Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Know

His face I know, his name I know. Him, I know not.

I now know that he went past the hose line and upstairs into an unsecured section of a well involved home. I also know that while up there, he found a man and dragged him to a window where he and another firefighter made a ladder rescue with a semi-conscious victim.

I know that he placed himself at great personal risk and saved the life of another. I know that he bowed his head and allowed  the Chief of his department place a ribbon with a medal on it over his neck. I know that the medal was the Medal of Honor, the highest award that his department can give a firefighter and that it has been over twelve years since it was last awarded.

I know that I am proud to be part of the same profession as he is and that I am honored to have been invited to the awards dinner.

Although I don't know him, I know that he has what it takes, what is buried deep inside of him, to enable him to accomplish what others have not.

Strong work lad, strong work.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dog, Hanging Around

Something you don't see every day.

Sorry for the crappy picture, it caught me by surprise. I looked up and the opening was filled with dog. A chilled out dog I might add. One quick, over-exposed shot and the dog was gone, safely on his way back to terra firma.

That's one of the many things I like about this gig - I get to see a lot of cool stuff.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rest in Peace

First it got sick.

Then it got sicker. 103 f, rectally - that's pretty high!

Then it died. Sniff.

As with any trusted friend, it's disposal was handled with respect and dignity.

R.I.P. my loyal servant, you lived a hard, but fruitful life. I will miss you. That is until I can get down to Best Buy and purchase a new Nano.


My kid gave this to me after he bought an early "Touch". He put a few hard years on it before I obtained it, it's time with me was relatively easy. Still, six years is a pretty long life. I am surprised how much I miss it. I have a few gift cards from Christmas to squander so it's off to Best Buy I go.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The National Fire Protection Association says that when fire hose is tested, it should be arrayed so that any one stretch is no more than 300 feet. Procedural guidelines state that the hose should be laid out in a straight line, with the individual hose lines not crossing.

Sometimes, limitations of space, time and equipment require deviation of the standard practices. Extra precautions are taken so that if a catastrophic failure of the hose occurs, damage to equipment and personnel is limited.

The above photo illustrates what we call "Italian Style Hose Testing". It resembles a plate full of spaghetti

This image illustrates why you never stand over hose while it is being tested. This section of 2 1/2" hose failed within 5 feet of the pump panel. As the engineer was not straddling the hose, he escaped with only a bath. The fact that the discharge valve was opened just enough to introduce pressure to the hose, prevented damage to the rig.

Not straddling the hose and how to cross charged fire hose safely were among the first things I learned as a firefighter. For good reason it would seem.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It Kinda Is My Fault

Most fire stations have a candy and/or soda store. The healing place is no exception. Like most "honor" systems found in many work places, the success of the store requires that a person jonesing for a soda places the appropriate amount of cash in the bowl before taking the can.

For the most part, this is what occurs. Most people put the cash in, take the can out. Sometimes, it doesn't occur. I'd like to think that shrinkage is due to oversight or laziness rather than dishonesty.

Perhaps someone is working outside on the patio and feels the need to be a Pepper too. Perhaps they left their wallet in the dorm and their boots are dirty, so they take the Dr. Pepper and intend to come back and put the money in after they get cleaned up. Perhaps that individual was on his way outside to pay up when the tones went off for a fire call. Perhaps they just forgot when they got back after the call. Now the fund is fifty cents short.

Perhaps someone only has 39 cents in their pocket when the visit the soda fridge and  they figure that they will make up the difference when they buy their next one. Perhaps it slips their mind the next time, now the fund is another eleven cents short. 

As I am currently the person running the soda store, I know when the bowl is "light". We have had periodic issues with this, every couple of years or so. I have found that one of the ways to combat this behavior is to inventory the soda fridge every day and count the money. That way it narrows down who the culprit(s) might be. Although the fund still might lose a soda every few weeks, it really does cut down on the shrinkage.

As I had my leg issues in October, was on vacation in December and it is winter, I haven't been minding the store as I should have been. Yesterday, I stocked the fridge counted the cans and the money. We were probably fifteen bucks short. That is an unacceptable loss. That means less funds to buy stuff for the station, stuff that the district isn't going to buy.

I'll take some of the blame, I haven't been on it like I should have been. You can be assured that I am back on it and will know when I am a can short. The rows are all stocked six deep and eight across - exactly forty eight cans per shelf. Two shelves make it ninety six can of soda. I left exactly ten bucks in change, all quarters. I will be able to determine if anything is short when I get to work and will still have time to make my 0900 training session..

If we are short, I'll mention it to Sloven, his crew is on today. He in turn will mention it to his crew. Who knows, the guilty absent minded party may just remember and pay up. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one, but it has happened.

Hopefully, the re-stocking and the attention being spent on the store will have the desired effect  and the shrinkage will drop to zero. With all of the cooks that we have at the station, we could use some more Tupperware. That and an iced tea dispenser.

Yhansk for reading,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hands On

I didn't feel it. I didn't even know about it until I arrived at the E.R.

I parked the rig, pressed the magic numbers into the keypad (probably the same ones you do) and walked into the emergency department. I saw Billy, Fredo and the ambulance crew talking with someone at the doorway into one of the treatment rooms. As I peeked into the room, I saw that they were speaking with our patient. I was a little surprised, as the last time I saw him, he was being loaded into the ambulance and was fighting with us.

