Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fuego - It's Been A While...

...since I have been able to shoot a working structure fire.

I could tell.

Still, it was sure good to see the lads on A shift getting it done.

It was only an outbuilding that may or may not have been occupied at one time.

Regardless, it was pretty much a defensive operation, though there was a  lot of stuff on the lot and surrounding property that could burn.

As I was wearing only brush gear, I must admit - I got a little warm before it was through.

Still, the outcome was never in doubt and soon the dragon was slain. Then the work began.

My friend Eric, a retired captain from another agency, once told me that we put up with a lot of BS for the few moments of joy that extinguishment brings. Overhaul is kind of like that.

Some would argue that being a medic on a fire call is kind of like that as well. However, most medics I know enjoy helping people, whether there are dragons to be slain or not. By the time this pt. was treated and loaded, the dragon's body was already cooling and beginning to stiffen.

The last time you readers saw Engine #2, she was at the fire truck store, getting outfitted. The crew at 2's seem to like her, she was a much needed replacement.

I am glad I was around for this, this is the stuff I really enjoy shooting. I saw a lot of friends, including two guys from my last crew. The best part was that I was home drinking a cold frosty before these guys got the hose picked up.

I lifted a glass to their honor. Strong work laddies.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, May 21, 2012


52 gallons of fuel - $216.00
1- steak and egg burrito combo - $5.29
2 - 24 ounce cups of coffee - $2.58
18 hours of my life and 825 miles of travel - N/C

Crossing "Seeing a total annular eclipse of the sun" off of my bucket list - Priceless

I had never seen a total solar eclipse of the sun before. I had seen a few partial eclipses, but never the whole thing. On a whim, I decided to make the trip from So Cal up into Utah and check it out.

I drove a little over 400 miles into Hurricane Utah (pronounced hurricun BTW) non-stop and had lunch with some cousins. After a good visit, I headed another 20 miles north and found an off-ramp. There were a few other travelers there, waiting for the eclipse. Both were from the Las Vegas NV area and had driven up for the show.

They didn't think I was crazy for driving up, but they did think it nutty that I was going to drive home that same night.

I have to be honest, I really screwed this up. I just don't get a lot of practice shooting the sun. I had about an hour to play around with the partial eclipse and exactly four minutes and twenty seconds to shoot the total eclipse. Frankly, I was not properly equipped and definitely not properly prepared. 

I forgot a really basic rule regarding f-stop and didn't realize it until an hour or so ago. A small aperture will give you a sunburst effect, something I didn't want.

Despite my lack of preparedness and my errors, these images will always remind me of the time I saw a total solar eclipse. For that, I am ecstatic.

These young ladies were from Henderson NV, and had driven up I-15 with their dad. They took advantage of the sun shortly after totality had passed and used the odd light to make shadows. I thought it creative and cool.

Shortly after the above photo was snapped, I jumped in the truck and headed south. I stopped once in Mesquite, NV for a snack and again in Yermo for a burrito, coffee and fuel. I rolled up at the crib at 0100 after being gone exactly 18 hours.

It was definitely worth the effort.

As a side note, a tip o' the helmet to my brothers and sisters of the San Bernardino County Fire Dept, Sta #53. I saw three wrecks yesterday, all on I-15 between Baker and the Nevada State line. Two were rollovers that had left the highway and the third looked like an SUV had rear-ended a slow or stopped semi at a high rate of speed. All were in the clean-up stages as I went by, the rear-ender looked like SERIOUS injuries may have been involved.

SBCFD Sta. #53 covers the I-15 from Afton Rd to the Nevada state line. I'm guessin' they spend a lot of time on the highway because I have to say - PEOPLE DRIVE THAT ROAD LIKE FRIGGEN' IDIOTS.
Every time I drive that stretch of road, I feel lucky to survive it. It's like a restrictor plate race, only with amateurs.

Again, it was a great day - I saw something I have never seen before and will likely never see again.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bucket List

I had never heard the term "bucket list" until the movie of the same name was released. The concept of having stuff to do or see before dying was not unfamiliar to me, but the term was.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is basically the story of two men, one rich the other not, who are terminally ill and meet in a hospital. Through various sub-plots, they decide to cross off some of the items on their bucket lists before they become incapacitated and are not able to do so. As one of the men is incredibly wealthy, he picks up the tab for the adventures, most of which would be financially out of reach for most of us.

Some of the things on my bucket list are doable, some not. I have always dreamed of orbiting the earth, looking out of a window and gazing at the big blue marble where we reside. Honestly, that is not doable. My ophthalmologist shot down my dreams of becoming an astronaut when I was in 7th grade. The discovery of a scar somewhere in my eye, my height and my lack of scholastic aptitude further reduced my chance of traveling in space. I doubt that I will ever come up with the cash to by my way onto a Russian spacecraft or a commercial spaceflight either. I'm ok with that, not everybody can fly in space, despite what I was told as a kid in the '60s.

