Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cell-Phones For Soldiers

While perusing the Hometown Rag the other day, I came across an article describing the Freedom Rings Tour, a marketing group that is also collecting old cell-phones and donating them to a non-profit organization called Cell-Phones for Soldiers. Cell Phones for soldiers then sells the phones to cell-phone recycler and uses the funds received to purchase pre-paid calling cards, which in turn are donated to military personnel serving overseas.

The Freedom Rings Tour is sponsored by Metro PCS,  a national wireless communications provider and Huawei Device a wireless device manufacturer. The tour is currently traveling around So Cal, visiting various Metro PCS stores, hustling up business and collecting used phones. 

I thought it worth a look and tracked them down at a Home-Town Metro-PCS store. I knew I was at the right place when I saw this motor-coach:

The team consists of six (I think)  marketing representatives and a driver. They are on the road for weeks at a time and visit 4 to 6 stores a day. I met Sara, who is from the Dallas, Texas area. We discussed the various things that her team does, the daily routine and a little of the team dynamic. I noted the similarity between her group and my crew as it pertained to the working dynamic. Everybody on the team needs to be respectful, be aware of the emotional/mental state of team members and take the effort to get along with others. Funny how working closely with others and no means of escape forces one to be considerate.

Sara accepting used phones from a customer.

It sounded like the team has a pretty busy schedule, and that the days can be long and tiring. From my interaction with Sara, it is apparent that good "people skills" is a must and that people who don't have them don't last long in her business. She was a good sport, putting up with my silly questions and allowing me to photograph the coach and her team mates.

Two team members returning from canvassing. 
Note the product placement!

While several of the team members staff a display at the store, others mount up on Segways and canvass the neighborhood. Probably not a bad gig, unless it's 94 degrees (it was). I have to think the Segways allow team members to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly and also allow them to get away from loose dogs, a trait that the neighborhood they were working is known for.

After a few hours, it is time for the team to load up and move to the next store.

Three Segways, an EZ-up, tables and promotional materials. It all fits. Somehow.

The team has a tight schedule, it is imperative that they get loaded up and on the road to the next stop.

Good luck to Sara and the rest of the Freedom Rings Tour team. I hope they move a lot of units and even more importantly, I hope they collect a lot of old phones. Being away from home is tough, it's amazing how a simple phone call can make someone's day.

To donate your old phone, keep your eye peeled for this coach, or click on this link and find out how.

Thanks for reading,

Joseph R. Schmoe, Report-on-Conditions Inc, Schmoe Multi-Media Productions LLC have received no monetary compensation, merchandise or services in exchange for highlighting the above businesses, services and/or charities. The opinions expressed are thos of Capt. Joseph Schmoe and do not reflect those of the Kinda Big Fire Protection District, A JPA public service entity. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The Saint I Am Married To and I made the trek into town and visited the agency that administers the public employees retirement system in my state.

Though a positive experience, I have to say the act of sliding those signed papers across the desk was a bit unnerving. For the past thirty years, I have been a firefighter in one form or another. The submission of my PERS papers is the second step in the process of not being one. The third step, the submission of my separation notification papers to the district, followed a few hours later.

Now I just have to get through the next three months, and that will be that. Game over, done, finito, no mas etc. It's going to be weird.

I know the guy who is going to promote into my spot, he is a good guy and will do a good job. The person promoting into his spot is not yet known as the testing still is in progress.

Some where, there is a young person who will be getting a phone call in a few months, offering them a position as a firefighter for the Kinda Big Fire Protection District. A few weeks after that, they will walk through the doors of a firehouse, nervous and wide eyed.

A blink of an eye later, their career will be over - done, game over, finito etc.

That's how it went down for me.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

He Must Know Me

Last Night, 2300 hrs:

It is quiet. The crew is hunkered down in their dorm rooms, either asleep or watching TV. The rest of the station is mine. As I haven't heard any activity for a couple of hours, I felt comfortable pulling out my wireless card and posting while in the captain's office. I usually post in the privacy of my room, but as I often stay up late getting paperwork done, I'll take a chance when everybody else is tucked in for the night.

I have just hit the "publish post" button and have checked Google reader for the last time.  I am debating with myself whether to shut my laptop off, or just let it "sleep" overnight. My thoughts on the matter are interrupted by the sound of a car driving up the road and the sound of a male voice shouting.

