several times as it on the way to the Sierra Nevada mountains and is also near an area where I like to jeep. The area where the pair is believed to have headed is fairly diverse, with flat desert, rocky hills and steep craigs all being present. They were reportedly on their way to the Cuddeback dry lake bed, which is about a 15 mile ride from Randsburg. Numerous mine shafts are present within the search area, some marked - some not.

Other than Randsburg and nearby Johannesburg, there are no inhabited areas on their planned route. The region's isolation and stark beauty make it a popular area for off-roaders to ride, myself included. It is a bad place to be without supplies or transportation. It can be a stark environment, something that we sometimes forget when recreating in the area.

Temperatures have been in the low 30s at night, colder in the higher elevations. One would assume that since they left their motel at 2:30 AM, they were appropriately dressed for cold temperatures. It is unknown whether they had any food or water with them when they left their motel.

On additional factor is that it is possible that the missing men changed their mind and went to another area of the desert, expanding the area that needs to be searched. Had the riders traveled to the west rather than the east and headed up into the El Pasos, the terrain would be rather different than in the Cuddeback area. The El Pasos are a steep mountain range with numerous deep canyons and sharp drop-offs.

There is a perception by friends and family that the search and rescue response has not been adequate for the large area involved. Facebook and numerous off-road and desert bulletin boards have been calling for volunteers and logistical support to go to Randsburg and participate in the search. I have no idea whether the official search efforts have been appropriate, but I have some concerns whether a large group of people without command and control, search experience and logistical support will be more of a hindrance or a help in  the search effort.

Random searches without coordination, a systematic pattern, documentation of areas searched and areas to be searched and a specific search plan are far less effective than those that are properly done. Hopefully, volunteer efforts will not interfere with the SAR resources already on scene. Contamination of tracks, the presence of people/vehicles that need to be checked out and the possibility of volunteers needing assistance are concerns.

As this situation occurs every so often, I hope that the local agencies involved have the response down to an efficient, effective one. People drive/fall into shafts every few years, people become lost and planes crash in the area all too frequently. Random violence is not unheard of, though most desert denizens just want to be left alone. The vast area involved, the hostility of the terrain and the remoteness of it all mandate a well planned and orderly response. I hope that is what is occurring.

I hope this has a positive outcome, though as more time passes that becomes less likely. It has been four full days since the two men vanished, that is a long time to be stranded in the open desert. My thoughts and prayers are with the two men, their friends and family, as well as the people searching, both professional and volunteers. Godspeed.

I will keep up on this as things progress.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Norco Fire - Only 9 shopping days left!

On January 1st, the City of Norco Fire dept. will be dissolved and cease to exist as an individual entity. After many years of discussion, debate and study, the City of Norco has opted to contract with the Riverside County Fire dept. to provide fire protection. The change will occur on January 1st.

As the Riverside County Fire Dept. contracts with the State of California to provide it's paid personnel, the firefighters staffing the city will be Cal-Fire employees. The existing firefighters in Norco will be absorbed into the Cal-Fire/Riverside County Fire system.

The reasons for the change are many. As usual, fiscal and political issues combined to make this happen. The city of Norco has faced fiscal woes for some time and has obtained significant concessions from the Norco Firefighters over the past few years. I don't know the details, but apparently they were not enough.

The city council voted 4-1 back in September to dissolve the fire department, based on a staff report claiming that contracting with the county would save the city approximately $1.4 million. That figure that is questioned by some as overly optimistic, as the city is still on the hook for some existing liabilities and any unexpected costs.

Norco makes the seventh agency that has been dissolved and absorbed into the Riverside County Fire Dept. since my career started in 1981. One city has broken away from the County and re-established their own dept. during that time. Eight departments remain, excluding tribal fire departments.

Of the departments whose patches are in the photo above, the following no longer exist and are now covered by the Riverside County Fire dept:

City of Banning
Rubidoux Fire Protection District
City of Perris
City of San Jacinto
City of Indio
Coachella Fire Protection District

The others are departments that no longer exist, but are in other local counties. I see a trend.

