Sunday, October 30, 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

I remember this building as a kid, my mom had a friend that lived in an apartment behind it. We used to visit her and I remember seeing it when we parked the car. I worked in the neighborhood for years, responded to a call or two there and maybe even performed an inspection there. I've driven by it a bajillion times and even though I always tried to keep track of what the often modified buildings in my district actually were, this caught me by surprise.

After talking with several former co-workers, I was not the only one.The brick and girder exterior was added in 1961, covering the original Churrigueresque exterior. The remodel was so complete and durable and occurred before most of us could talk, so no one recalled the pre-remodel building. In the photo above, part of the facade has been removed from the Bravo side of the building.

The above photo shows the entire masonry portion of the faced having been removed. It is my understanding that the girders will be removed as well and that much of the building's missing ornamentation will be recreated and placed on the building.

The good news for the crews and for the public that will visit the building, is that it will now be brought up to the current fire code, including fire sprinklers and a modern alarm system.

This is the building in it's past glory. Ornate for sure, though I am not sure if the Churrigueresque influence works on it.

Regardless, I was sure surprised to see the exo-skeleton  removed and it's original shell evolve. Kinda embarrassed that I let this one get by.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, October 28, 2011


4.1 million hits,7 days. That is an impressive display of the power of the web. I wish I could say it was the latest post of "Report on Conditions" but it wouldn't be the truth.

The video posted below has been featured on network TV, been featured in the LA Times and numerous other newspapers and has achieved enough attention on facebook that The Saint I Am Married To heard about it.

As a result, we decided to check it out. Of course, I drug the camera along.

We really didn't know what to expect. Our first clue that this was a big deal was the traffic. Our second clue was when people were letting cars park in their driveway for five bucks and selling pizza for one dollar a slice.

Even with the clues we were unprepared for the crowd. Ya gotta love that speedlight flash!

Find The Saint That I am Married To in this photo!

I was kind of concerned about the crowd, a lot of people (like us) thought that it was kind of like a Christmas light display that ran from dark until 2200 or so. It wasn't, it was actually a show that started at 1930 and went about thirty minutes - thus the big crowd. We lucked out and arrived at about 1900. People continued to arrive throughout the show. Some people weren't real happy about being so far back and made a few comments. Whattaya gonna do? The above photo was taken at 1901, thirty minutes before the show started. It only got bigger.

This excursion was kind of The Saint's idea, I hadn't seen the video and had no idea what was coming. I was pleasantly surprised.

As seen in the video at the top of the post, the whole thing is synced to music. Isn't technology wonderful when used for peaceful purposes?

The "vocalist" windows sang seven numbers, were on key and didn't forget the lyrics even once.

I liked the purty colors!

So did the crowd.

In the end, it was worth the crowd-anxiety, traffic and gas to get there. Thanks to The Saint for suggesting we go and...

Thanks to you for reading.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun and Games With Tanker 73

I hadn't had the camera out of it's bag for a few days, I was trying to get caught up with editing/storing/disseminating a bajillion images that had sat neglected for a month or so.  My computer's hard drive was nearly full, so I was forced into getting busy and clearing stuff out.

I was getting close to being done and I heard a report of a brush fire not too far away. It sounded good so I headed out there. The fire ended up being just outside of our jurisdiction, not too far from where I used to work. It was in a fairly accessible area, but as we weren't really involved I really didn't have the access that getting good ground shots would have required.

So, I set up across the highway and got ready for the air show that I knew would be coming. I wasn't disappointed, Cal-Fire sent three tankers and a helicopter. They saved the ground crews a lot of work and made some nearby residents feel a whole lot better about things.

First Pass:
Click on the image to enlarge

He kind of caught me by surprise, I was expecting a pass closer to the head of the fire, not the heel. I was hoping to change lenses before he started this pass, but didn't have time, so the 24-70 was going to have to do. This was the best of the four shots that I got of the pass, cropped a little to remove the traffic jam on the highway and to bring the plane in a little closer.

Second Pass:

I believe they were trying to work a finger that was down in a draw and keep the fire from coming out and causing problems on the right flank. I had changed lenses by then and was able to pull this in a little better. I usually don't like head-on shots, but this one is off just enough to keep me happy. This is the fourth or the fifth of a seven shot sequence.