I can't hear the first part of the message, but the end of it is crystal clear as the car passes the station.
" assholes, you f#$%ing asshole firefighters."

Really. Asshole, f#$%ing asshole firefighter. He must be referring to me. That's a first. I have been called names by people before, usually when dealing with drunks or drug addicts. This has to be the first time I have been the victim of a drive-by insult hurler.

I actually feel a little insulted, not because of being called a name, but that the sanctity of the healing place is being violated by someone who feels strong enough about something to hurl insults at me as he drives by, but not strong enough to actually stop and discuss the issue.

What have I done to go from being "Americas Hero" (relax, I don't buy into that either) to an asshole, f$%^ing asshole firefighter in less that ten years? I view myself as just a "Schmoe", trying to keep the wolves from the door, the motorist's description seems a little harsh to me.

Maybe the motorist was a person who's wife left him for one of the guys on "B" shift. Maybe he is one of those guys who tried unsuccessfully to get on the job for a few years and now blames his failure on affirmative action. Maybe he listens to too much talk radio.

Maybe, just maybe, he knows me and has a different view of me than I do of myself. As he won't stop and discuss it, I will never know.

Thanks for reading,
Asshole, f$%^ing asshole firefighter Schmoe

Friday, June 24, 2011

Safe Sex Expert

It would have made a great photo. The sun was in it's last hour of being above the horizon, the particulates in the atmosphere giving our small piece of the world a red-golden glow. There were ten of us watching the show, all lined up in a gentle arc, our attention focused on the small man reassembling his possessions and moving them from the hood of the Trooper's car into a nylon backpack. The front of the man's shirt was carefully labeled "Safe Sex Expert" the rear with a poem about fate, politeness and eternity. I contemplated grabbing my camera and taking the shot, but it felt exploitative and I let the thought pass.

We couldn't help but laugh, the small man was naturally quick witted and was eager to share his wit and his off-color jokes with us as he worked. My only concern was that we would be called for him again, probably in the middle of the night. His behavior attracted attention, numerous calls to 911 were almost a certainty.

It had started with troopers being flagged down by passing motorists who told them of a man laying in the middle of the street. They had driven to the location and had found the small man standing by the road, dancing and gesturing to the passing cars. The troopers were relieved, their location was well inside the town limits. All they had to do was wait for the sheriff to show up and hand it off to them. They also decided to call for us, just in case the man needed medical treatment.

We arrived and found the small man leaning against the hood of the Trooper's cruiser, looking bored in an amused sort of way. The man answered all of our questions, adding detail and wit. It became obvious that he was well aware of his position and situation. It also became obvious that the man did not have any emergent medical condition and that he knew it and did not wish any treatment or transport. He also threatened to sue us if we took him against his will.

We, as well as the troopers, decided that waiting for the sheriff would be the best course of action. We didn't have to wait long. Two cars from the S.O. pulled up, the deputies walking up to us, skeptical of why they were there. The trooper and myself explained the situation to one of the deputies, who then walked up to the small man.

The man displayed the same level of awareness and wit that he had displayed to us. The other deputy examined the mans possessions, including the two glass pipes that had been in the backpack. Fortunately for the man, the pipes smelled of tobacco, not of weed or something else. After a while, the deputies determined that the man had committed no crime and was not a danger to himself or others. Thus, they did not feel a 72hr hold was an option. As he did not claim injury or illness, was oriented and alert and did not want to be treated or transport we weren't going to take him either. The man was going to walk away, free to go to Wal-Mart and spend his dollar.

The trooper and one of the deputies apparently did not agree about the 72 hr hold. Although I didn't want to take sides, I knew that we would be back out on the man within an hour. I don't think the deputy was happy with  us or the deputies as we watched the man load up his belongings.

The show began anew as the small man walked up the street. The dancing began again, followed by flopping on the ground and pelvic thrusts toward passing vehicles. I can see conflict on one of the deputy's face, as if he is torn between letting the man go, or taking further action. Comments from the troopers cause a scowl to form on the deputy's face, I decide to stay out of it and keep my mouth close. The deputies head toward their cars as if to leave. The troopers and us continue to monitor the mans progress as he walks down the street.

The antics increase in intensity and in vulgarity. The deputies are getting in their cars when the matter resolves itself. The man drops his pants and moons a passing car. One of the deputies shot us a dirty look as I gave a shout of thanks to the man for crossing the line. His actions have ensured that I won't have to deal with him again, at least for tonight.