Our patient was now passive and was communicative. "There he is, hey Schmoe" Billy said. "Our patient said that next time bring six more of you and he'll take care of them too!"

"I don't doubt that" I replied. "He was a handful"

"I'm really sorry, I don't remember anything" our patient said.

"No worries pal, I'm just glad to see that you're doing better."

I stepped out of the treatment area and asked Billy if they had medicated the patient or if he had come out his altered state on his own. Billy said that the patient had come out of it just as they were pulling into the E.R.

Billy asked me "Didn't you feel him punch you in the head?"

"No" I replied, "He didn't connect - not enough for me to feel it anyway."

Billy laughed as he told me that he had looked up and saw out patient's fist fly by the side of my head and saw my hair fly as if I had been smacked. In reality his fist had probably just grazed my hair as it whizzed by. I was busy dodging kicks as I and one of the guys on the ambu were trying to restrain his legs.

It had taken five of us to restrain our patient and secure him to the gurney using "soft" restraints. It might have been easier for us if we had suspected that our patient was being deliberately abusive rather than suffering some sort of neurological issue. We might have used some more aggressive and painful restraining techniques.

In the old days, before the Great Big Ambulance Company provided soft restraints, we would have used cling to tie his extremities to the gurney. A use which cling was not designed for. Before that, we would have sandwiched him between two backboards, then wrapped the whole thing in cling. I think the soft restraints are the best, both for us and our patients.

The call had been for a 32 yr. old male suffering a seizure. While his seizure wasn't the traditional Clonic-tonic seizure, it was convulsive and it did produce a post-ictal phase, one which we found to be a bit physical in nature. As the patient had no history of seizures and had suffered a few episodes of neurological dysfunction in the weeks prior to this call, it is highly likely that he has an internal issue in his brain. Sadly, his immediate future is one of testing and more testing. Hopefully, his situation is treatable. Regardless, at least for the short term, his life will be turned upside down.

  As for my close call with the patient's fist, that is notable in that it even occurred. Ten years ago, me going hands on with unruly patients was pretty common. The area where I worked was one where violence was a common occurrence and I was savvy enough to know when and where punches were coming from. Now, incidents like this are so rare that I didn't see this one coming. Had it connected, it would of hurt. Even so, my pain would have been nothing compared to that which our patient is likely to feel in the coming months. I wish him well.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Too Good To Be True?

I like Craigs List. I get on it every day and search for things that I may be interested in buying. I have bought a few things and have sold a few things, as have my kids.

One of my regular searches is for the word "Canon". As two of my cameras are Canons, I figure that I may get lucky and score an accessory or two at a good price. Last shift, I logged on during a lull in the action and searched the term "Canon".

I scrolled through the usual printers, point and shoot cameras and kit lenses before an ad caught my eye:

"Too good to be true sale"

With a title like that I had to click on it. Below is the ad as it appeared:

My husband is a professional photographer. He felt the need to cheat on me with one of his bimbo high school senior portrait clients, so I am going to teach him a lesson he will never forget. All the gear he left in my house while he is "away on business" is up for grabs for a crisp 20 dollar bill.

Im not sure what all is what but there is a bag full of Canon stuff. Looks like at least a couple cameras, something that looks like a flash(has 580EXII on the top?) and some lenses(some black, some white). Most of it is really heavy and as much as I would like to smash it against the wall to get some satisfaction, knowing I sold his gear for pennies will make him considerably more furious.

Come and get it!! 

I gotta say, the cheapest I have ever seen a Canon 580EXII flash retail for was $420, on-line.  White Canon lenses start at about a grand apiece. That bag full of Canon stuff could have been a pretty valuable bag.

I was really tempted to reply, but two things kept me from doing so. First of all, I was on duty, couldn't get away and didn't want to get involved with trying to close a deal while at work. Second of all, it DOES sound to good to be true. Sometimes ads of this type are set-ups or scams and as I really don't NEED anything, (wanting is another issue) I couldn't see any reason to put myself at risk. Although we usually take precautions on transactions of this type, sometimes the ads themselves just sound hinky enough to make pursuing it not worthwhile.

Hopefully, someone replied, got called back and scored a bag full of high-end camera equipment for twenty bucks. I wonder what the husband thought when he came home and found his gadget bag gone along with his gear. It's pretty hard for a professional photographer to make a living without cameras, lenses and flashes.

I wonder if he feels the bimbo high school senior portrait client was worth losing his equipment for. My guess is not, but who knows. I also think that if he puts himself in this situation again, he will make sure he takes his camera with him and locks it in the trunk. At least then he would have a way to make a buck.

Looking back, I wish I would have replied. At least I would have a better idea if the ad was legit. As it is, I will never know. It is fun to think about though.

Thanks for reading,
A curious Schmoe.

Friday, January 21, 2011


It started faintly at first. The sound of machines drilling through concrete and steel, muffled by layers of thick reinforced slabs. An intermittent silence, followed by pounding and then silence again.  The noise was welcomed as it penetrated the darkness, it represented hope.

More drilling and pounding, each sequence followed by a short pause, then starting over again. As time wore on, the noise became louder until the sounds of muffled voices could be heard.