I am sure that if you talked to former members of the above agencies, they would say that their careers were improved after being absorbed into the county/Cal-Fire system. Although Cal-Fire works a 72 hour schedule, the isolation from local politics, security of working in a larger agency and the opportunity for overtime has overridden the longer work-week. I am sure that some did not make the transition well however.

While I believe that the citizens of Norco will receive a similar or maybe higher level of service with the change, I still think the loss of history and culture when an agency is dissolved is lamentable.

What I think is irrelevant, time marches on and things change. I wish my brothers in Norco well and remind them that though schedules and station assignments change, it still beats hot-mopping roofs or pouring mud in Palm Desert.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. As the county is buying Norco's two front-line engines, I know that it is only a matter of time before that white Salisbury in the top photo becomes all red. I'll miss seeing that too.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"House of Blues" - for now!

The Corona Fire Dept. is located just to the west of us. They are a little smaller than us (seven stations, I think) with similar equipment and culture. One of things that I have always admired about them, is that their apparatus has presented well - their units just looked sharp. Aside from being well maintained, one of the factors regarding their apparatus appearance is that it was painted white with blue trim.

I'm probably going to take some heat for this, but I really like this paint scheme. The reason I am posting about this is that Corona is going to be phasing out the white and blue paint for the more traditional red. They are not going to repaint the fleet, but when an apparatus is replaced, the new unit will be red. It is my understanding that any unit getting a new paint job due to refurbishment will be done in red as well.

Frankly, I am bummed about it.

Image kyped from Corona Fire web-site

I really have no dog in this fight (actually, there is no fight either) it's just a matter of preference for me. With the exception of Corona, Norco (more on that later), Palm Springs and Idyllwild, all of the departments in my county have had red apparatus. I gave it up to those agencies for being a little different in their selection of color and for the appearance of their equipment.

I have no doubt that the crews over in Corona will continue to deliver high quality service and will continue to maintain their equipment in a manner that showcases it's beauty.

It's just they won't look as good while doing it.


Thanks to the crew of E1 for letting me snap some photos while finishing up a run, it saved me a trip to one of the stations. I was in Corona taking care of some business and was trying to remember where some of their stations were when an ambulance drove past me, code three. I looked in my rear-view and saw Engine 1 pull into the parking lot that I had just left. A u-turn and 15 minutes later, I had the shots and was in the middle of a great conversation with the crew.

I recognized one of the crew, I think we were on the USAR team together. After chatting for a while, they went back to the barn and I headed over to the Norco FD to research a post that I will be doing next week I wish them well.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, December 15, 2011


For the first time in a bajillion years, my agency does not transmit station tones over the radio when dispatching a call. Personally, I think that the tones may come back at some point in the future, but I could be wrong about that. It wouldn't be the first time.

For quite some time, our agency has been switching over to the Westnet First-in Station Alerting System. In a nutshell, the Westnet system sends the alert information through the hard wire communication system rather than over the air. This allows more information to be sent, faster and without tying up air time. The increased amount of information is processed in a small computer located in the station and allows for a high degree of customization of the dispatch information. The voice information is still sent out over the air as well as over the hard wire system.

The transition process started with the construction of a new station, then was expanded when several stations were remodeled. When additional stations were built, they were equipped with the new systems, a few more remodels  and a grant allowed all of the stations to be brought on-line.

The transition process was not without problems, integration between the new and the old did not always go smoothly. Some of the issues were hardware, some were personnel. As we control neither, resolution was not always easy. The completion of the install should eliminate most problems once the new procedures have been learned.

Firefighters love the First-in system as it allows them to customize how they receive the call. For example, each dorm room as an adjustable volume control and can be programmed to activate by unit rather than by station. As most of our stations have individual dorms rooms, each room will now be programmed to be alerted to sound when the individual unit is dispatched. The truckies will not be awakened when the squad is sent to pick up that pissy wino at three AM.