As the deputies approach the man, he drops his pants again and appears to piss in the street. The absurdity of it caused us some mirth, as it did for the troopers. Their humor was centered on the fact that now the deputies had to actually arrest the man and transport him to the county seat. Apparently, 72 hr hold would have been much easier.

The Safe Sex Expert is off the street, at least for the night. Depending on what he is charged with, he may be gone for a while. Regardless, it will take him a while to work his way from the county seat back to the healing place. Besides, coming back up here be a waste of his time, the Healing Place works for us, not for him.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Am Drawn Here

I am drawn here, like a moth to light. In the days of my professional youth, we would hit the gate and the apprehension would rise in my gut like a bad pizza. The thought of what was coming and the memory of the last session, combined to both cloud and intensify the focus needed to get through the next several hours.

As an engineer, it was with some amusement I watched the reactions of the rookies as we entered the gate. Although we approached the session as a team, it was really between the rookie and the captain to work together and make a functional firefighter out of a recruit. My job was to facilitate the effort and assist the captain in his endeavor.

As a captain, I made it my responsibility to give each recruit every opportunity to succeed. On occasion, the apprehension would again rise, especially when the recruit was struggling. When one of my recruits failed to meet probationary standards, I took it seriously, making sure it wasn't me who was failing the recruit, but only the recruit failing to meet standards. Entering the gates with someone who was struggling was tough, each time hoping that the recruit was turning things around and that their career could be saved.

As I will not be responsible for the training of another new firefighter before I leave, I am now drawn to the academy only document the efforts of other crews and recruits. I find the industrial starkness of the training buildings and the physicality of the evolutions visually interesting.

I try to find out in advance if someone present is struggling. If someone is in danger of not succeeding, I avoid taking their picture. They don't need the added pressure, I don't need to have the images subpoenaed should someone's failure end in litigation.

Like a moth to light, I am still drawn here, except that now there is no threat of being burned by the light.  The light provides only comfort and illumination for my camera.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

Father's day. I was stuck at the healing place, making it a "holiday routine" day - all of us on duty Sunday were dads.

I was kicking it, doing some editing while watching a movie in the day room. My phone went off, the text alert letting me know that someone has sent me a text. I dug the phone out of my pocket to see who it was.

The lcd display said that it was E, a friend and co-worker who I had not heard from for over a year and a half. I was very surprised, for E had passed away over a year ago. As I hadn't received another message or call from E's phone since the funeral, I assumed that the account was closed. I kept the contact as I think of E almost every day and I just don't want to delete it.

After my surprise wore off, I figured that it must have been E's wife and I opened the message. It simply said "Happy Father's Day".

I replied, still thinking it was E's wife: "Thnx, funny, I was just thinking about u. U seeing your dad 2day?

"I wish" was the reply.

I instantly realized that the sender of the message was not E's wife, but his son, who is now12 or so. Oops.

"Sorry Lad,  I thought u were ur mom"

"Ya its OK

"I wish you could see your dad today too bud, I was surprised to see your dads number still worked, r u using it now?"


We texted back and forth for the next five minutes or so, mainly about about taking the phone to school and what happens when you get caught with it. I know from experience that teachers and principals do not like to see phones at school and will take them away. At my kid's school, when a phone gets taken for the second time, a parent has to come and retrieve it. Ask me how I know. E's kid goes to a catholic school, I imagine the same tough discipline is applied to him.

I determined that he (and I assume his mom) were on their way to grandpa's house to wish him a happy fathers day. As they were almost there, we signed off. E's son went about his day and I mine.

It was good to hear from E's son and I appreciate his greetings. I don't know if he struggles with father's day - many in his situation do.  I'll call his mom in the next few days and see how he is doing. As she reads this blog occasionally she may beat me to the punch. As tough as E's kid is, it won't hurt to make sure.

I'm glad I kept E's contact info and am glad E's son kept mine. Now that I know the number is still good, I'll text him periodically and see whats up.

After he starts high school, maybe I'll try texting him during school hours, just to see if I can get him in trouble with the teacher. His dad  would have gotten a kick out of that - except if would have had to meet with the principal to get it back. Then I would have gotten a kick out of THAT.

