Wednesday, March 28, 2012


For persons wanting to promote to engineer, there is a natural progression of apparatus certifications that they usually train for and obtain.

First comes the squad certs, usually completed within a year or two after coming off of probation. Then either engine certification or perhaps water tender certification. Eventually, the engineer wanna-be will have to address getting certified on the ladder trucks.

Our ladder certification is divided into two separate certs, front and rear. The rear focuses on tillering (of course) equipment and basic aerial operation while the front half certification is centered on driving the tractor, systems and thorough operational detail.

While on a visit to admin/training the other day, I found truck 2 at the tower, preparing their firefighter for certifying on the front of the tiller. I snapped a few pics and liked this one the best.

Steve, who is the engineer on the unit, is signaling the operator of the ladder to extend it onto the landing of the exterior stairway. The objective is to place the ladder past the rail of the landing and above it so that the ladder will not make contact with any part of the structure, even when loaded or when bouncing around as people climb it.

As it is very difficult to precisely determine how close the tip of the ladder is to the objective, a spotter is used to determine the proper extension. Communication is done through hand signals, the above photo depicts the hand signal for extend.

"Dinging" a ladder is a costly error, repairs aren't cheap and the ladder must be thoroughly inspected and tested, even for the smallest of dings. Spotters are cheap and save a lot of grief, that's why we use them when possible. As with tillering, communication between the crew members is vital, poor communication equals costly mistakes.


While perusing Dave Statter's Blog yesterday, I found a helmet-cam video showing San Bernardino City firefighters making an initial attack and rescue at a single family dwelling fire. The video pretty well captures that way initial attack is performed around here and shows the way to overcome chaos and the "fog of war". Strong work by the SBFD. Click on the above link and check it out.

 San Bernardino is a similar sized city located just across the county line from us. The city is in a continuous state of economic strife and therefore sees a lot of fire. They had a pretty good apartment fire yesterday, if a video shows up I'll let you know.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 26, 2012


We used to screw with Carl. Pretty hard under the circumstances. He was a mountain of a man, a usually gentle giant with a vein of anger usually only displayed when riding in the left seat of the rig. 

A captain for years, Carl was loved by most of the old bastards. His warm heart and willingness to help anybody out far outweighed any anger that he directed toward ignorant drivers who refused to get out of the engine's way or engineers who disagreed on the route to a call. I can remember riding on the tailboard to a call, looking over the hose bed and watching him and Smitty gesticulating furiously at each other over a disagreement on the proper route to an incident.

Carl's massive middle finger could occasionally be seen extended through the captain's window, accompanied by a string of profanity. It was usually directed at someone who did not heed to the warning devices on the engine or someone who chose to ignore them and fail to get out of the way. Carl got away with that behavior quite a few time before a changing culture and one too many complaints caught up with him.

Carl worked at 10's, a single company house located in a peaceful orange grove. Occasionally, he would work an overtime at one of the multi-company stations. As the big houses were often filled with youngsters, ones who hadn't learned to love Carl the way the old bastards did, Carl occasionally got screwed with.  Carl's OCD is what made him an easy target.

Carl's display of OCD mainly manifested itself by him compulsively straightening the top two drawers of the captains desk and carefully placing the assorted desktop accoutrements in a precise order. It didn't make any difference which station he was at, this ritual would occur shortly after roll call and as needed after that.  As the top drawer of the desk is the one that contains all of the stationery supplies that are needed to make civil service work, people were in and out of it all day long. If Carl hadn't worked at a location for a while, the drawers could be quite a mess before he arrived to put them in order.

Once this compulsion was realized by us pot-stirrers, it became great sport to walk by the desk and mess it up, even if we had no business in it. Carl never said a word about it, he just straightened it up again, as many times as needed to maintain deskatorial order. I remember personally messing up the desk several times in one day, then returning an hour later to find it in perfect arrangement - as if a Feng-shuei disciple had used it for a teaching example. I was just one of several who tried Carl's patience in those days. If he ever realized that we were screwing with him we will never know. I don't think it made any difference to him, desktop order would be maintained - regardless of the cause.

