Friday, May 27, 2011

Tragedy in the South Bay

One police officer was killed Thursday and a second officer injured after a collision between two motorcycles performing escort duty at a funeral for a Manhattan Beach Cailf. police officer.

Motor officer Anrew Garton from the Hawthrone Calif. police dept. was killed after colliding with motor officer Rex Fowler from the El Segundo Calif. police department. Officer Fowler was listed in stable condition at a local hospital. Both officers were performing funeral escort duty for Manhattan Beach police officer Mark Vasquez, who had recently passed away from cancer.The collision occurred in the city of Torrance at about 12:34 p.m. near the intersection of Hawthorne Blvd. and 227th st. Officer Garton was killed after being thrown from his motorcycle into oncoming traffic.

Officer Garton was a 7 1/2 year veteran of the Hawthorne police department who had been a motor officer for 4 years. Garton also served on the S.W.A.T. team. Officer Garton is survived by his wife and two sons, aged 7 and twelve.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol are investigating the incident. Further information including video can be found HERE and HERE.

(Information compiled from local news sources)


My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of both Officer Garton and Officer Vasquez, one tragedy followed by another. Needless to say the loss is felt by many agencies in the south bay area, which is a collection of small cities located just south of Los Angeles.

R.I.P. fellas.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Photo Class

I am well into the next photography class. This one is a little more artsy-fartsy as opposed to technical. I'm ok with that, as I am more of a documentarian than an artistic photographer and can safely afford expand my artistic knowledge. For this weeks assignment I opted to blend the two by "colorizing" this photo:

Click to enlarge
As the instructor is a true artistic photographer, it will be interesting to hear his reaction. All of our submissions are shown to the class and critiqued by the instructor and by some of the students.

We have a lot of Asian students in the class and they are really reluctant to give feedback, especially feedback is negative in nature.

There is an arrogant white guy who sits in the front row. He takes delight in ripping stuff apart, so he kind of makes up for the Asian's courtesy. I kind of take the middle road and comment if I like something and make tender suggestions if I don't. It's all about balance and we are all there to learn.

We'll see who wins out - the polite Asians, the arrogant white guy or the artsy-fartsy instructor. The way I see it, the instructor's vote is the only one that really matters.

I must also add that the person who turns in the best work in this class is a diminutive college woman who sits quietly in the second row. She doesn't say much, but turns in beautiful work, week after week. Unlike Mr. Arrogance up in the front row.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Big Picture's Big Picture has just released a series of photos of the tornado damage in the Midwest. Striking photos as usual, they did a great job showing the scope of the carnage. The photos can be found here:

Big Picture Severe weather Continues

I listened to a scanner feed for a suburb of Oklahoma City for a very short while yesterday. I believe it was several hours after a tornado had hit and there was quite a bit of traffic. It sounded like the command system was in place with several geographical divisions operating. The voices on the radio sounded calm, in control but tired.

The South Kansas City Observer  sent me this link with a recording of dispatch traffic from Joplin, MO  at the time of the massive tornado that occurred there on the 22nd. It can be found here:

dispatch tape link

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people who have suffered loss as a result of these storms and to the first responders who rose to the occasion and dealt with these disasters. Strong work folks.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I was kind of an asshole really...

...when I yelled at the man standing in the field with a shovel in his hand, standing next to a pile of debris.

"Don't be dumping that crap there!" I had shouted as we ran to the rig,  "I'm calling the sheriff!"

The man had shouted a reply, but as we were getting on the rig, I couldn't hear what he said. We left him there standing next to his nearly empty truck and the pile of debris on the ground.

I had no intention of calling the sheriff, we were on our way to a call. We had been buying tacos at the local stand when the call had come in. The debris in question was in a field located next to the taco stand and was continually being used as a dumping ground. Four dollars a gallon for gas, twelve dollar dump fees and no dump within twenty miles had caused an increase of illegal dumping.

We ended up being committed for several hours. Although the fire wasn't large, the overhaul was. Not only were we on scene for a while, but we had to cover the first-in station for quite some time. It was closer to dinner than lunch when we returned to the taco stand. Most restaurants are pretty good about either holding our food for us when we get a call or tossing it and giving us fresh when we return. This taco stand was no exception.

I had forgotten about the field, the debris and the man with the shovel until we pulled past it as we parked. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the field was completely cleaned up, the weeds, trash and debris were all gone.

"Nice work Schmoe", my engineer chided me. "That guy was here to clean the field up, not dump that stuff off!"

I felt like an asshole. I probably looked like one too. It wasn't the first time, probably not the last either.

Thanks for reading,

There They Are!

My favorite shades, as I found them after they were M.I.A. for a week:

A project that I am working on requires that I climb on the roof of this building once a week. I must have set them down and forgotten to pick them up. I looked everywhere with no success, I thought they were gone for good.