The victim began yelling in hopes that the people making the noise would hear and work toward his location. The sounds continued, the voices became clearer, the noise louder. Finally the noise was accompanied by dust. Dust and light.

Finally a human form appeared, then another. The victim was relieved just to hear and see another human being. They represented the start of a journey back into the world of light, a journey from despair into hope.


I can't imagine being trapped below a pile of rubble, I wasn't overly fond of climbing down into the pile on my own.  My journey into the pile was an easy one and I could just climb out anytime I wanted, yet it was kind of nice seeing the rescue team members accessing nearby voids and finally making it into the space I was occupying. I snapped the above photo as the first search team member crawled into the void. A minute later, the horn sounded and the evolution was over. They crawled back the way they came, I shouldered my camera and climbed the ladder to freedom.

Thanks to the folks that let me attend this drill, It was a great experience.

Thanks to you for reading.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


After 18 months, thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of pictures, I have decided to return to school and take some photography classes.The first class starts tonight and meets once a week, plus some lab/field work.

It's through a University that isn't too far away - part of their Community Program for Furthering Education. It isn't cheap, but is taught by a respected instructor. My goal is to take one class a quarter and hopefully see some results in the quality of my photos. They teach the fundamentals, work-flow, processing digital images and composition.

I'm looking forward to it, though I really don't know what the class entails. I am sure there will be some book work and I am sure I will be assigned to take pictures of some things that I have absolutely no interest in. I hope to expand my creative horizons and explore some areas of photography that I have not previously looked at.

So if you come by this blog and see an image of a ballerina dancing with a basket of kittens in her arms, while being watched by an audience full of clowns - fear not. It's just me posting one of my assignments.

Although I am working on being a little more creative, I don't wanna get too artsy-fartsy. Let me know if it gets out of hand.

I'll let you know how it went tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Every Schmoe Should Have One

It started off with the county Info Tech leaving hers on the workbench on the apparatus floor. A dainty thing, it laid there for almost a month before she came and picked it up. I saw it every time I climbed into the rig and I incessantly commented on what a worthless piece of crap it must be.

 Of course I played with it a little bit. A power tool is a power tool and is always worth checking out - no matter how sissified it may appear. The first thing that I noticed was that the charge never ran down, despite me and several other firefighters constantly messing with it.  I also noticed that for its sissy la-la size, it did seem to produce adequate torque.

It felt pretty good in my hand, the ergonomics seemed good for most actually. The more I messed with it, the more my scorn turned to curiosity. Maybe this tool was OK for (WARNING - TYPICAL MALE SEXIST STATEMENT ALERT!!) women, small boys and men who lacked the testosterone to own a real driver. Yet, I knew this tool was no match for my most manly De Walt 18v drill/driver.

I decided that I would send a blanket e-mail and if no one claimed it I would take it home and let the Saint I Am Married To "try it out".

It's rightful owner showed up a few days later.

"Man, I'm sure glad you guys didn't kype this" she said "I use it every day. I've had to use my old one since this one went missing."

Of course I grilled her on how long the charge lasted, how did she use it, did it ever not meet her needs etc. She gave it glowing reviews, then packed it up and left the station. Now my curiosity was getting the best of me. After lunch, we jumped on the rig and headed over to Starmer's Hardware.

They had two different models, a cheaper one that had kind of a weak looking directional switch and this one.  This one also came with more bits and a charging stand. I think I paid 40 bucks or so. I probably could have saved a few bucks by going to Home Depot, but there isn't one in our first-in district and I wanted it before I went home.

I gotta say. I love this thing! I use it all the time. I hardly ever pull out the De Walt any more, nor do I use my ratcheting screwdriver much. It is so convenient that I just grab it.

If you need to pull a panel off of the A/C unit or the back off of a stove, this is the tool for you. Lock sets, furniture assembly - you name it, it is the best tool for the job. I noticed one of the electricians that was working at my house the other day had one and was using it to remove receptacles.

In these pics, note that I just drove this wood screw into the 4x4. That's about as big of a screw as I would drive with this, and if I had to do more than one, I would break out the De Walt.

Still, not bad for a small driver like this. Counter sinking and a pilot hole would have made this a piece of cake.

I go months without charging it, though I don't use it every day and sometimes go several weeks without touching it. It always works.

So, whether your a handy-man, gentleman farmer, soccer mom or just someone who needs to drive a screw, you won't get screwed in buying this driver.


Disclaimer: Joseph R. Schmoe, his friends, family or members of the Kinda Big Fire Protection District have received no compensation or merchandise in the evaluation of this product. Should Skil, De Walt, Bosch or any other tool manufacturer feel the need to give something away, please contact Capt. Schmoe at the e-mail address listed on his profile. He will be glad to accommodate you.

Ya never know who might be reading this, it can't hurt!.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Overheard On The Radio

Engine 38 on scene, we have two cars involved, one with major damage to the front end. Looks like one person still in the vehicle, stand by for further.

Dispatch, Engine 38, we have a total of three patients, one moderate, one major and one minor. Start another engine and an additional ambulance.

Dispatch, Engine 38, I copy Engine 34 will be my second engine. Be advised my first ambulance is on scene.