Carl passed away a few years after retiring, many of the old bastards still lament his loss. Although I was never close to Carl, age and wisdom has made me realize what a good guy Carl really was and that it was a little cruel to screw with him, especially when doing so for our amusement.

It's funny that I thought of Carl while trying to put my own desk in order. I could tell that one of my kids tore it apart while searching for some office supply or another. The way that all of the paper clips were spilled and the box was  overturned indicated that the offender probably knew that he had made a mess but didn't think to pick up after himself.  Typical teenage behavior I'd guess, though a deliberate act cannot be ruled out. My kids know how annoyed I get when MY stuff gets screwed with and they are their father's sons. A little mirth at my expense would not be out of the question. What goes around comes around. I guess.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reader's Rigs - Onesquethaw Vol. Fire Co.

Jim, a reader and member of the Onesquethaw Vol. Fire Co.  noted my affinity for white fire apparatus  (the color not the manufacturer) and sent me a picture of Engine 25-30, a 2002 HME/Marion pumper-tanker from his department.

I like the way that this unit looks and there are several features on it that I like even more. First of all it's white, with subtle blue and gold accent lines on the cab, with the blue line continuing down the hose body.  I also like the way the cab's roof-line  is raised at the back, easing the transition to the large hose body. I find the name "Rolling White Thunder" to be appropriate and like that it's painted above the grill.

That large hose body covers a 2000 gallon water tank and a 1500 gpm pump. There is nothing that states "I have lots of water on board"  like two rear axles and a plus sized hose body.  As hydrants are few and far between in their part of Albany County, all of Onesquethaw's engines have at least 1000 gallon tanks. If there isn't water where you're going, you had better bring it with you.

The roll-up compartment doors are handy, it's pretty hard to rip them off if you try to leave the station with them open. Ask me how I know..

The swiveling front suction, mounted on the the front bumper is also a handy feature. It's pretty hard to miss a hydrant spot with one of these, they allow for a wide range of correction without moving the rig. If the pump and plumbing is tight enough, you can also draft with it.

How handy would it be it to just pull straight in to your water source, hook the hard suction to the swivel, then nose the bumper right up to or even slightly over the edge of the water source? I can tell you it's nice. We used to order them on our rigs, but have discontinued the practice. I missed them.

I thought this a nice rig and thought that I'd share it with you. Thanks to Jim for allowing me to post the picture and thanks to you for reading. Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What's at Willie's

I hadn't been by Willie's in a while. I knew there was cool stuff there, but each time I was in the neighborhood, I was either on a mission or I had somewhere to be. Finally, I just made the time and drove over. I wasn't disappointed.

 A 1939 Buick Century. complete with dual side-mounted spare tires and covers. I believe that this car was here for a pre-buy inspection, always a good idea when purchasing a used car, especially one that is 73 years old. I'm looking to buy a used Toyota Camry, I'll probably have Willie take a look at it before I sign  Ya just never know.

I'm not sure, but I think Wayne Carini would probably call this car a survivor, one that has managed to live a long time without being restored. It appears to have the original paint and running gear, although the interior seems to have been replaced. It's straight and unique and I like the lines of it.

It drives, I kind of expected Vito Corleone to hop out of it as it pulled up.

I liked the badges and thought they enhanced the black and chrome that dominated the car.

The trim had a very art-deco feel.

As did the profile.

As someone who used to cut people out of mangled cars for a living, I couldn't help but notice the lack of padding on the steering wheel and dash. I don't remember seeing seat belts either. I'm guessing intrusion wasn't as much of an issue as inertia vs. immovable objects.

I found this to be a nice pre-war car, one that would be fun to own and drive. I don't know whether it would be best to spend a bunch of cash to restore it, whether it would be better to leave it as is and store it or just drive it. Regardless, it will likely provide the new owner (assuming it changes hands) a great deal of pleasure. Just what it was designed to do.