The system also includes a multi-colored lighting module that can be programmed to light a different  color by unit. When the engine is sent, a red LED light segment illuminates, when the squad goes a blue segment lights up the truck gets green and the chief is signaled by yellow. The system does a bunch of other stuff which I won't go into here - it is a remarkable system, one that I enjoyed using.

Where I think there may be an issue, is when units are out in the field, monitoring a radio or HT. Most of us are programmed to recognize our station tones and therefore can tell the difference between an incident and routine traffic while focused on other tasks such as training or inspections. We could hear our station tone as well as the ambulance company's and the tones of neighboring stations. The tones were usually broadcast at a louder volume than the voice, which allowed us to easily filter routine traffic from dispatches.

Under the old system, a call was pre-alerted, the tones were sent and then the dispatch information was broadcast. It went something like this:

"Thirteen, AMR medical aid."

A pause of a few seconds.

"Beep beeeeeeeep, beep beeeeeeeeep." (these tones were significantly louder than the voice information)

 Another pause, maybe a second or so, depending on what else the dispatcher had going.

"Attention engine 13, AMR - 2455 Corrigan way, 2-4-5-5 Corrigan way with a cross street of Brubaker lane. This will be at Dingleberry's market, a medical aid for a fall victim. Map page 78 D-4"

Under the new broadcast procedure, the pre-alert and tones were replaced by three short beeps, followed by the voice dispatch:

"Beep beep beep."

"Attention engine 13, AMR - 2455 Corrigan way, 2-4-5-5 Corrigan way with a cross street of Brubaker lane. This will be at Dingleberry's market, a medical aid for a fall victim. Map page 78 D-4"

Obviously, the incident will get out much faster and the quality of the dispatch information that gets into the station will be much improved.  In the field, who knows?

I think that losing the tones over the radio will cause a few calls to be missed as the three short beeps are generic, not station specific and will get lost in the clutter of radio traffic. That alone will not cause the tones to be brought back, another factor will likely be more instrumental in their return.

It will be far more difficult for the day chiefs to differentiate fire calls from the more routine medical calls. The string of tones for multiple station responses are no longer available, all calls sound the same - whether for a lock-out or for a structure fire. The chiefs are likely to miss a few calls , especially when they are engrossed in their work. If this becomes a big enough issue, the old station tones will be broadcast along with the new First-In system.

I loved the First-In alerting system, but I relied upon the tones when in the field. It no longer matters to me, but others relied upon the tones as well. It will be interesting to see if they will be missed enough to return them to the dispatch process.

Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Urban Camping

I almost felt guilty, as I told Wines what I was up to.

"Well Willie, I'm just finishing setting up camp, looking out over the lake and fixing to have a cold brew" I said.

He asked if it was 80 degrees and whether we were wearing short sleeves. It was and we were. The day couldn't have been more perfect. I felt kinda bad, as I know it only got up into the upper 40s today in the 'noke and it looks like the mid '20s for tonight.  Somehow, I don't think there was a lot of water skiing going on today in central Virginia.

The evening only got better.

I'm guessing Willie only got colder!

All of these photos were taken off the back end of our camping trailer, which is now parked at Frank Bonelli Regional Park. The park is located  only 45 minutes or so from our house, making it an easy week end get away. We are here with two other couples and are enjoying the perfect weather.

We usually head to the desert this time of year, but as our friends wanted to stay close to home this spot was chosen instead. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised as the campground is nice and the views excellent. Although we won't be doing any jeeping, shooting or exploring, there will be plenty of relaxing, socializing and drinking. Not a bad weekend at all. I hope yours is as fun as mine is shaping up to be.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, December 8, 2011


As many of you have heard, there was firefighter fatality in Worcester, MA this morning. It appears that John Davies, a 17 year veteran of the Worcester FD was killed and his partner, identified as firefighter Carroll was injured when a portion of a structure collapsed on them as they were performing a search for victims at a structure fire.

As usual, Dave Statter over at Statter911 is on it with the details. Updates, including fireground audio, can be found HERE. I started to listen but just can't get through it.