Engine 34, Engine 38, When you arrive on scene, bring your irons up to my location, I want to you pry this door.

It was at this point that I put my beer down and marked the time on my watch. I wondered how long it would take before the Captain on E38 would request a truck company.  Much to my surprise, the request never came. Whatever plan Engine 38 Captain had worked out proved to be successful.

Personally, even if I thought a door could be popped with a hand tool, I would still holler for a truck, just in case it didn't work out. As a young firefighter, I witnessed old guys prying on a door to no avail. That newfangled DOT pin was just too tough. I saw this more than once. Call it overkill if you want, but I learned from the experience.

I'm not being critical of E-38 Captain, I wasn't there and I didn't see what he saw - I was home, sipping a beer, watching Green Bay kick the crap out of Atlanta. I'm just sayin' that if I can't get into a car with my bare hands, I am getting a line on the ground and am calling for a truck company.

I still will try to get access with a hand tool, especially if I have the people available - I might just get lucky and the door will pop. Probably not though, then I will be a happy captain when the truck pulls up. If we do get lucky, I can always turn the truck around.

On a side note, it's always a good idea to manually unlock the door before trying to open it. I've pulled up on scene a few times, reached in the car, unlocked the door then opened it - all before the crew could get the tools off the truck company. It's awesome, the engine captain is usually embarrassed, my crew is pissed that they unloaded the tools and didn't get to use them and it makes me look good. It doesn't get any better than that.

I'm glad it worked out for Engine 38 though. The captain sounded young, maybe he hasn't been caught short yet. If it does happen to him, he will learn from it, just as I did. I have to tell you, I learn something every day.

That's the nature of my business.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Major Dick Winters 1918 - 2011

A true American hero, one of the greatest of America's greatest generation.

I don't know how I missed this, but Maj. Winters passed away on January 2nd. Major Winters was a regular guy who was presented with the challenges of command during World War Two and rose to exemplify exceptional combat leadership. I had heard he was in poor health, but just learned of his passing today.

Although Major Winters abilities were recognized in military circles for years, he received broad recognition in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers, which was based on the book by Steven Ambrose.  Major Winters was the commander of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment from D-Day until being promoted out of Easy company. Some of Winter's exploits are still taught in infantry school.

I never had the honor of meeting Major Winters, my knowledge of him comes from Ambros's book and another one written by Major Winters himself. Great leaders posses certain qualities that cannot be taught or trained for. By all accounts, Major Winters was born with these traits. If not for men like him, ordinary Schmoes who rose to defeat fascism, you would likely be reading this in German, if at all.

To the Winters family, my deepest condolences. To you he was dad, uncle or grandpa. To us he was a hero, we owe him our gratitude.

Rest in peace, Maj. Winters.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I don't Speak Russian....

...I can't read it either. However, even I can figure out what this means:

Frankly, I find these pictographs easier to comprehend than the ones on U.S. fire extinguishers. Maybe it's because I can relate to this type of extinguishing agent more than I can Monoammonium Phosphate!

I saw this picture on the blog Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated and thought it quite humorous. I did a little research and found that the image is of a bottle of "Fire Extinguisher" brand beer, a product of Russia. Although I will likely never get to sample this product, I have to give props to it's marketing department. You have to admit, it's definitely more clever than "Billy Beer".

There is more info (in English) on this potentially delightful product HERE. I hope you all have a great weekend and GO PACKERS!

Thanks for reading,
an optimistic Schmoe

Friday, January 14, 2011

Take-a-way / Give-a-way

I get it, I really do. I see it in the faces of the business owners when I walk in the door to inspect them, I see it in the eyes of the former Sax Fifth Avenue shoppers that are now driving their 5 year old Suburbans to Wal-Mart and I see the results when the lien sales are held on the steps of the courthouse. A big chunk of our country is hurting and hurting bad.

We here at the K.B.F.P.D. have been pretty fortunate, our pain has been pretty minor. The positions that we have lost have been mostly support and prevention personnel. Most of those spots were through retirements or some other form of attrition. A few that we have let go have found gigs with other governmental agencies and we have even hired one inspector back.

Even though we have done OK so far, we know that a lot of people are not so lucky. We also know that there is tremendous pressure being placed on our governing board to reduce costs as much as possible. The groundswell of people demanding spending reform has grown into a tsunami of anti-public employee sentiment. Some of this sentiment is justified, some is not. Regardless, smart local government is being proactive and trying to head some of these issues off at the pass. For the most part, our governing entity is fairly smart and has taken steps in cutting costs and is intent on reducing costs further.

That is why I was not that surprised when the district asked to meet and confer regarding wages and working conditions a little early this go around. Nor was I surprised when an agreement was reached in a rapid fashion. We are not stupid either and realize that this is not the environment where we want to get all militant and everything. The district and the association are both smart enough to realize that neither side benefits when our issues are spread across the front page of the local newspaper and commented upon in the editorial page.

The district has the wave of public opinion on their side right now, much as we did immediately after the terrorist attacks of 2001. That adds to their power, it decreases ours. We know it as do they. To the district's credit, they didn't exploit it unreasonably, but they did use it.