As I've said before, there's always something cool at Willie's.

On this day, there were several cool things at Willie's. The Buick, an old Plymouth, a Kaiser and a '60s vintage Mustang. That's a sight that you don't see in many garages. You don't see too many floors that clean either.

Thanks to Willie for letting me hang out with my camera, thanks to you for reading,


Monday, March 19, 2012

Vehicle Fires Can Be a Drag

Vehicle fires can be fun, especially when they are well involved and producing significant flame. They can also be a real drag too, especially when you can't get the hood open, a sealed cylinder pops or you have a three dimensional flammable liquid fire. Or, when you get caught on the rig in a prom dress and the damn shoulder strap on your gown keeps slipping off.

It looks like the prom princesses in the above video had a little fun and found the incident to be a drag when they on-sited a vehicle fire while all dollied up for a parade in Padua, MN. The firefighters, who were from the Sedan Fire Dept, did exactly what any firefighter would do, they grabbed a hoseline and put the fire out.

It looks like they modified their tactics to their attire and I'd bet that a properly attired crew arrived soonly to complete the extinguishment and overhaul.

Comments over at Statter 911 run the gamut, with some folks lambasting the pair for not being in their PPE and others praising their actions. After viewing the video, I would have to say that the risks they took were not extreme and, under the circumstances, probably appropriate.

Regardless, the video is awesome and the pair gets a "Firefighter of the Shift Award" from Capt. Schmoe. Strong work ladies er..I mean laddies.

Thanks to Dave Statter over at Statter 911  for getting this video out there.

Thanks to you, for reading,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Divine Intervention

It was the early nineties. I was working at 2s, on the truck with Theodocious Attrocious. The honeymoon period with the new fire chief (hired from outside) was over and the opening salvos of a long and bloody war had been fired.

I had taken the captain's test four times, finishing well mostly, but a slow officer's retirement rate had severely limited the number of promotions over the past several years. A disciplinary issue involving my mouth, had caused me to place sixth on the 1992 list, the lowest I had ever placed. Five people had been promoted off of it, but it was set to expire in six weeks. Things were not looking good for me and I needed to start hitting the books again for the '93 test.

Frankly, I wasn't up for it. The war with the chief was dragging me down, It was already draining the energy from several of us who were involved with the union. My disciplinary issue would likely remain a limiting factor for some time, at least until a few of the chiefs retired. I made up my mind that I wasn't going to test again.

People were starting to ask me about the test. Some were curious about the competition, some were gauging how bad I wanted the job by listening to my words, then watching to see if my preparation matched them. Most were surprised when I said that I wasn't going to test any more.

This went on for a few weeks. One evening in early January, 1993 I walked into the kitchen at 2s. There were probably 5 or 6 guys int here, waiting for dinner. Somebody started in on me about the captain's test. My answer was the same, I told them that I was done testing - it was an engineer's life for me. My co-workers ramped up the level of conversation a bit, trying to set me off about the matter. I was more than happy to oblige, I never turn down an opportunity to express my opinion.

A few minutes later, Ted walked in and told me that the captain from station 10B had just resigned and that I would probably be promoted in mid February.

I thought I he was pulling my leg, people just don't resign from the fire department, unless they are in deep deep trouble. Steve, the captain who was resigning, was not the kind of guy to get in that kind of trouble. He was a couple of years too young to retire, there was no way he was leaving.

I called Ted's bluff and phoned Steve over at 10's. As it turned out, Ted's play wasn't a bluff. Steve had tendered his resignation. He was leaving the department to become an associate pastor at a large church in town. It was a decision that he had thought about and had prayed over for quite some time and truly felt called to leave and take the pastor's position. Two weeks later, he was gone.

A few weeks after that, the chief of whom we do not speak was pinning a captain's badge on my chest. I bet he wishes he could take that move back!