Third pass:

Still working the draw, though there didn't seem to be a lot of fire activity left in it. They might have been laying a "pink line" to slow/stop the fire until crews could work there way down there and finish it off. As I couldn't see or hear what was going on down there, it is merely a guess on my part.

The fire was knocked down pretty quick, though it looked like they did some burning out to clean things up on the left flank.

As I left, I drove by four "type 1" engines from my agency, staged at the border. As it was a "type 3" engine show, I doubt they were used. I drove home and had a beer, just because I could.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Riverside?

Note: These photos were taken on 10/16 and should have been posted last week. Events occurring on my street precluded the posting of them, for that I apologize.

On a whim, I googled the term "Occupy Riverside". With so much publicity of the "Occupy" protests, I wanted to see if we were at risk of occupation as well.

Much to my surprise, I learned that we had already been "occupied" and that people were still occupying the downtown pedestrian mall. Despite my inexperience in dealing with "occupiers" I grabbed my camera and headed to the occupation zone.

I guess I was a day late. The large protest had occurred on Saturday, with a small contingent of protesters remaining to express displeasure of the current economic system. News reports said that several hundred people had participated on Saturday, there were probably forty or fifty people present when I was there. Not all were protesting, many were performing other functions.

Tending to be somewhat conservative politically, I was curious about what the main focus of the local protest would be. From the signs that I saw and the conversations that I had, it appeared that the main message of the exercise was the uneven distribution of wealth between corporate America and the rest of us.

During my conversations, I gracefully neglected to mention my dependence on corporate profits to keep my 457 plans afloat. I also believe that many of the protesters gracefully neglected to mention a deeper political agenda.

I spoke with a few people, one of whom who told me that the Occupy Riverside event was an offshoot of the Occupy LA protest and that even smaller towns, such as Hemet, CA would be having events as well.

I asked a few participants if there had been any opposition to their presence in downtown Riverside. Their response was that there had been a few incidents of people hurling insults such as "dirty hippies" and "get a job". I must say that all of the people I spoke with were reasonably clean and most claimed to have jobs.

I have to state that these people were ORGANIZED. A schedule, defined areas of responsibility, a logistics chain, even security were planned and provided for. It made me think that whoever put this together had done it before.

Sadly, by the time I arrived, the occupation was one largely of signs. I would have liked to have been there when things were in full swing. The large number of signs present told me that a lot of people had been there earlier holding them. 

Another thing that I observed was that most of the signs I saw appeared to be hand made, with only a few appearing to be commercially produced.  In my mind this is a sign that a majority of the participants were likely those who are pissed off at the system, made a sign and drove down to the event and are not people who got off buses and were handed signs.

 I didn't hear any negative reaction from those who drove by, but did see quite a bit of support.

The later it got, the smaller the occupation became. Several people that I spoke with said that they  had to get ready for the following work week and wouldn't be back until the following week-end.

 Others seemed prepared for spending another night on the mall. The police had told some of the organizers that staying on the mall overnight would not be allowed, but no one had stopped the protesters from camping out during the previous night. My guess is that as long as things remained under control, the occupy Riverside protest would be allowed to stay on the mall, even overnight.

I drove by the mall on the next day, there were just a few people there, waving signs at the passing cars. It's been a week since I've been there so I don't know whats going on now. Whatever occupation that may or may not be going on isn't intruding on anyone or I would have heard of it.

Why Riverside was chosen as a city to occupy I will never know. Riverside is not normally a hotbed of political activism, except when the cops shoot unconscious people or immigration issues boil to the surface.

I find it odd that there are two distinct groups of people who think the country is headed the wrong way, they just disagree on which way it is headed and which way is the right way. As long as both groups can peacefully state their position and not adversely affect others, I don't have any issues with public protests.

If I had to guess, I would say that the occupy movement is being organized by established, trained social activists, ones with socialist agendas.  That they are striking a chord with many disenfranchised people is no surprise - there are a lot of unhappy people out there right now.

I am pretty sure that I disagree with most of the group occupying Riverside when it comes to politics, but I am glad they can go down and protest. Everybody I spoke with was friendly, though we really didn't discuss any controversial topics. I would hope the Tea Partiers would display the same manners if I showed up to shoot one of their events, but again I probably wouldn't discuss areas in which we disagree.