In a nutshell, existing members of the K.B.F.P.D. will not lose any wages or benefits, with the exception of members absorbing the cost of an insurance policy, which will cost each member about ninety bucks a month. However, new hires, will be placed into a different retirement plan, one that will require them to work five years longer to receive the maximum benefit and also requires them to pay for half of the cost of this plan.

There are a few of us that feel we are selling out future member's financial security in exchange for saving our own skin. However, most of us feel that the external influences are affecting this issue are so strong, this is a necessary measure. 

That is going to save the district a ton of money, especially down the road. More importantly, they/we can say that we have instituted a pension reform plan, one that takes a real bite out of costs. Whether that will satisfy the horde of media representatives and their clamor about pensions remains to be seen. Some of the hyperbole about this issue defies rational debate and is more about selling ad space than about accurately presenting the issues. That subject is worth a post of it's own, I'm just not sure it's worth the trouble.

For those of you who have lost your jobs, our concessions probably seem insignificant. In comparison to your troubles, they are. Some of you have suffered even more severe reductions in wages and benefits, I understand your plight as well.

For those of you who have not suffered at all or have even prospered during this time of economic turmoil, I am happy for you and I cheer your good fortune. I only hope that some of your windfall can help alleviate someone else's  pain.

It is my sincere desire that this period of economic strife ends and we can all have a sense of financial security. I wish I had the knowledge to make this happen, alas it is not so. Until it does happen, good luck to all anyway.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Karma - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Back in November, I wrote a post about how a chance encounter with a homeless woman and our twisted humor afterward had been followed by an early morning goose chase. It was called Karma and it described our second meeting of the shift, that one at 0300.

Well, it would appear that our sick sense of humor has caused us further grief as we were again summoned to her bridge last shift. This time however, it was a much better situation for me, I was off of the unit when the call went down. It was also much better for my crew, as the call came in just after morning coffee rather than just after closing time.

The other good thing about this call  is that she didn't call this time, a passer by did after seeing the smoke come up from under the bridge. Apparently, the somewhat spun woman had decided to perform some spring cleaning around her domicile under the bridge.

She had piled up all of the paint cans in one pile as she knew she couldn't burn those. All of the glass items were another pile, as were other recyclables. All of the other trash was blazing away, having been piled into a neat heap then set alight.

As this occurred down near the rail bed, it took several hundred feet of hose to reach the cleansing fire and It was quickly handled and my crew was picking the line when our homeless heroine asked if they could do something about the empty chemical containers that had been dumped near the bridge.

A quick look at the containers revealed that they would require a haz-mat response and my crew came to the realization that they would be on scene for several hours. Although I didn't know who the involved homeless person was, I laughed to myself as I heard my engineer communicate with dispatch about the incident. - I was listening over the radio.

The story was related to me when I returned to the station later that evening, and again, I found it funny.
Here it is in January and the butt of our jokes on that November day was still causing us grief - what goes around comes around.

The question now is, when does this stop being an issue of karma and become one of her simply being a pain in the ass?

Thanks for reading,


Sorry for not getting some comments posted, we were having some issues with our internet connection at work yesterday. As the KBFPD has a strict IT policy regarding internet usage, we have to resort to a Rube Goldberg kind of device to get access in the station. I usually works pretty well, but yesterday not so much.

It was probably a good thing, as I am working on a PR project for the district. I shot over 200 pictures yesterday and I needed to get it down to about 25 edited shots. I worked on it until after midnight as it was, a blog post would have made it worse. I was really happy with a few of them, sadly I can't post them here. The project will be seen by quite a few people and I feel fortunate to participate in it.

I hope to do a regular post tonight, we'll see how that goes. I still have a lot of editing to do before shooting another full day tomorrow.

If I had better skills, I wouldn't need to shoot so many pictures and do as much editing. I'm working on that, I am starting a class in a few weeks, I hope it is worthwhile, but my fear is that it will make me even more picky and cause me to shoot even more and spend more time on processing.  Hmmm...

Until then, thanks for reading.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I finally figured out what that "monochrome" setting was for on my camera:

Back when I was a rookie firefighter for the Tiny City Fire Dept, I used to shoot a little 35mm film. I used a lot of black and white as it was a lot cheaper to purchase and develop. I haven't shot a black and white photo since 1983 or 1984. Today, I was watching some guys drill with a hydraulic powered circular saw and thought I'd snap a few. I opted for the monochrome setting on the camera as I was feeling a little nostalgic.

The camera is focused on the front of the helmet flashlight in the foreground, blurring nicely to the guys using the saw. I liked it enough to post.

Some things are just better in color.

A brilliant winter sunset lent an orange hue to this normally lemon yellow hydrant. I don't mean to boast, but the high on the day this was shot was in the high 60s. The oranges are almost ripe, another week or so and they will be ready.

I must tell you that there is nothing like getting a hankerin' for an orange, walking to the tree and helping yourself. For many of us, it is a rapidly disappearing experience. Development and high water costs have made a lot of groves disappear. I am lucky, as The Saint has a parcel of dirt with a few trees on it. Heaven on a branch!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Firefighters vs. Cops

While perusing through my Google Reader blog list this morning, I came across this post by Mr. Police Man.
 It posed a good question. Why is it that cops and firemen often don't get along all that well?