I was elated when I climbed onto the roof and spotted them on the parapet. Though dusty and water-spotted, they were no worse for the wear. A pretty good start for the week, I hope yours goes as well,

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Houses of the Holy

My house is a holey one.

The hole in my kitchen!

The hole in my living/great room.

The other holes in my kitchen.

I think you get the picture. I am sparing you the photos of the holes in my bathroom, my hallway, the entry and the former dining room/future laundry room. I hope they will suffice as evidence of my excuse of not diligently posting and responding to comments. Sorry, It's going to be like this for a while.

I get internet access several times a day, so I hope that I can use it wisely. It actually hasn't been as bad as I thought, though the schedule is off. Just know that I am working on it and will try to give you the quality material you deserve.

Also know that our contractor is on it and is on schedule. Hopefully, that trend continues.

Thanks for reading and for your support.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Schmotograph Of The Week

I haven't published a Schmotograph of the week for quite a while, but I must admit, the subject matter of this shot makes this one a real winner in my mind.

Fire so ugly, you could beat it with a stick!

Actually, I think he was using the bar to bust apart some of the wood to get it away from the fire. This was actually an exposure to a much larger fire which was a hundred feet away. Local FD called a second on this, one of the second alarm engines jumped on this before it could do much damage.

I just thought the sight of someone beating the fire with a stick was unusual and I felt lucky to capture it.

Hope you all are having a great weekend.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Code 66

A summer evening around 1997:

"Engine 202, car 3"

"Go ahead car 3"

"Code-66 at 21:00 hrs."

"Copy code-66"

"Engine 205, car 3"

"205 for car 3, go ahead"

"Engine 205, code-66 at 21:00, if you're interested. Advise truck 205 for me as well"

"205 copies, Chief"



"Hey sweetie"

"Hi, Schmoe what are you up too?"

"Listen, we're going code-66 at nine if ya wanna pack up the kids and meet us"

"You know, it's nice out and the kids have been good. We'll see you there."

"See you then, Love ya."

"I love you too, Bye"


My wife and I happened to be in El Rio a few days ago and decided to have our own code-66.

As you can see, it is no longer possible to have a code-66 at this location. They have relocated to a fancy new store, one located in a brand new strip mall. They now serve ice cream cakes and they have fancy uniforms. The days of cut-offs and car stereos at the DQ are over for good.

The Saint and I were forced to buy our blizzards at the new store, then drive El Cheepo Jeepo to this spot and savor our treats as we gazed through the empty windows and reminisced. Kahuna is retired, as are many of the other guys that I worked with. The remainder are scattered across the district. Our kids are too busy creating their own memories with their girlfriends and pals to get a treat with us.

Due to the current hostile political climate, we probably wouldn't stay and enjoy our ice cream anyway. People have been calling and complaining about our shopping for dinner at the grocery store. While admin supports our shopping for groceries, it is a little harder for them to justify a code-66.

My wife and I grew up sort of near this now vacant DQ. Neither her or I can remember when it wasn't there. It is my understanding that the building will soon be demolished, a developer has plans for the site.

It, like code-66s are a thing of the past. I guess you can never go home, it won't be there for you when you get there.

Thanks for reading,
a nostalgic Schmoe

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spilling Guts, Solving the Worlds Problems, Reducing the Worlds Beer Glut

I noticed the woman first, recognizing her face from a photograph I had seen a few days before. Her brother was seated next to her at the bar, his cowboy hat pulled kind of low, the brim covering his neck and the top of his shirt. Although she had never met me, my appearance and demeanor caused her to know that I was the person they were there to see.

She nudged her brother, and mouthed some words to him, words I couldn't make out as I entered the bar. I kept my eye on them, as I closed the distance between us - just as he turned around. When I saw his face, I knew instantly that I had finally met the infamous famous Captain Willie Wines of Iron Firemen fame.

I'd recognize that 'stache anywhere!

We shook hands, introduced ourselves and sat down. Willie and his sister had a head start on me, a situation which Capt. Wines quickly remedied by ordering me a large Newcastle - an offer which I readily accepted.

For those of you who might not know Capt. Wines, he works for the city of Roanoke Va. and is a Captain on Engine 13. He also plays football on the Roanoke Rampage, a National Public Safety Football League team. He was out here to play a game against the Orange County Lawmen and was able to spend an extra day visiting the greater Los Angeles area. As my particular corner of the desert is only a couple hours away, we were able to finally meet after corresponding on the web for a few years.

We started with small talk, talking about our blogs, the Fire EMS network and our profession. After a time, Wines' sister took her leave and the level of conversation deepened, the seriousness of which was directly proportional to the amount of beer being consumed. We found that we had many things in common and are facing many of the same issues, both personally and professionally. We also found a few differences, mainly procedural ones necessitated by different fire problems.