Later, when the old bastards would ask me, "Schmoe, how did a knucklehead like you ever make captain?" I could provide them an honest answer.

It was divine intervention

Monday, March 12, 2012


The word steamer means different things to different people. Mention steamer to my kids, they immediately think of the dogs leaving more work for them on the lawn. Mention steamer to a train buff, they think of a long, black locomotive, belching smoke as it pulls it's load down the track. Mention steamer to a firefighter, they think of a steam powered fire pump, a symbol of our firefighting past.

Dave Hubert has a steamer, a 1902 American Steam Fire Engine. I have seen it many times, it is wonderfully restored and still pumps water. Dave, his wife and dogs share their steamer throughout the state as the California State Firefighters  Steam Fire Engine Team, attending events and spreading goodwill.

The Steamer - An American Icon from HubiePictures on Vimeo.

Dave is a retired Fire Captain from the Orange County Fire Authority. It took him and his son over five years to restore this engine. Their efforts were rewarded with this beautiful example of an American classic. The American Fire Engine Company made about 140 of these engine, only eight survive today. Of those eight, seven are in museums, this is the only functioning example left.

If you think that this fire engine is a station queen that never gets dirty, check out this video:

CSFA Steam Fire Engine Team at Santa Margarita from FSTI Media Group on Vimeo.

I guarantee that Dave and the crew jumped on it and had her looking like new shortly after the evolution was complete. He runs a first rate crew, they are the perfect stewards of this iconic piece of history.

VISIT DAVE'S WEBSITE and check out images, the Steamer Team's schedule and some of the DVDs that they have for sale.

Better yet, look at the schedule and attend one of the events. You won't see a finer example of a working steamer.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, March 9, 2012

Down The Hall

Along with St. Patty's day, Easter and the Fire / EMS Blog of the Year contest, it's time for me to archive and double back-up images for the past year.

Among the many, I found this one, taken fairly recently, pf one of our engine crews advancing a pre-connect up a hallway.

It was taken at a multi-day training burn. The glow from the fire can be seen in the background, it looks like they went in 4-0, with two boots, the captain and The Evil Medic bringing up the rear.

Note: if you ever meet me and think I might be missing a few brain cells, blame The Evil Medic!

In my mind, advancing a line up a hallway is the core of  residential interior attack. With a rear bedroom involved and smoke pouring out over your head, there is nothing like humping hose down the hall, making the turn and putting some GPM on the seat of the fire and knocking it down.

Even better is when the truckies have done their job and have made it tenable and visible. Sometimes, the truck arrives a little later and the above task is done "in the dark". Though fun, I much prefer the ability to see, at least for a few feet.

For this photo, the training guys were kind enough to poke a hole in an exterior wall, allowing me the ability to get the shot without needing PPE. Though visibility is good, you can see where the smoke is fairly low up by the nozzle. That is by design, the guys that do these burns are masters of their craft.

I'm off to do a shoot with/for the  department chaplain, a former captain with our agency. More on that later.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fire/EMS Blog of the Year

The green bowler hats are on the shelves as are the chocolate bunnies and brightly colored baskets. The training division is starting to schedule the annual wildland multi-company drill. That can mean only one thing, it's time for the annual Fire-EMS blog of the year contest.

They have made a few changes this year, adding a judges choice award and a readers choice award in both the Fire and EMS categories. If they ever have a "Doesn't Stink Too Bad" award, I might have a chance!

I am a little late with this, but nominations need to be in by March 10th, the nomination form and instructions CAN BE FOUND HERE.

The event is sponsored by the American Military Institute  and is hosted by,, and The Fire Critic (

 If you have a favorite among the Fire and EMS Blogs out there, be sure to take a minute and nominate it. Then, next week when the finalists are announced, be sure to go back and vote  for your favorite. There are some cool prizes that your favorite blogger can win!


In a totally unrelated matter, just a quick note to the young person from Premier Medical Transport who I spotted in line at the grocery store today.