I'm glad I went down there and took a few photos, it was an interesting few hours.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Suicidal Dragon

It sounded as if it had potential. As I was close and had my camera, I opted to go and take some pictures.

I arrived just as the first-in engine was forcing entry. Light smoke coming from the dwelling, the odor of it confirming that it was not overheated food, but contents.

As there was a report of an occupant possibly being inside, the first-in unit opted to make entry and do a hasty search. Fortunately, the report was false. The occupants had left the dwelling prior to the fire.

The crews made entry and found a small, smoldering fire in the bathroom.


Even though it was a small fire, certain things needed to occur.

The second in truck was assigned RIC. Most crews really don't enjoy the RIC assignment, often the fire is under control by the time RIC is set up and the building is assessed. We still do it, practice like you play is the order of the day.

Accountability is critical, not only on structure fires but on every type of incident. You can't rescue a crew if you don't know that they are in the area of IDLH. The accountability system is a constantly evolving process, we have had several major changes in the tracking system over the past few years.

Even before accountability was a designated incident management function, we were always hammered to keep track of our people, both at the company level and the incident level. The development of accountability systems has made this task a lot easier and far more accurate.

I've seen the safety officer chew more than a little ass over the years, often belonging to someone who wasn't taking the job of accountability officer as serious as they should. Ouch.


A line was stretched and.the dragon was slain. It turned out that the crews merely delivered the coup de gras,
the dragon had nearly killed itself by the time the line was stretched.

The fire had caused the toilet tank to fail, the sudden presence of water extinguished a majority of the burning material that was on the floor. The dragon killed itself before it could grow into a real fire breather.


Sorry there wasn't fire blowing out of the windows or flames shooting a hundred feet into the sky. Sometimes you have to shoot what you can get. Even fires like this are good for me. I get to see old friends and I get to practice composition and exposure.

Hopefully, when a big one does occur, I will use what I've learned and get some decent shots.

Practice as you play.......


Sorry for the lack of posts, it hasn't been a very good week around Schmoeville and frankly I have been a bit preoccupied. Hopefully, thigs will get better after next week.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Off Topic

As I sit here and write this, my neighbors  are  sitting a couple of hundred feet away from me and are experiencing the worst days of their lives. While I feel loss and sorrow, the level of pain that they must be enduring, I cannot even imagine.

They lost two of their sons in a plane crash. Why they are being forced to endure this torture I cannot explain.

It is always asked, why do bad things happen to good people. That question was posed in response to situations such as this. A great family, god-fearing, hard working and close knit ripped apart by a tragic event. A wife and small child left behind, brothers, sisters and parents left as well. Why should they be subjected to this horror while others are not? Frankly, I struggle with this, the cruelty of it and the damage caused to those left behind leaves a foul taste in my mouth.

For the past three days, a constant stream of cars have driven past the house, a multitude of friends stopping by to pat their respects. All touched by either the two boys or by other family members, all shocked and devastated, all wishing it were a bad dream instead of a living nightmare.

I could go on about this forever, the memories are many, the impressions great. Instead, please know that the two men were honorable, good men - ones that the world needs more of, not less.

My heart goes out to the survivors, people who I am honored to know. To Rick and Jeff: rest in peace, though you will be missed your family has the strength of faith, family and friends to help them carry on.


Thursday, October 13, 2011


As you may remember, Rambling Chief was the winner of the "Closest to the Pin" contest held last month. The grand prize was an almost new Pelican "Big Ed 4C" flashlight, one that was my back-up if I lost or damaged my primary one. Rambling Chief contacted me and said that a more deserving recipient his prize might be a Fire Explorer, as someone whose career is just starting out.

I contacted a guy who serves as an adviser for a Fire Expolrer post and asked him to come up with a deserving member of his post, one who has a future in the fire service and one who is an outstanding member of the Explorers.

 The deserving fire explorer received my, Rambling Chief's, HIS new Big Ed recently. You may have seen him on this blog, as he often plays Santa Claus in the "Santa in the Hood" project. He always shows up at my door step in early December, looking for bags of toys. We are glad to oblige.

Anyway, the light went to a good home, the Explorer was grateful to both me and to Rambling Chief for the light.