I am sure that many of us have seen the funny videos on You-Tube and have read the various stereotypical jokes on the cop and fire blogs. As with most humor, there is usually some element of truth to them, though it is usually very minor and shouldn't really be used to compare the two groups.

I, like Mr. Police Man, have friends that wear the other shape of badge. It would appear that my oldest son may be pursuing that line of work at some point in the future. As I did some time in the Arson Bureau, my partners were detectives from a local law enforcement agency.  I've been able to look through a slightly ajar door into cop land and I think it enlightened me as to why there are some fundamental differences between the two groups.

The very nature of the two jobs is different. Though there are some significant similarities, the emotional and psychological approach to them is entirely different. These differences are necessary to the well being of both groups. The mindset of one group and the way they approach their job isn't going to work well for the other. Theses different mindsets are ingrained in cadets from the time they start their intro class, through their perspective  academies and then into their initial time in the field. The nature of their /our jobs require these different mindsets - it is a matter of survival for the cops.

My level of training as an arson investigator was nowhere near that of a street cop. I did however, take numerous law enforcement courses which enabled me to do my job. One of the major mantras that I heard throughout my POST and other training was that maintaining your situational awareness always, on duty and off was critical and that one was never to place himself in a tactical disadvantage, whether dealing with a suspect or shopping with the wife.

While I believe those concepts are absolutely critical for the survival of cops, I also believe that an "us vs. them" mindset may be an unwanted side effect. Firefighters are in a kind of limbo when to comes to this phenomenon - to cops, we really aren't "us" nor are we "them".

Another factor in the equation is that we actually compete for resources, both personal and departmental. Both departments are struggling for budget dollars, both bargaining groups are negotiating for wages and benefits out of the same funding source. My agency usually gets along OK with the various law enforcement agencies except for two specific times. The first is election time, especially if we are supporting different candidates in local elections.  The other is negotiating time. As my association negotiates with the county at the same time as the sheriff's association, it can get kind of ugly.

Women can cause conflict. Sometimes, members of both groups are competing for the attention of a certain female, that leads to an increase of ill will. We have had some of our members date the ex-wives of cops, a situation that was not well received among some of our b-band brothers. The wives of a few of our members have had cops waiting in the wings, should the relationship go bad - again not a situation to improve cop - firefighter relations.

I also think there is a small jealousy factor at times. We DO have a better schedule and the public DOES tend to love us a little more. But, the reality is that I know I am not suited to the Po-Po gig and I suspect many cops are not suited to mine.

Having said all of that, the best that I think we can really hope for is kind of a brotherly love situation where we might fuss over some things, but when it really matters, we have each others backs.

This is why I say that:


Firefighters along with officers, carrying a mortally wounded officer out of a house with the armed suspect holed up in another part of the house. The scene was not secure and there was really no cover or concealment. Their only defense was other officers covering their route through the yard and down the street to the ambulance. One of the firefighters involved in that episode is a friend of mine, the incident screwed him up for a while. Tragically their efforts were to no avail.


A couple of our firefighters were received atta-boys after stopping to assist a deputy who was involved in a celebrity death-match with a local denizen. The fight had been going on for a little while and the denizen was getting the better of the deal. For some reason, back-up for the officer was delayed. The rescue happened to be driving by, saw what was occurring and jumped in. It still took a while to resolve the issue, but the good guys prevailed.

On another occasion, one of our members, along with a couple of officers, performed a flag ceremony over the body of a fallen officer. Most of the local sheriff's honor guard was busy looking for the suspect and were not available. Our firefighter happened to be a member of the honor guard and was able to quickly obtain a flag and perform the ceremony. I choked up when he told me about it, just as I am now.


The reasons why we may fuss at times are many and varied. When pared to the core however, it really doesn't matter. The reality is when the shit hits the fan, I have your back Mr. Police Man and I trust you have mine.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The store manger met us at the front door. "We had a small fire in the clothing department" she told us. "One of the clerks put it out with a a fire extinguisher." We walked back into the store, through the hair coloring, band-aids and into the small clothing department. A light haze hung in the air, a combination of smoke and dry chemical extinguishing agent. We brought a can and a TIC with us, two small items which can do and save a lot of work.

As we neared the shelf, we could see a layer of yellow powder on the floor with an extinguisher set down in the middle of it. We looked at the shelve and could see damage to the packages on three separate levels. One of the damaged areas was definitely a separate start from the others.

I looked closer and saw that the fire was indeed out. No need for either the TIC or the can.

While I was there I took a good look and saw that there was no electrical power or appliances in the shelving unit.. I looked for evidence of a thunderstorm inside the building or for the incinerated corpse of a mouse with a cigar in his mouth or the remains of a match in his paw. Negative on both of those as well. As the shelves didn't contain any vegetable oil soaked rags or baled/compressed organic materials, I ruled out spontaneous combustion.

It looked like the fire may have been a deliberate act. Damn, it looked like our next hour or so would be spent waiting on an investigator. I made the request, fifty four minutes, thirty eight seconds later I hear the investigator go on scene over the radio.  It took her about five minutes to work her way into the big-box drugstore.

I give her the rundown on what happened, who did what, what the security camera saw and what we found. As I had once been an investigator, I helped her poke around the area of origin. 