Our thoughts and prayers are with both men, their families, friends and the Worcester FD.

Stay safe.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


...Santa can't read.

Otherwise, he would have heeded the "Warning - all occupants of this vehicle must be seated and wearing seatbelts before moving the vehicle" label.

Perhaps Santa feels that riding the running board presents far less risk than riding in an open cab sleigh at 12,000 ft, with no restraining system. Who am I to argue?

It's that time of year, with toy drives, Santa In The Hood and numerous other PR type events. This year, I don't have to deal with any of that stuff, other than showing up and snapping the occasional photo.

I just hope Santa can drive!

Thanks for reading,


I like hearing rumors as much as the next gossip monger, though I understand that rumors are just that - rumors and that though there may be some truth in most rumors, the amount of it may be very small and thus most should not be relied upon to be of much use.

The fire service has always been a breeding ground for rumors, despite all sorts of training, warnings and admonishments. Like most  other human shortcomings, rumors are not controlled by edict, but by self control and moral standards. Like most humans, we fail miserably at controlling them.

While visiting with some firefighters at one of our stations recently,  the topic of conversation shifted to one of our more infamous members, one that is known by everybody on the job. The actions of this particular member are widely known and thus widely discussed. The course of this conversation therefore was predictable - almost pre-ordained.

 Though I don't always agree with this particular member, we are on some level, friends. I speak with him semi-regularly and have some knowledge of how he thinks and what makes him tick. Several weeks ago, we had a conversation regarding an incident that he had responded to and his actions while there. He did not discuss the gory details of the call with me, but gave me enough information to get the gist of the call and of the circumstances leading up to it. As I had seen him several hours before the incident, I knew of his actions during the day and of the events leading up to it. 

During my visit with the firefighters and the conversation regarding our infamous member, the above mentioned incident came to light as did some rumors about it. I initially did not make it known that I had discussed that same incident with the main participant, but listened to the rumors and the justifications behind them. Frankly, I found it amusing as I digested the information. I found the bridges between fact, supposition, speculation and fabrication to be interesting, almost fascinating. I also learned a few things, filling in some informational gaps of my own - leftovers from my initial conversation with my friend.

Understanding that there are those who have an axe to grind with my infamous brother, makes it easier to understand the malicious nature of some of the components of the rumor. It is also easy to understand how a lack of information made it easy for others who were there to speculate on his actions. His high profile and unorthodox decision making process made it easy for the rest of the organization to put all of the components together and begin spreading rumors.
At some point, I advised my fellow rumor mongers that I had discussed the incident with the participant and had ran into him a few hours before the event. My disclosure and knowledge of the incident pretty much filled in the informational gaps held by the firefighters and dispelled the more derogatory elements of the rumors. It also verified some of the facts regarding the incident, ones that actually shed some positive light on my friend's actions.

I could see the lights come on in the face of one of the firefighters, a captain who has been in the business almost as long as I have. It was almost as if he didn't want to believe the negative components of the rumors, but had been sucked in by the insipid nature of them and by the infamous reputation of the subject. When the gaps were filled and the facts known, his expression was one that appeared to be of relief. Hopefully, he will dispel the the rumors when they come up again, as they most surely will.

Time will tell on that. It will also be interesting to see if my revelations of the matter will be viewed as enlightening and as a beacon for the truth, or as an alibi for a friend and the ramblings of a co-conspirator.

Time will tell on that as well.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, December 5, 2011


I could tell it was a check by the envelope. I was glad to see it, as I have been fussing with the people that control the money I will be receiving for the rest of my life.

The last two conversations that I had with the owers of money didn't end well and profanity may have been involved. You see, after ninety days and numerous one hour and twenty minute waits on the phone, I expect a better answer than "I don't have an answer for you Mr. Schmoe, I don't know when you will start receiving a check." I digress.

I tore open the long awaited envelope and found that it did contain a check, however it was not the one that I had been hoping for. In fact it was a horrible disappointment.