Congrats to the explorer and to Rambling Chief for both being winners.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Images from the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial Dedication

The California Wildland Firefighter Memorial was dedicated last weekend, I had the honor of attending. The memorial has been a work in progress, one that started in the mid-nineties. After years of labor, it is finally completed. Below are some of the images that I captured of this special event.

The setting is beautiful, a peaceful place located in an oak grove. The site is next to the El Cariso guard station, home of the El Cariso Hot Shots. Sadly, several El Cariso members  are memorialized on this wall.

Two rows of El Cariso Hot Shots. The front, veterans from the '60s, some of whom survived the Loop Fire burnover. The second row are current El Cariso members, currently working to keep the forest safe.


The Honor Guard consisted of members from the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire, Los Angeles County Fire and the Orange County Fire Authority. They represented their agencies well, as well honoring as the fallen.

This gentleman, a member of the Los Angeles County Fire Dept, sang the national anthem. He did an amazing job, good enough for a professional sports venue.

There were a lot of speakers, the usual assortment of Chief officers and politicians. They all did well, but I was most impressed with these gentlemen. They were members of the El Cariso Hot Shots in 1966 and survived a burnover on the Loop fire. Eleven members of of their crew were killed, 10 seriously injured and another suffered minor injuries.

Some of these men still carry scars, both physical and emotional from the disaster. To hear them speak was an honor.

 The honor guard performed a wreath ceremony, done with precision and perfection.

 The bell ceremony signaled the end of the event. The setting and the simple, yet touching ceremony was a fitting way to pay homage to the wildland firefighters who have lost their lives while battling wildfire in California.

I plan to return to the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial, probably on a weekday when no one else is there. The serenity of the setting will provide contrast to the chaotic conditions that exist when the forest burns. If you ever get to Southern California, I reccomend that you do the same.

Strong work to the committee that put this memorial together, you managed to complete something that was long overdue.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Worst Shift of My Career - Epilogue

If you missed the first four installments of this series, they can be found Here, Here, Here and Here.


Baby Jake is forgotten to most. I hear his mom did her time and has a lot of issues. I am told she doesn't have any contact with the DAs office regarding parole hearings, victims rights events or other events. His grandmother maintained contact for a while, but has not done so for many years. I have carried his poster in a victim's rights march a few times, as have my kids and some other first responders who helped in his delivery.

His murderer was up for parole last April, probably for the fourth or fifth time. Fortunately, the panel has seen fit to keep the bastard in prison and he remains incarcerated. Thanks to the net, I keep track of his whereabouts. I keep hoping that someone inside will hear of his crime and shank him. I shudder when I think of him out on the streets.

The father of the two little girls who burned to death in the car fire was sent back to prison on a parole violation. The DA felt that the chances of a successful child neglect prosecution were slight, so charges were no filed. As a result of the investigation however, enough information came to light to violate him and send him back to prison for another year or so. I guess that's better than nothing.

The little boy who started the fire must be a young man by now. He shouldn't have too many physical scars, I am unsure of emotional ones. He was pretty little when this occurred, maybe he won't remember much. My guess is that he had a tough road ahead of him, even before the fire.

We never did find out for sure who or what started the apartment on fire. It was likely a "negative corpus" arson fire, but without follow-up it just never went anywhere. Someone likely got away with arson. It wouldn't be the first time, nor the last.

This rotten shift occurred during the holiday season. I went through a series of several years in a row where major trauma/strife/chaos/mayhem occurred during the holiday season. As a semi-grinch, I didn't need that kind of BS to further dampen my holiday spirit, so I figured out a way to get from Thanksgiving to New Years off each year. It was a strategy that worked well for me..

Unlimited time trades is a good clause to have in your contract. I know the city would like to get that back, I hope the guys are too smart to give that up. It's a great benefit that doesn't cost the department any money at all.

That pretty much wraps up this series. I know many of you have had worst shifts, some might say that I'VE had worse shifts. I can only tell you that for whatever reason, this is the one that got to me the most. Through it all though, it was still the best damn job that I ever had.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Knife I Used To Carry or Schmoe The Idiot

Remember that post from a few weeks ago, that one about that bitchin' Spyderco knife that I don't leave home without?

Well, if you get over to the Sacramento landfill fast enough, you might find it before it gets buried under a bajillion  tons of garbage.