If you are going to stop by and pick up some Bicardi and coke on the way home from work, take your uniform jacket and/or shirt off first. Better yet, keep a old hoodie or something in your car to put on over your uniform. It just doesn't look good to be buying booze in uniform, especially when you are buying a half gallon. Plus, you can use it to cover up if you are meeting up with some pals and don't have time to go home and change first.

You had the look of someone who might be trying to get on the job somewhere or maybe trying to get into medic school. There are just too many of us old bastards around who might remember you when sitting on an interview panel. C'mon kid, use your head.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

They be Fussin'

I have lived here for 47 of my 51 years. During that time, emergency medical transport has always been provided by private companies. I have a vague recollection of  Howard's, a small company, providing service when I was a kid, before consolidating service in the Redlands/San Gorgonio pass area and leaving town.

Then for years, it was Goodhew ambulance, a company headquartered  in L. A. with a division here in the inland empire. Goodhew was the ambulance company providing service when I became an EMT and through my early years with the RFD.  At one time, Goodhew had five ambulances dedicated to city 911 service. These ambulances were housed in our fire stations and were dispatched by us. We knew them and they us..

Since I have been around, the city has always required that ambulance companies pay a franchise fee to operate in the city. In addition, the company that holds the franchise is the sole provider for emergency and non-emergency transport originating in the city..

At some point, Goodhew was bought out by Med Trans, who then sold out to AMR, which now holds the city franchise. There are still a few former Goodhew employees who work for AMR, I used to see them occasionally around town.

When the RFD became an ALS provider, the franchise fees charged to AMR were used to fund our paramedic program. This in essence, is still the case today. AMR pays the franchise fee and gets to be the sole provider of 911 emergency transport and non emrgency transport. As the franchise holder, they are the only ambulance company that can pick up a patient within the city, whether on the street, at a residence, at a con-home or a hospital. If the trip starts here, it will be AMR who does the driving.

AMR also is the exclusive emergency ambulance transport to the vast majority of the county, though non- emergency or retail ambulance service is provided by several other providers. Cavalry Ambulance and Mission Ambulance and several others provide non-emergency transport to other areas in the county and would like to do so in the city.

Mission ambulance and Alpha ambulance have both applied for a city franchise, only to be turned down. Both actions were recommended by the fire chief, who oversees the ambulance franchise program for the city.

Needless to say, Mission Ambulance was not happy with the city's decision and asked the state EMS authority to get involved. The state emsa has written an opinion that the city does not have the authority to limit non emergency ambulance service within it's borders. The state's opinion will likely require the county to get involved as they control the county-wide plan. This battle does not appear to be over.

The city's position is that Mission ambulance has not proven a need for a second ambulance service operating within the city. The city also believes that AMR's retail ambulance service subsidizes the 911 transport service as retail service tends to be paid for more often than emergency service does. I tend to agree.

The issue has become larger than it has ever been and does not appear to be going away. There is merit to both sides of the argument, the city creating a monopoly and limiting competition versus the need for a stable EMS transport system in the city. Unless the city wants to get into the 911 transport business, I'll have to go for the latter. Stability is key and AMR has met our needs to this point.

I'm just sayin'.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not Dead (not even sick)

It's been a week. That is the longest that I have gone without a post in the two plus years that I have been writing this blog.

I wish I could say that FEMA requested my services and that I have been helping people in the mid-west with the tornado damage. Or, I wish I could say that I have been on assignment with National Geographic shooting the volcano in Hawaii as it's glowing lava stream devours more acreage and homes.

Both would be lies. The reality is that I have been slightly busy ( no excuse) and that I have merely been a turd, being consumed by flies, laying around in the yard decomposing in the elements. Fortunately, enough time has gone by that I no longer smell and will instantly turn to dust should someone step on me.

Bear with me, don't give up - I still have stuff to share. I just have to get through these turd phases once in a while.

Thanks for reading,