I hope your father's day was enjoyable, thanks for reading,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Railroad Safety

Those of us that work in public safety often have to work around railroad tracks. Whether it's subways, els or main-lines, if there is a set of tracks in your district, sooner or later you are going to be working on them or next to them.

Those of you long time readers know that I have two basic recurring (though rare) nightmares. One involves rattlesnakes, the other involves trains.

That's why I found this little rail safety video so appropriate. I liked it so much, I'm sharing it with you and I'm going to use it in a safety session next week. Enjoy.

Well, what did we learn?

If you set up too close to the tracks, you might lose your tomatoes.

Stay safe when working by the tracks folks.

Thanks for reading,

Wasn't that INSANE?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

These poor bastards...

...are still mopping this mess up:

I, on the other hand, am sitting at my desk in my forward command post (the garage), editing photos, eating the subway sando that sat under the seat of my truck while I shot the above fire and enjoying a cold beer.

How's that for a run-on sentence?

I don't know what these guys are doing:

But I guarantee that they are not as tired as the group in the first photo.

As usual, June is providing Local FD with a few grass fire to get the season rolling. As we had a lot of rain last winter, the grass crop is rather good. We shall see if the flashy fuels continue to keep all of us busy this summer until the winds blow in the fall.

History tells us things will drop off in July and the first part of August, then pick up in September and October.

By then, I just won't care. Except to take pictures of course.

Thanks for reading,

Then there were 12

A WWII era B-17 Bomber made a successful off-field landing near Oswego Il yesterday, then was destroyed when consumed by fire. The seven people aboard the vintage aircraft escaped without serious injury. Photos published by WGN show that the aircraft landed successfully in a cornfield before succumbing to the flames.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting  that the four engine bomber had departed Aurora, IL. and was headed to Indianapolis, IN when the pilot declared an emergency due to an engine fire.

The aircraft was reportedly owned by the Liberty Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of vintage warbirds. The web-site for the Liberty Foundation appears to have been taken off-line.

A history of the Liberty Belle is available on Wikipedia.

There are different numbers regarding the number of flyable B-17s still around. Some sources say 14, some 12. As there were a total of 12,700 were built, the remaining number is very, very small. Now, that small number is reduced by one.

This will raise again the ethical question about restoring and flying vintage aircraft. As time goes on, the number of surviving airframes will dwindle until only one or two or left. What then. Will the need to preserve a significant piece of history prevail over our desire to see them fly? Time will tell.

Although the Liberty Belle was only an airplane, I still mourn her loss. The aircraft that my father and I both dreamed of flying is becoming rarer and rarer.  Thank god no one was seriously hurt, in that we can be grateful.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, June 13, 2011


I had just finished shooting an event for the Hometown F.D. and was in the area where The Saint That I Am Married To works. I called her and asked if she was available for a cup of foo-foo coffee - an offer that she rarely turns down.

Much to my delight, she was available. I texted her when I parked El Cheepo Jeepo and we met at the front door of her office building. We walked the four blocks to the caffeine dispensary, ordered our poison and sat on the patio, savoring our coffee and the last days of spring.

I spotted him as he walked down the sidewalk, out of place with his dirty jacket and his shuffle. Transients are not strangers to this part of town. Charities, social services, public transportation and a jail are all nearby - all services that many transients use on a regular basis.

I watched as he salvaged a half full cup of coffee that someone had thrown away and as he sampled the remains of a danish that had been left at a table. His basic needs met for the moment, he sat at a table not too far away.

I have been assigned to eleven different stations during my career, all have had a transient population drifting through their districts. Obviously, some stations deal with the homeless more that others, but over the years, I have developed a sense of whether they present a danger to me or not. The reality is that few are dangerous to me while on duty, they know that we have radios and numbers on our side. They also know that we are usually there to help them and that things go easier for them if they keep their cool. Regardless, one always maintains situational awareness when dealing with them as they are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

Off duty is another matter. Then, I am just another Schmoe, walking around with a back pack over one shoulder and a wallet in my pocket. Predatory transients are rare. When they do victimize someone, it seems to be other transients who are the victims most of the time. Again, you just never know. Sometimes it's just better to avoid contact.

As we shared the patio with the above mentioned  transient, I saw him look at us, then look away as we made contact. I halfway expected him to approach us for money and decided that he and I would work out a deal, should he ask.