I, being the idiot that I am, forgot that I had my wonderful Spyderco Delica in my pocket until I got to the "last chance" trash can before entering the passenger screening area at the Sacramento airport. Not knowing what would happen if I turned it over to TSA (and not really wanting to find out), I used the "last chance" trash can and disposed of it.

As I was out of town, had checked my luggage and didn't have time to track down a UPS drop box, I really felt that I had no other choice. It hurt, but I am sure that dealing with the TSA would have hurt a lot worse.

I never really thought about it before, but it is a good thing that those cans are placed where they are. They save idiots like me from embarrassment and certain grief.

If, by chance, a TSA agent saw me dump the knife and somehow retrieved it, I hope that they get many years of use from it. I sure did and I miss it.

It's a good thing that I have another one, one that I like almost as much. Hopefully I won't ever have to toss it away, I don't want to have to buy another one.

Thanks for reading,
A woeful Schmoe

Friday, October 7, 2011

Schmotographs - Treasure Island

The Saint That I Am Married To and I were able to sneak off to San Fransisco for a few hours last weekend. We were up north on business and found a free afternoon so we grabbed a rental car and made the trek.

One of the places we checked out was Treasure Island, which is in the middle of San Fransisco Bay. Treasure Island is a man-made island that was built for the 1939 Worlds Fair. It was also used as a Navy base for many years, many shipboard firefighters were trained there. The Navy closed the base several years ago, now it awaits environmental clean up before redevelopment can fully occur.

Today, it sits. Only partially used, it is a diamond in the rough. We, like many, have a morbid fascination with the vacant, unused and abandoned. We spent a few hours there, time well spent.

There are five wineries on the island, sadly no breweries. We stopped at this one, which is housed in the old brig (navy jail) that served the island. The owner started the process in 2008 and is selling his first bottling. We are not wine aficionados, but we did enjoy his samples so we bought a few bottles.

We found these gems, leftovers from '50s and '60s era signage. These used to be mounted on poles in front of restaurants called Doggie Diner, a chain of 24 hot dog stands that ran from 1949 until 1986. Now, most of the surviving Doggie Heads are owned privately and make apperances at art festivals and counter culture events. As wiener dog fans, we had to stop and take a picture of these signs when we spotted them on a trailer stored on Treasure Island. I'd love to have one of these, but they are over six feet all and reportedly weigh over 200 lbs.

click to enlarge

Location! Location! Location! Treasure Island's best asset it it's location. This is a pano shot of the San Fransisco skyline, taken from the West side of the island. A great view when the weather is good.

I was so impressed with the island's view of the city, we stopped back by there on the way back to Sacramento. The place was crawling with photographers, all wanting a shot of the night-scape. I'm glad I stopped.

I have been to San Fransisco many times over the years and have had a great time each trip. I have learned not to discuss politics with the locals and have learned that the best things about the city are not found at Fisherman's Wharf or at the other tourist spots. It's the out of the way spots, as it is in most places, where the treasure is located.

Have a great weekend.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, October 6, 2011


...Don't let your mommas grow old and be hoarders.

I'm just sayin'.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Worst Shift Of My Career Part #3 - The Winds Truly Blow

Fourth Installment in a series of five. This installment does not involve small children being murdered or burnt to death, but involves a whiny captain - fire investigator who was not dealing with the days events very well.

I heard the call go out as we were finishing up the investigation on the burned-up little kids. Units in the second battalion were sent to an apartment complex, where an apartment was reported to be on fire. Someone had a radio tuned to the command channel and I heard the first in unit report heavy smoke and fire visible from a two-story apartment building.

"That one's yours", the lead investigator told me. "I'm not available and Chuckie's going to the hospital for follow-up. You're on your own".

I still had to finish up at the car fire, I decided to take my time and do it right. Maybe I would get lucky and a company officer at the apartment fire would figure it out and determine it to be accidental.

I monitored the apartment incident, and heard a request for a couple of extra engines, the IC was concerned about extension. The winds were still howling, the IC was being prudent. If the fire got into the attic, a large portion of the building could easily be lost. As we learned from my last post, these winds have a habit of turning small incidents into large ones.