As with any fire cause investigation, we started away from the area of origin and worked toward the place where the fire started. We looked in the aisles next to the fire and found nothing out of the ordinary. We looked through the socks at the end of the aisle where the fire occurred, nothing was amiss there either.  The bikini panty section was normal as was the shelves containing the humorous cartoon character panties. The small section of shelves containing thongs was unmolested, the only damage was to 15 or twenty pairs of cotton briefs, size L and XL.

I listened as the investigator as she used the district's $50 camera to document the area of origin. "What do you think, Schmoe?" she asked.

"I think we are dealing with a white or hispanic male, 25 to 30 years old, likely the father of  a small child" was my reply.

"I think you're full of shit" she  firmly stated.

"Maybe so" I retorted, "but whoever it was, they sure hated granny panties."

"Whatever, you guys can clear".

Maybe there's a reason I'm not in investigations any more.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm Just Sayin'

The opinions stated in this post do not reflect the opinion of the Kinda Big Fire Protection District, The Kinda Big Firefighter's Association or the management of either organization. They are the sole position of the author. 


There has been a tremendous amount of media attention focused on the U.S. Navy over the last few days, the overwhelming majority of it regarding some videos that were produced on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. These videos were produced under the direction of the Enterprise's Executive Officer Captain Owen Honors, by all accounts an exemplary naval command officer. Honors was held in such high regard, that he was promoted to Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise since the videos were made.

According to media accounts, the videos were produced on board the Enterprise and were shown on the ship's CCTV network. At least some of the videos were intended to be humorous or satirical in nature and poked fun at some of the odd living situations that arise on board the ship.

It appears that some of the videos offended someone, who leaked at least three videos to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, who in turn published an article about the footage and posted them on their website. The news networks picked up the story and the rest (as is Capt. Honors as it turns out) is history.

I watched the three videos that the Virginian-Pilot has up on their website. They are crude in places, vulgar in a few others. They contain a lot of "inside" humor that few outside of the navy or perhaps even the U.S.S. Enterprise will "get". There is profanity, including the "Queen Mother of  All Bad Words", poopie humor, and insinuated sexual situations including bestiality and homosexual activities. Other than the profanity, everything that I saw could be viewed on network television after 10 PM.

My mother and my pastor would be terribly offended. I thought most of it was humorous, though silly is a few places.Get a few beers in me and I would be rolling on the floor in laughter, maybe even peeing myself.

What does offend me is the self righteous indignation that the media has displayed while reporting this story and the lack of fortitude on behalf of the Navy in their response. The hypocrisy of bombarding the masses with crude humor on television for the sole purpose of selling ad space, then going after Capt. Honors for his videos is ridiculous. In the era of shock-jocks, an un-censored internet and Jerry Springer, a puritanical warrior class is impractical, if not absurd. Outtakes of newsroom audio, city desk rants and the poor behavior of many media icons further highlights the hypocrisy involved with this story.

That a few sailors may have been offended by these videos is of some concern, although almost any activity can be found offensive by somebody. Plenty of things offend me, I just don't expect anybody to provide relief to my indignation.

My primary concerns for a naval captain, is that he protects to the best of ability, his ship, his sailors and the fleet from harm; that he delivers ordinance on the proper target at tge proper time and that he kills as many of the enemy that is required to fulfill his assigned mission. The ancillary components to support the primary mission are important as well. According to most accounts, Honors fulfilled all of these missions.

Would I have produced these videos were I in Honor's position? Likely no. I say likely because I really don't have any knowledge of the naval aviator culture or the shipboard culture. I suspect there are some similarities between firehouse culture and shipboard culture, but I really don't know. I do know that the Chief of the KBFPD would not see the humor of these videos and would not condone their production.

There is much speculation as to whether Honor's superiors knew of the videos and their content. As they appeared to be produced over several years, I believe they did. I also believe that Honor's superiors didn't have a major issue with them, as they promoted him long after they were produced and broadcast. 

Some will respond to this posting and argue that the issue isn't about humor but about judgment. I agree, but again, I don't care about Honor's judgment in regards to humor or taste, I care about his judgment in regards to warfare. That is what we pay him to do, the rest is just bullshit, as was his firing.

I'm just sayin'.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Places I Would Like To Work A Shift Or Two

This is one of those places that I've driven by a bajillion times. On my way to the Sierras, The Inyos, The El Pasos, and parts of Death Valley, I drive by a sign that says "Randsburg 1 mile". Usually, I just keep going, in a hurry to get where I'm going or to get home.

A little while back, I stopped in to grab some lunch. The place is a living ghost town, a little town trapped in a time warp. Randsburg was formed as a mining town, supporting the many mines in the area. As mining has pretty much died off, Randsburg has somehow remained, relying on tourism to survive.

It is protected by the Kern County Fire Dept, Station No. 75.

I spoke with the crew on duty the day we stopped by. They are staffed with two persons on duty, a captain and a medic. It is a slow station, but as is common with locations like this, when they do get something, it can be quite ugly.

They protect a large chunk of U.S. hwy 395, a road that my family calls blood highway. The immediate area is a huge off-road recreation area, which leads to bloody mayhem, particularly in the cooler months. Although we didn't discuss it, I am sure that a lot of trauma and medical patients are flown out, especially the ones that are located out in the weeds.