The Saint and I continued to enjoy our drinks  as I kept an eye on our accidental companion. To my surprise, he remained seated, enjoying his drink just as we were. I continued to watch him and decided that as he wasn't going to approach us, I would approach him.

I set my camera bag on the table and took my good camera out. I handed my phone to The Saint and told her to call the cops if things went bad. She shot me an incredulous look and asked me what I was going to do.

"I need a photo for my final, I replied. I spent all weekend shooting and came up with nothing. I'm going to offer him a few bucks and see if he'll let me snap a few pictures."

Her reply did not instill confidence, however I figured she pretty much knew what she was getting when she married me and she should expect unusual behavior. I was psychologically committed to my mission.

I approached my potential model. "Hey man" I started, "Look, I'm a photography student and I have a project due on Wednesday. I need to take a picture of an interesting person and I gotta tell ya - you look like an interesting person. You look like you could use a few bucks, I could use you as a subject for my pictures. How about I give you twenty bucks, you let me snap a few pictures. Ten minutes max, you don't even have to get out of your chair."

He sized me up and agreed to the deal. I pulled a chair from the next table and sat down.

I immediately got on the shutter, talking as I shot.

Although he was somewhat elusive, he did share with me that he originally came from Des Moines Iowa and had spent time in Minneapolis before moving with his family to Southern Calif. He said that he hung around the area because a program of some type offers money if he attends a class and checks in on a regular basis.  He also admitted that he had a drug problem, and was/is an addict although he said that he rarely used any more. 

He nodded his head when I asked if meth was his drug of choice, though he didn't want to discuss it any further.

In a display of street wisdom, he admitted that his friends often led him astray and he would be better off staying away from them.

I had a hard time getting him to look me in the eye/camera while I was speaking with him. I suspect he was a little intimidated by the constant clicking of the shutter and my moving around.

After a time, he revealed that he was in his forties and that people called him Rob or Robbie. He didn't tell me that Rob was his name, I suspect that it is not. I felt lucky that he gave me what people call him. I suspect that he didn't fully trust me, as I did not fully trust him. He likely is a registrant who fails to do so or has some other unresolved legal issues, or he could just be evasive by nature.

It appears that Rob is using some of the services available to him, he was relatively clean for someone on the streets. He had a very hard time maintaining a train of thought, through chronic drug abuse, mental issues or a combination of both - there is something going on there.

After 10 minutes or so, he grew tired of answering questions, I grew weary of asking them. I clicked my camera off and paid the man. A deal after all is a deal.

I'll submit the above photos, we'll see how that works out. I hope that the twenty I gave Rob goes to good use, but I have my doubts. What he thinks is good use may be different than my view. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned he earned it, he can do with it what he wants. If he does find a less than ideal use for it, I hope he is discreet about it. I would hate to see the Hometown F.D. boys roll on Rob as a result of the windfall that I gave him.

I hope that somehow Rob can improve his lot in life and not become one of the many homeless people that die in the weeds somewhere, then be cremated and buried with no one knowing or caring. Time will tell on that.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Arizona Wildfire

Several large wildfires are currently burning in Arizona. The largest, called the Wallow incident, has consumed over 400,000 thousand acres and is only 5% contained. It is located in eastern Arizona and has consumed 29 homes and 24 outbuildings. Numerous small communities have been evacuated, with several more on notice.

As is their standard practice, has posted some exceptional images of the fire and it's effects on their photo blog, THE BIG PICTURE.

As I looked at the photos, some really stood out for me.

Several of them captured the way the sky fills with smoke as a large wildfire approaches. For those of you who have never experienced it, when a wildfire gets close enough or large enough, the sun can be blocked out to the point where the only light that gets through is filtered to a dark brown and orange color. If enough of the sky is obstructed, its like looking through orange colored glasses. Sometimes, it becomes dark enough that headlights are required and streetlights come on. It's a cool but eerie effect. When I have experienced it, I have been too busy to snap a picture. Maybe after I pull the pin, I can weasel my way in to snap some shots.

The other shots that I enjoyed were the ones showing the crews sleeping in the dirt. Yee Haw, a dirt-nap -  that's a little fun for everybody right there!

You can't help but notice how the evacuees are grabbing their pets and livestock. In New Orleans, we met people who didn't evacuate because they wouldn't allow pets in the evacuation centers. I don't blame them. I gotta say, I aint leaving without the wiener-dogs, unless I really think we're gonna die. I've seen what happens to pets left behind, it isn't pretty. Hopefully, all of the Arizona evacuees were able to get their pets rounded up and out of there.