After a tasty dinner, several hours of absorbing conversation and a steady supply of ale, our time together was coming to a close. The weekend trip was catching up on Capt. Wines, jet lag, a football game plus several social functions had taken their toll. That, plus a long drive and an early shift for me today forced us to settle with the barkeep and head for Wines' sister's house.

Willie and I have both been captains for quite some time. We both take pride in our work and in our ability to navigate. We both try to apply our professionalism to our personal lives as well.  We had been given quite detailed verbal instructions on how to get to Willie's sister's place, ones that we both committed to memory. Our journey to her home began quite well and we soon found ourselves very near her apartment. It was here, when things began to unravel. Somehow, both of us omitted a street in the step by step directions. What was to be a five minute journey stretched into a quite longer one. With the help of a cellphone, we finally were able to get Wine's safely delivered. I guess I should have had GPS installed in El Cheepo Jeepo, too late now.

The verbal directions debacle certainly proved that you can sure tell two old salty fire captains - you just can't tell them much!

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to get together, I am quite sure that we will meet again.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Great Room

Well Sweetie, Ya wanted a great room!

Demolition well under way at Casa Schmoe. The new windows are in, stucco in is in progress. Things are quite the mess. The ceilings in this picture will be removed, raised and soffetted, so the pile of debris will be even larger. I can't wait!

Of course, #1 son had to get involved and strike the first blow. He had to use an unconventional tool, I had to make him stop so I could capture the image.

95% of our furnishings are stacked in the other half of our garage, which is on the other side of the wall pictured above. Two guys and a U-Haul could clean us out in an hour. I have moved Schmoe corporate HQ into a forward MCP. Though spartan, the addition of a fan and a mini-fridge have made it quite cozy. I didn't include  the recliner in the above photo, it is out of frame behind the camera.

The contractor says 8 weeks, we are planning on 12. As there are no time constraints on us, we are not moving back in until the project is COMPLETE. We'll see how that goes.

Thanks for reading, have a great weekened.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Just a quick note, the 50,000th visitor visited this site a an hour or so ago. Oddly enough, this visitor was from Illinois, as was the 25,000th visitor. This time, the special visitor is from Morton, Il. I wish I could offer a special prize, but I am out of KBFPD T-shirts.

50K may not seem like many visitors to those who have hit a million or so, but as I never expected anyone to visit once, let alone every day, it is special to me.

Thanks for all of your support.

Get Over It

The large plume of thick black smoke is visible for several miles, causing a multitude of residents to head toward the area and see what is burning. As I once worked this area, I know which streets connect, which ones are dead-ends and which ones are blocked by the canal. This knowledge allows me to avoid much of the traffic and I pop out in line, a few cars behind where the Sheriff's office has a road block set up. The cars in front of me dutifully turn left as directed by the deputy as I reach for my K.B.F.P.D. ID and stick it out of my window. I am in my private vehicle, I have been through this before and I want to be ready.

The deputy waves for me to turn left, an order which I am not going to comply with. I slowly continue toward the scene, I.D. out the window as the hollering and shouting begins. I slow to a stop, pointed towards my objective. My red helmet and my yellow nomex brush jacket are visible on the seat next to me. The deputy approaches my car, his forceful stride and intense glare makes his displeasure obvious that he is quite upset at me for not turning  left as directed.

"I told you to turn left!" he shouts, "You can't be here! Move it"

"I'm with the fire department" I tell him as he snatches my ID from my hand. I want to tell him to go screw himself but I know where that will lead, so I hold my tongue. The deputy is not in listening mode anyway.

He scrutinizes my ID, looks at me and asks in a sarcastic manner "You're telling me that you're on duty and that you have business here?"

Several thoughts flash through my mind at this point, but I suppress the sarcastic part of  MY persona and analyze the situation. My boss wants me here, his boss really wants me here and the big big boss doesn't care if I'm here, but will happily use the product which I will provide. My position is buoyed by the fact that my boss is the IC and is in control of the entire scene.

"Yes, as a matter of fact I do have business here" I replied in a sternly diplomatic manner. I explain my mission, it does not seem to impress him.  My ID receives more scrutiny before it is handed back to me. A forced smile appears on his face as he waves me through, I force one on mine as I drive past.

After parking well away from the scene, I don my gear, grab my equipment and find the IC. I let him know that I am there and what I will be doing, then I go to work.

I spend about half an hour on scene doing my thing. As I am headed back out to the street, I see a brou-ha-ha between two deputies and a teenager formerly mounted on a bicycle. The teenager ends up on the ground, then in cuffs, being walked to the cruiser with his arms cuffed  behind his back, hands pointed toward the sky. The teenager's parents are tailing closely behind, yelling at the deputies, asking what their son did to be treated as he was. The deputies yell back, telling the parents to back off or they would receive a similar fate.