Click to enlarge
For those of you lacking the energy or interest to click and enlarge, the check is in the amount of fourteen cents. I believe that this is the smallest check that I have ever received, except maybe for that residual check that I received for that "Mr. T and Tina" episode that I appeared in when I was a kid.

According to the letter that accompanied the check, I was part of a class action suit against E-Bay, one that I (we) won! The fourteen cents are the spoils of that battle. I recall getting a postcard several years ago, one that announced I was eligible to wage war with the mighty E-Bay and that I only had to do nothing and I would be a member of the huge avenging army, litigating it's way to moral victory over corporate greed and dishonesty.

As I am very good at doing nothing, I joined the battle and thus, victory is mine. While I still have not received the large check that I am expecting, my disappointment in this one has waned as I realize that something is better than nothing and that little guys like me can help grease-ball attorneys eke out a living suing companies like E-Bay.

Watch out Zuckerberg, don't piss me off or you'll be next! 

Did I cash it? Damn right I cashed it! I figure that unclaimed awards probably end up in the slime-ball attorney's pocket. Fourteen cents may not seem like much, but if a million people don't cash their fourteen cent check , well that adds up to a hundred and forty grand. I claimed my fourteen cents thank you very damn much, better me than the attorney.

Who says that the good guy always loses!

Thanks for reading,

A wealthy Schmoe

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cops...'s whats for dinner.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that the dog eats a lamb and rice based kibble. I have no idea what the officers eat. The above photos were part of  a group that I shot of a K-9 demonstration. I have to be honest, this was a little different for me, I am used to shooting pictures of wiener dogs and search dogs, both of which are very friendly and somewhat cuddly.

I don't know if this patrol K-9 has a friendly or cuddly streak or not, but I can tell you that when he is working, he is neither. He is simply bad-ass. I don't recall his name, but from what I gathered he is considered to be one of the more intense members of the team. Even though he was on a leash, I am very grateful that his attention was focused on the agitator rather than on me. As I was working fairly close to the agitator, I noticed the dog glance at me a few times, but as I posed no threat to him, he stayed on the agitator.

The demonstration was very well done, with displays performed by narcotics detection dogs, patrol dogs as well as both a live victim disaster search dog and a human remains search dog. All of the dogs and handlers performed very well and showed the amount of work that is required to get them certified for their respective functions. 

As I weed through the 400+ images from the event, I will post a few more. As a dog lover, I like to capture the working dogs doing what they do best. It makes me appreciate the oxygen-wasters that live in my house even more even though I know that they are not living up to their potential.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, November 27, 2011


It is a peaceful place, this small canyon. It is a place where few went, as there was no need to go there. Perhaps an occasional hunter wandered up it, looking for quail or chukkar. Maybe the occasional off-roader rode the bottom, hoping that the canyon went somewhere. Now, the floor is covered with footprints, those of friends and family making the pilgrimage to this quiet place.

The canyon's location keeps out the noise from the highway, located only a mile away. The sun illuminates the rocks and sand of the canyon, providing an earthen hued contrast to the vivid blue of the desert sky.

The serenity of it masks the carnage that occurred there. The momentary physical carnage and the lingering emotional one - the one that causes people to go there.

Memorials like this are not uncommon, they are found all over town. The town memorials do not have the serenity and solitude that this one does. When people visit them, they do so under the gaze of passers-by. That will not happen here. Visitors will have a place to remember, reflect and to heal and will be allowed to do so in privacy.

I have found memorials similar to these out here in the Mojave. I have wondered what the story was, how these monuments to loved-ones lost came to be, out here in the middle of nowhere. I didn't find this one, I visited it. I know the story of it and frankly, I wish I didn't.

I don't know for certain if I will visit this place again, though as I am in the area every so often, it is likely. Hopefully, whoever controls the property will allow the monument to remain as a memorial to those that were taken from us far too early.