Current information on the Wallow fire can be found on InciWeb, at THIS PAGE. It should be updated twice a day and has links to maps, photos and other information.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Desert Fun

We ain't stupid. Most of the time. We work in the desert and it gets hot here, even in June. Although it is typically a dry heat, it will still mess you up. For fair haired boys such as myself, a little sun goes a long ways.

As a result, we try to work in the shade when possible. A simple thing, but one born from experience and necessity. It does present an occasional problem for me however.

 When asked to photograph a training session, I have to work with the people who are putting on the drill. I don't get to tell them work where I want them to work, I have to shoot around their preferences. The desire to work in the shade produces challenges, especially when the background is in the sun and I want to preserve some detail in it.

In the above image, the subject is very underexposed and the background is about where I want it. Fortunately, I have some editing tools which can help with these issues. Like most problems, exposure problems are best dealt with in the camera, keeping editing to a minimum. The above shot was a "throw away", meaning that I looked at it right after I shot it and didn't like what I saw. I chose to change position rather than deal with the high contrast of the scene. I usually would have deleted this right then, but decided to keep it and play with it to see if I could salvage the shot. When I am shooting emergency scenes, there are no second chances, sometimes you have to make chicken soup out of chicken manure. That is when editing tools really can come to the rescue. So to speak.

This is the same image with a partial correction. I have brought the subject up to a proper exposure, but the background is washed out. Not only is a lot of detail lost in the background, it is just plain unpleasant to look at.

Finally, I was able to partially restore the background to preserve some of the detail, while bringing up the subject to a near acceptable level. Although far from perfect, I could use it for some things if I had to. Like i said, this image is going into the trash right after I post this. The one I am using is composed far better and had far better light.

Every time you screw with an image, you degrade it, every correction comes with a price. The key is to take the best image you can, keeping editing to a minimum. The type of photography that I enjoy is rarely done under ideal lighting conditions. In fact, incidents usually occur under adverse lighting conditions. Editing  allows me to capture the scene, even when I screw up the shot.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Although no policy or regulation was violated and the task performed was necessary and required, let me just offer a suggestion:

 When flushing the plumbed-in foam tank, do it in a more discreet location as opposed to the front ramp. Although the foam presents an extremely minimal health or environmental hazard, the foamy nature of it may cause concern from the citizenry - resulting in a call being generated and/or a complaint. 

Who knows where that could lead.

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. 

As always, thanks for reading,

Friday, June 3, 2011

I stopped by the Big House of Pain on my way home from work today, I had to take a picture for a project that I am working on. My friend Trump was walking up the back ramp as I pulled in. I parked next to the ramp as he walked toward me. We greeted each other and chatted for a while, I hadn't really been able to talk with him for quite some time.

Apparently, I had just missed the Fire Chief, who had been in the area, working on the same project as I. You can be assured that his role in this project is huge, mine is minimal. While he was there, he gave Trump some news.

Today was Trump's last day as a captain for the K.B.F.P.D. The next time he goes to work, he will be a District Commander down in district #1.

Trump has been working on this for a while and knew it was coming. He just didn't know when, or where he would be assigned. As another District Commander is retiring in September, Trump could have been promoted into that spot. This works out better for him and for the captains in District #1, the sooner they start working together, the sooner they will develop (hopefully) the relationships necessary to work together as a team.

As our conversation progressed, Trump came to the realization that I am the only captain that he worked for, who is still on the job. Trump drove for me seven or eight years ago.

That was remarkable to me on three counts. First, it says that Trump is getting up there. With the exception of me, every captain that he has worked for has retired - and I'm out in a few months. Second, The district has made the transition from a seasoned department to a young one. Third, I'M getting up there - people who I supervised in the past are now becoming chief officers.

Time flies when you are having fun.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Run Mikey, Run

I didn't have my shirt, so I couldn't go into the store. William didn't need anything and didn't feel like going in, so he stayed on the rig as well. Mikey was cooking dinner for us tonight and had his shirt - he went in.

William and I enjoyed the warm afternoon sun, it's rays warming the cab of the engine. We chatted as we waited for Mikey. A myriad of topics were discussed, there was a lot of interesting things going on around us. After a while, I saw a figure dart out of the store and break into a run, heading toward the engine. There weren't any groceries in the figure's hands. "That's Mikey" I commented to William.