Additional help is a long ways off, so these folks are on their own for quite a while when there are multiple patients or something burns.

Randsburg has a downtown, including a small store with a restaurant inside. They have cold beer and great burgers. It is owned by a lady who is a school teacher, who works in Ridgecrest about 40 minutes away.
Randsburg also boasts a suburb:


And plenty of free parking:

Note that the above parking lot is designated for off-road vehicles. Randsburg is the only town that I know of where you can actually ride your quad into town, grab lunch and ice, then ride back to camp. Randsburg relies heavily upon off-roaders to support their local economy.

While I don't think I would want to be stationed here (especially in the summer), a shift or two would be cool. Maybe someday I will get the chance to do a ride-a-long over a busy holiday weekend. 

If you ever happen to be driving on Hwy 395, between Kramer Junction and Ridgecrest and are looking for a bite to eat, make the drive into Randsburg and go the General Store. You won't be disappointed.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 3, 2011


For those of you who think you have a pair, you need to see this. This is how you find out.

The Sal Giunta Story from SebastianJunger/TimHetherington on Vimeo.

As some of you know, I am paying a little more attention to stuff like this these days. If it's guys like these who will be taking care of my kid, he is probably going to be OK.

Strong work fellas.

Thanks to the crew over at the Goomba News Network for posting this.

Thanks to you for reading,

A humble Schmoe

Back At It

I woke up this morning exactly one hour before I needed to. I rolled over, careful not to crush the tiniest of the dogs, and shut off the redundant alarm, lest it awaken my wife. I thought about how nice it would be to stay in bed and about I'd really rather stay at home rather than go to work.

It would appear that my holiday hiatus was not quite long enough. Twenty eight years ago, the only reason that I ever took time off was because they made me. The days off segment of my work cycle were more than long enough for me to do what I wanted to do, in fact they seemed too long. As the district had a strict vacation use policy, I was forced to take 4 shifts off per year, whether I wanted to or not. As I had no seniority, I usually got four shifts off in January or February. Frankly it was a waste.

Now, I get Ten shifts off for vacation and five shifts off for holidays. I can take those shifts when I want to, as long as I arrange the person to fill the OT slot for me. I work time exchanges for the other captains in my area and I expect them to pay me back in December. As a result I was off for pretty much the whole month.

It was a bitch coming in today. I really enjoyed my time off and I put it to good use. I took a couple of camping trips, prepared for Christmas, finished some projects and did some cleaning. I enjoyed being home every night, the dogs and my wife enjoyed having me around every day and enjoyed them. It was just a relaxing time, the type of lifestyle that I could get used to.

Today was my first day back. I was in my office no more than five minutes when I was informed of a meeting between the captains in my district and the district commander. This was kind of a farewell meeting for him as he is being transferred to another district. The meeting was short and sweet, most of the important stuff had been disseminated electronically beforehand. There were some questions that required answering and some gripes that we wanted to lay on him before he left. We knew the new guy (a brand new district commander) was going to be reluctant to move our whiny complaints up the food chain, so the old guy had to hear us bitch.

In addition to the new boss, I am losing a member of my crew to another shift. He is a good medic and I will miss working with him. His replacement has been on a while, though I don't know him very well. The transfer takes place in a couple of days and it will take a few shifts for us to get used to the new member of our crew and a while for him to get used to us.

Foo, the Captain on the other shift is out. He is going to another station, one that he requested. He gets a bonus for the new assignment, but I still think he should have stayed put.

Foo's replacement is a guy named Sloven. Another guy that I don't know real well but one that has a reputation of being a bit eccentric. I don't think that he gets along with Theb, the third captain in my station. That will be an interesting situation, I will likely be asked to pick sides if it becomes a conflict. I will likely sit this one out, I just don't see any need to get involved in a silly quarrel at this point.

I plowed through a ton of e-mails this morning and a stuffed in basket. That went pretty fast, the delete button eliminated most of them.

Our station inspection is coming up, today was our last day to get some things done before it occurs. Fortunately, we won't be here on inspection day, we will be on days off. I am not sorry that I will miss it.

It's been a busy day and I am done. I hope to get some pics up in the next few days. Until then stay warm and dry.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rose Parade Rememberance

Happy New Year everybody. It's 0800 local and I am getting ready to watch the 2011 Tournament of Roses parade. Kind of sissy I know, but I like to get up early on New Years day and watch it. This year, there is a unique float in the parade, one that I felt worth posting about.

This is the artists conception of a float honoring the fallen in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The effort was spearheaded by Jerry Thomsen, a Los Angeles County firefighter who responded to the WTC disaster in New York.

The event so impacted Jerry that he decided to put together a committee, establish a non-profit and build a float for this year's parade, the 10th anniversary of the event.

Through his and countless others hard work they succeeded and the float is lined up as I write this.

What an amazing effort and tribute. I don't know if the float is full funded, but you can donate to the cause and purchase merchandise at THE FLOAT COMMITTEE"S WEBSITE.

Strong work Jerry, I hope you don't mind, but I kyped these pics off of your web-site. Good luck and Happy New Year to all involved.

And, Happy New Year to all of you readers.

Thanks for reading,