Even if the monument is removed, the occasional set of footprints will be impressed in the canyon floor, serving in it's place.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, November 26, 2011


It's a tradition here in the Land of the Dirt People. Not mine, tonight was the first time that I have attended other than in an on-duty official capacity. I don't think this will become our tradition either. Cool as it is, the crowds are a little more than I like to deal with.

It's called the Festival of Lights Switch On Ceremony and it's been a tradition for the past 19 years. A local hotel is adorned with 1.3 million lights for the holiday season. They start on the project several months in advance and they switch on the lights for the first time on the Friday after thanksgiving.

You know it's a big deal when you see three news vans from the L.A. stations set up on the periphery, one doing a live remote.

Another clue is the crowds. Last year's was estimated at over a quarter of a million people, I am sure that there was at least that many there tonight.

The crowd completely surrounded the hotel, a large one that takes up an entire block. A stage was set that was populated by dignitaries and the guy that owns the hotel, The mayor and the hotel owner spoke for a few minutes. I didn't mind listening to the hotel owner, as he is paying for most of this event, he should get to speak.

Thankfully, both the mayor and the owner were short-winded so after a short while the switch was thrown. 

The result was immediate and impressive. Not only did the lights come on, but a fireworks display was initiated as well.

The lights are somewhat overpowered by the fireworks, but that is OK. The lights will be on until January 8th, the fireworks are just for tonight.

After the fireworks, we attempted to walk around the block. We made it most of the way, but the pedestrian mall was just too crowded to get through, so we by-passed that side. We did manage to see most of the sights though.

It was truly a beautiful sight, I am told the hotel books up many months in advance for this event. One of our BC's booked a room for this, I am sure he enjoyed the view.

I don't know what the hotel spends on this display, I'm sure it isn't cheap. Regardless, I am grateful for their efforts as the results are spectacular.

These photos don't do it justice. If you like Christmas lights and are ever in the Land of the Dirt People during the Christmas season, stop by the Mission Inn hotel, have a drink, then walk the block. You won't be disappointed.
Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Day

Happy day, turkeys!

Whether you are camped out at Best Buy,

getting ready to stand in line at Toys R Us,

stuck at work,

or slaving away in the kitchen, getting ready for all of the hungry Schmoes, have a great Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading,
a grateful Schmoe

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ground School

First, let me say that I was impressed with the answers that I received regarding the photo in my last post. The responses that I received from firefighters were correct, and the ones that I received from  non-fire service readers were well thought out and was based on observation. Well done!

The photo was of the "ground school" portion of a ladder bail class. As the ladder bail requires following a precise procedure to perform safely, students are required to demonstrate proficiency on the ground before being allowed to perform it above ground. Serious injuries have occurred during training on this evolution, showing a need for safety guidelines and training procedures for it.

The ladder bail (low profile above ground ladder escape) has been widely taught in one form or another since the late 80s. It is an evolution that requires very precise movements, as the consequences of an error are dire.

The objective is to rapidly egress an upper floor window, while keeping as low as possible in the window frame. It is not to be performed for fun, but should only be used when the flames are licking at your ass and you have no control of the situation. They call it a bail-out for a reason.

The images and captions below document a recent "train the trainer" session, covering the ladder bail procedure and the set-up for teaching the class. The "students" are peer instructors, who assist the training division in training crews on their shifts. As at least 12 multi-company drills covering this evolution will be performed, it is important that everyone is getting the same material. Hence this session.

Step 1: Find the window sill.

Step 2: Find the beams.

Step 3: Slide the beams.

Step 4: Hook rung #2 and make a fist.

Step 5: Slide beam with other hand and find 4th rung.

Step 6: Slide rung to the opposite beam.

Step 7: Feet together, kick your own ass and swing out.

Step 8: Find rails with your feet and slide down.

Obviously, there are other bits of important information that need to be instructed, but you get the idea. Another tool for firefighters to put in the box, just in case.

If you have never taken a safety/survival course teaching this evolution, I urge you to do so. Just make sure that the instructor is qualified to teach this, the consequences of failure are great.

Thanks for reading and have a happy Thanksgiving.