I examined the stack of radios to make sure that they were on and properly tuned. "Crap, I hope we didn't miss a call" I said.

I would have checked the MDC, but ours isn't working right now.

"I don't think so" William opined. "That's not a 'we got a call' run, that's a 'I'm at the register and I left my wallet in the rig' type of run.

Mikey arrived a few seconds later. "I forgot my wallet" he gasped as he jumped in the back and retrieved his wallet. He was in for only a few seconds, then slammed the door and sprinted back towards the store.

William and I speculated about whether Mikey had inconvenienced any other shoppers and whether he had enough cash to cover the cost dinner. Both questions were answered a few minutes later when Mikey reappeared and headed toward the rig at a much slower pace. His hands were filled with grocery bags.

After the groceries were secured and Mikey was safely back on board we asked him when he discovered that his pockets were empty.

"I was next in line" he said. "I reached for my wallet and it wasn't there. I made it back just as the guy in front of me was putting his wallet away. No one had to wait."

I was happy. I was happy that no one had to wait and I was happy that no one would be able to call the chief and complain that we were causing them to wait.

Who knows what a complaint like that would bring.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hydrant Man

I was not needed on the nozzle, nor was I needed to pull hose. There were plenty of guys on the hooks, spreading the garbage around. I was not in charge, and I was not needed in a command support function. We had but one need, and that was a water supply.

There were two of us who had no assignment, my engineer and myself. I could have been a prick and drove the rig, but for that, there was no cause or excuse.


Make ready: one hydrant wrench, one supply line.

Stand on tailboard, facing hose bed. Grasp hydrant wrench and female coupling in right hand, palm up. Grasp hose fold (first or second, depending on distance from hydrant) with left hand, palm up, pull and rotate to the left, stepping from the tailboard. Release pull loop when appropriate.

Pull sufficient hose to the hydrant, walking approx. fifteen past hydrant. Turn toward hydrant, using surplus hose to wrap hydrant, with hose on the "street" side of the hydrant. Remove slack between hydrant and female coupling then shout "Lay line" while making hand signal to lay line.

Hold onto hose line until 100 feet are on the ground or until threat of apparatus snatching the supply line has passed. Once sufficient hose is on the ground, unwrap hydrant and stand in front of the appropriate hydrant discharge port. Fold hose line approx. two feet from female coupling and place fold between knees, holding it in place. Use hydrant wrench to loosen cap, then reach around hydrant and place hydrant wrench on appropriate hydrant valve.

Remove discharge cap and examine hydrant discharge port for debris and thread damage. Examine female coupling for presence of hose gasket, swivel operation and thread damage. Loudly verbalize above actions with the term "Debris, threads, gasket".

Note: if hydrant is in a remote area or appears not to have been regularly serviced, place fold on the ground to the valve side of the barrel, ensuring dirt and debris do not enter female coupling. Flush hydrant until water flows clear. Then proceed as below.

Attach female coupling to discharge port and tighten to "hand - hard snug". Straighten hose and remove kinks from hose near the hydrant. Stand by for signal to charge supply line from engineer. Upon receipt of "charge line" signal from engineer, slowly open hydrant valve approx. 1-2 turns until hose line is charged. When line is fully charged, open hydrant valve fully, then turn valve clockwise one full turn.

Return to apparatus, removing kinks from hose line en-route. Bring hydrant wrench when returning to the apparatus and return it to the proper compartment. Report to the company officer for reassignment.


 Thirty years ago, the above was my assignment more often than not. The "boot" is always the hydrant man, the vet always gets the nozzle. I always visualized the proper procedure, I didn't want to make a mistake.

Yesterday, as I was the only guy not busy, I opted to be the hydrant man again. I pulled fifty feet or so from the hose bed, pulled it around an obstacle and took the hydrant. I haven't taken a hydrant on a fire in twenty years or so. Yesterday, much like my first day on the job, I first ran through the procedure in my mind, I didn't want to screw it up.

William, my engineer, noted the irony of the situation and commented on it to me.

"Joe, don't you think it's funny that in the last few months on the job, you're doing what you did in your first few months on the job?"

Yeah, it's funny William, some things don't really change.

Thanks for reading,