After a short while, I heard the apartment incident declared under control. The crews must have done a great job in confining the majority of damage to the apartment of origin. I heard the request for an investigator as I was loading things up into the unit. I acknowledged the request, and headed toward the scene. I knew where I was headed, my in-laws lived across the street from the complex. Although not a "project" complex, it wasn't a luxury complex either. This was the second significant fire in the complex within a year.

I arrived on scene and found a few units remaining on scene. Most of the units had been released, as there was a shortage of available units and the winds were still causing a high call volume. I contacted the IC and quickly determined that no one had a clue where the fire started and that no one had been in the involved apartment when the first-in unit arrived.

The apartment had flashed over fairly early in the event, several rooms were burned out. This, combined with the above information meant that this was likely not going to be easy.

Investigating fire scenes are not unlike most other investigations. It is a game of being thorough and one of documentation. Both components are required, one is pretty much useless without the other. You need to do XYZ, but if you do not document your actions, don't bother. It can be tedious, though interesting. Although we liked to work in pairs, budgetary constraints often prevented this from happening. Doing the field work alone adds to the time, doing the documentation alone adds to the tedium.

On this evening, with a shortage of available units, I cut the suppression units loose and chose to go it alone.  Photos, sketches and notes - starting from the outside of the scene and working to the center. Interviews and more notes. Eliminating electrical, natural gas and mice with matches. More photos, more notes and digging. Digging and sifting. 

Darkness and a semi-hazardous work environment added to my melancholic state of mind, a rapidly dropping air temperature added to my physical discomfort.

Examination of the fire scene revealed burn patterns that indicated the fire started in the living room, on or near the remains of a coffee table and the south end of a sofa. Reportedly, no one had been in the unit for at least 24 hours as the tenants had moved out the day before. I didn't determine the actual event that caused the fire, but did eliminate the most likely accidental causes. After three hours, I still didn't have an answer and wouldn't have one until some follow up investigation was completed. Follow-up which would never occur,  as the overtime budget was depleted. 

In other words, another frustrating event in a totally screwed day.

Again, there is no tragedy in this installment, just me whining. I must say that on most days, none of this stuff would have really bugged me, we all have bad days. For some reason, on this particular day, the sequence and type of incidents formed the perfect storm and jacked me up.  I know people that have had several days like this, I was lucky only to have this one. I'm glad I won't have another like this again.

To be continued....

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Worst Shift Of My Career Part 2 - From Bad to Worse

Third installment of a series.  The first installment can be found HERE. The second is located HERE.

As predicted, the faint, warm breeze turned into a full blown Santa Ana, building throughout the day and howling by mid-afternoon. Also as predicted, the call volume for the department was howling as well. As we were the second out engine at station #1, we were not as affected by the lines down, arcing power lines or ringing alarms as other units, but we were still busy.

The tones hit about three P.M, this time for a reported vehicle fire on the east side. Nothing remarkable at his point, car fires are not unusual in this mostly poor neighborhood, one with many cars in marginal mechanical condition.

A few blocks out and a few minutes into the response, dispatch advised us that they were getting multiple reports of the fire and also a report of a burn victim. They asked if we wanted an ambulance and an additional engine, I confirmed the ambulance and told dispatch that I would advise on the need for a second engine. We could see no smoke even though we were only a block or two away.

We rounded the corner and had no difficulty finding the incident. A sedan with the passenger compartment well involved was parked on the curb, the smoke and flames laying nearly horizontal, being pushed by the strong wind. One small group of people were kneeling and standing around a small form laying on the ground, another was standing around someone holding a small child. Yet another child was in the arms someone else, a crowd not present around him.

It took a second for the true nature of the incident to set in, the scope of it much larger than the typical vehicle fire. From the looks and gestures of the various groups of people, it was apparent that we had at least two burn victims, probably seriously injured. The second engine was requested as was a second ambulance.

I had my firefighter go to where the victim was laying on the ground and gave my engineer the responsibility of setting the pump and extinguishing the fire. I went to check the second victim and to get a more complete grasp of the incident.

The second victim, a child of around three years old was still in the arms of an adult as I walked up. I was shocked at the severity of her injures. Her hair was burned to the point of being discolored and partially removed. She was burned over a large portion of her body, I don't remember the percentage. The burns appeared to be serious second degree, which meant that they were likely third degree. She was crying, though barely.