The teenager's mother wisely backs off (odd, I thought) while the father only backs off for a few minutes, before approaching the deputies, still irate and vociferously indicating such.

Several more deputies arrive before cooler heads prevail, supervision shows up and the scene returns to normal. I ask several firefighters what started the incident, no one knows. Know one knows how it was resolved either, whether the kids was taken over to big town juvie or whether he was released to his parents.

Frankly, before my unpleasant exchange with the deputy, I would have written it off to a lippy, punk teenager who ran his mouth off and was treated in kind, with a little escalation thrown in for good measure. As it is, I am not so sure.

I was treated like an asshole because it appeared incomprehensible to the deputy, that someone driving a car like mine could have a bigger reason to proceed to an incident than his reason to maintain control.  Maybe the teenager was more of a control issue than anything else. I truly can't say.

Maybe I just caught the deputy on a bad day or maybe he is just an asshole. I really doesn't matter to me, I resent being treated like a douche-bag, especially before the deputy makes the effort to see what I am about and what I am up to.  Maybe the kid is in the same boat as I.

There are few in the fire service and in my community that are more pro-police than myself. I lived in the periphery of cop world for several years and I understand why some things are the way they are. I'm just saying that all of the money thrown at community oriented policing is a complete and total waste when supporters are treated poorly when there is no reason for it.

An apology would have gone a long way toward soothing my feathers, but I know better than to expect that. So, as a result, this post serves as a big F U to Deputy Culo, who probably ought to think about changing career fields. He has quite a few years left before retirement, I doubt he will make it  before facing severe discipline, his anger won't let him.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. To all of my cop friends out there, I still love ya, I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why I Bought the Camera I Did

I occasionally get asked why I forked over the money to buy the camera that I did. I tell them that my camera was designed for sports photography which means that it is a relatively fast camera, is durable and is also sealed pretty well to prevent water from damaging it.

As fireground photography can be a harsh environment these are traits that I wanted, hence my purchase.

All of the the stuff that you can see flying around in the image is water from the monitor, which is pushing 600 GPM of water off to my left. The round spots are fine droplets of water that have hit the lens. I didn't get soaked, but a few seconds after this picture was taken, I did get kind of wet. As my camera is sealed up pretty well, I wasn't too concerned, but I would have been with my old one.

People at work ask me all the time what Camera they should buy. That's a tough question for me to answer most of the time, it's pretty subjective. I usually answer that question with several of my own:
  • What do you want the camera to do for you?
  • What about your old camera is so bad that you are replacing it?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • How much effort do you want to make learning how to use your new camera and how to take better pictures?
For me,  the camera that was designed for sports photography, many of the same conditions present on the athletic field are present on the fireground.
  • Inclement weather/moisture
  • Fast action
  • Potential for physical abuse/damage
  • Dirty working conditions
All of the above were present for the above image, we made it through with no problems.

This one has worked out well for me so far, I hope it continues to do so. It's going to have to last me a while.

Thanks for reading,

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    OBL DOA?

    The President announced this evening that  U.S. Special forces have finally tracked down and killed Osama Bin Laden. Bang. Finally got you fu*&er.

    I personally am glad we finally managed to pull this off, I think it's important for people like Bin Laden to know that when we really put our minds to something, we will persevere and get it done. I will be curious to know how much cash we spent over the last 9 1/2 years, in direct pursuit if this target - it has to be the most costly manhunt in history. Worth every penny in my opinion.

    According to CNN, he was killed by U.S. troops and they have the body. Two more things for me to be happy about. If it were up to me, I would drive a post into the ground at the WTC site, the Pentagon or a certain field in Shanksville, PA and place his head upon it. I might even rotate the head/stake monument between the three locations, spreading the message.

    It will be interesting to see how big of an impact this joyous event will actually have on the war against Islamic terrorists. I am sure there is someone who is willing to become the figurehead for radical Islam, we need to quickly find out who this person is and take him out too. Perhaps a little faster than OBL.

    It has been argued that OBL's effectiveness as a leader has been impaired for quite some time due to the extreme hunting pressure that we have put on him. If true, it is a tribute to our military and intelligence community for causing him so much grief.

    Bin Laden was reportedly living in Pakistan, and was killed at a compound in Abbottabad Pakistan. Abbottabad and the surrounding towns are far from living in a cave along the border. I wonder who in the Pakistan government knew he was living there, and chose not to get involved. We'll have to see how that plays out. 

    Hopefully, more details will leak out over the next few weeks and we will be able to learn how he eluded capture for so long.

    I also hope that his demise is not a triggering event for another large scale attack. I know that's what I would would do if I were a terrorist.

    For know, lets savor this event until another crisis comes along. I think we deserve it.

    Thanks for reading and  thanks to all members of the military who made this event possible.