I wanted to see the condition of the first victim, so I walked over to where my firefighter was assessing her. Her condition appeared to be in worse shape than the second patient, she was unconscious and there was more of her skin hanging from her head and upper torso. She appeared to be younger, if I remember correctly, probably around two.

It was around this time that the person carrying the third child approached me and I goat a good look at him. He was about five, was conscious and crying loudly. His hair was burned, as was his skin, though his injuries appeared to be less severe than that of the other two.

I looked around to see if there were any others and I noticed a man running from kid to kid, obviously in a state of extreme upset. He said that he was the kid's father, I don't remember what else was said. A large crowd had gathered by now, I could sense some anger in it. I asked for the cops, I needed to keep the scene secure.

The ambulance arrived quickly, the first two patients were quickly loaded and transported. They by-passed the local ER and were sent to the nearest burn center, located in the next county. It's funny, our protocols state that burn patients should be sent to the nearest ER for stabilization, then transferred to the burn center. That rarely happens, once base station contact is made, they almost always have them sent directly to the burn center.

The second ambulance and second engine arrived a few minutes later, the third patient actually made it to the local ER before being transferred to the burn center later. I have to believe that it had more to do with the burn center being maxed with our first two patients, than it did with following protocol.

My engineer did a very good job knocking down the fire, the second engine only had to help with overhaul and then was quickly released. All that remained, was to find out what happened.

Even though I was an investigator at the time, I felt that someone with more experience should take the lead, as the cause of this fire would be heavily scrutinized. Three critical injuries from a vehicle fire are definitely not normal, especially when the victims were children.

The lead investigator and one of the other shift investigators came out and we began looking into the tragedy. The other shift investigator began interviewing the father and witnesses, the head investigator began examination and photographing the car. I assisted the head investigator.

It was pretty obvious that the fire began inside the passenger compartment. The damage to the engine compartment was less severe, burn patterns indicating that the fire had moved into the engine compartment from the passenger compartment, not the other way around. There was no fire damage under the car, very little in the trunk.

We were able to narrow the area of origin to the passenger's side floor area of the front seat, where we found the remains of clothing and papers. We also found the remains of a lighter. Witnesses and the father said that the kids had been left alone in the car, while the father went inside a nearby house to take care of some business.  At some point, the fire was noticed and the father made aware of it. I am not sure if some of the witnesses were aware that three small kids were inside the car as they watched it burn. The father and at least one other person were able to open the car and get the kids out before it became fully involved.

The two little girls were still strapped in their car-seats, secured in the back seat when they were removed from the car. The little boy was pulled from the floor of the back seat. The father said that the little boy was seated in the front passenger seat when he went into the house and also said that he had left the car unlocked when he left it, but that it was locked when he tried to get the kids out.

After putting the pieces together, we were able to determine that the little boy had been playing with the lighter in the front seat while left unattended.  After the fire started, the little boy had hit the door lock while trying to escape the fire, trapping the kids and much of the smoke inside the car. At some point, the little boy found the front seat untenable and crawled into the back seat, then onto the floor. That action saved his life.

The little girls were not so lucky, the heat from the fire went up to the roof of the car, where it mushroomed laterally across the ceiling, then down upon their heads and upper torsos. They were strapped in their car-seats, unable to escape the heat and smoke until removed from the car by others. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that one of the windows failed, allowing some smoke to escape and causing the fire to be noticed. When the other side door was opened, the strong winds acted to fan the flames further, turning the car into a blowtorch.

In any event, the two little girls died a few days later, while still in the burn unit. It was a horrific, painful experience for those kids, one that nobody should have to endure, especially kids. I view those kids as victims, not unlike Baby Jake.

The failures of adults causing their deaths. I thought we are supposed to care for our kids

For me, another crappy component of what turned out to be a pretty crappy day. First Jake, now this.

To be continued.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Smoke, Light and Shadow

The Saint I Am Married To and I are in Sacramento Ca, attending a Valor Awards Ceremony. As such, I am not able to continue to work on "The Worst Shift of My Career" series, until I return home. Until then, here is a photo that was taken at a structure fire that occurred not too far from our home.

Although they made a quick knockdown, these guys were there for hours overhauling the fire. A heavy fire load made for a lot of work.

Have a great weekend.

Thanks for reading,