I always wanted to learn how to fly airplanes, that was certainly doable. I took my private pilot check ride back in the early '90s and though I don't fly any more, I don't regret spending the time, effort and money to cross that off of my list. I met some amazing people, took some great flights and learned a lot. all made it worthwhile.

There are a few things on my list that I could have done but for whatever reason did not. Watching a space shuttle launch was one of them. When the shuttle program was first started, shuttle launches were supposed to occur at Vandenberg Air Force Base, as well as at Cape Canaveral. Shuttle Missions belonging to the Air Force would launch out here, NASA and other missions would begin in Florida. I always figured that I would make the four hour drive to Vandenberg one day and see a launch.

Budgetary issues killed the Vandenberg launch plan, even after the Air Force spent bajillions of dollars to build the facility. I just never made the trip to Florida - kids, work, my business, money all contributed to my thinking that I could not make the trip. Now the shuttles will never fly again and I never saw a launch. The said thing is that I probably could have made it happen, especially the last one. That I am not OK with.

I did get to see a space shuttle land. I was doing a vacation relief cycle at station 8 where my friend John was assigned. We saw on the news that a shuttle was supposed to land at Edwards Air Force Base the next day, so as soon as we got off shift the next morning, we loaded my truck up with beer and munchies and headed out to the desert. It was well worth the trip, it should have been a signal to go to Canaveral but I still thought Vandenberg was going to be an option. Who knew.

I still want to travel to a foreign country, one that I can't drive to. Ireland, New Zealand or Austrailia would be nice. Normandy, particularly Omaha Beach, is on my list as well. That is doable, it is just a matter of priority. 

There are lots of things that I want to see and experience, I have been blessed with the ability to do many of them. My list my not be as exotic as Richard Branson's but there are plenty of exciting things to check off. Some of them I will get to, some not. I just think it's important to do what you can and enjoy the trip.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, May 17, 2012

It May Be Serious

With the current fiscal and political situation, fire departments across the country are facing unprecedented financial woes. As the majority of cost in running a paid fire department is personnel related, when severe budget cuts must be made, layoffs or compensation cuts are really the only solution.

Sometimes, budget cuts are threatened as a bargaining tool during contract negotiations. Other times, it may be a priority issue, with a politician wanting to put money somewhere else. As the so-called economic recovery is occurring far too slowly in many cases, often there just isn't enough money.

I had heard that the greater Las Vegas area was experiencing a fiscal crisis. The boom time of the nineties had passed, tourism and growth had given way to reduced revenues and foreclosures. I didn't know how serious things were up there until I had a conversation with someone I know, a chief officer with a department in our county.

He mentioned that he had just spoken with a friend who was a fire officer with the city of North Las Vegas, NV. He also mentioned that his friend was sniffing around looking for departments who might be hiring firefighters in the near future. It appears that the city council in North Las Vegas had just approved a budget cutting the city budget by $33 million dollars, with $11.5 million coming out of the public safety piece of the pie.

Apparently, over 50 positions in the fire department are on the block, with most of them being in the operations division. Yikes. As they have around 200 positions, that equates to around 25% pf their staffing.

As in most times of fiscal crisis, the city and the firefighter's union are at odds, with each side blaming the other for the current situation. The current political climate makes public employees a convenient target for the city in affixing blame, while the union has little trust in what the city is saying and doing. The reality is somewhere in the middle, who really knows.

The city is looking for further compensation concessions, the union wants guarantees that concessions will save jobs. Right now, neither is willing to budge. The union feels that it has given up enough and the city says it can't make any guarantees.

Apparently, they have until the first of June to work it out. If neither side blinks, we will find out exactly what the city of North Las Vegas is willing to do and we will also find out how strong the union's resolve is in addressing the situation.

Having been involved in union leadership, I can fully understand the union's mistrust in city administration. Hearing one thing and seeing another is a way of life in many city/labor relationships. North Las Vegas appears to be no different.

That an officer is sniffing around, looking for places where his guys can find jobs is alarming to me. It tells me that the situation may indeed be serious.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Riverside Verdict part II

Five minutes after hitting the "publish" button on the last post, I got a text informing me that the defendant was convicted of first degree murder with the special circumstance of murdering a police officer. A penalty trial will likely start next week to determine the defendant's fate.

Well done to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. The jury deliberated for less than two hours to determine their verdict, a well prepared case made that possible.

Thanks for reading,


The Verdict

By the time you read this, the verdict will be in. In about 15 minutes, the court will reconvene, all of the affected parties will enter the court and the verdict will be read. Depending on the verdict, the process may be over. If the D.A.'s office get their way, only the first phase of the process will be over and a longer, more difficult phase will begin.

It is a capital murder case, one that involves the murder of a Riverside Police Officer. As horrific as the murder was, the trial has mostly been anti-climatic. It is pretty hard to have a drama filled trial when the defense attorney pretty much admits that her client killed the officer as she made her opening statement.. Though I did not read or hear the jury instructions, it is my understanding that the jury has the option of convicting the defendant of first degree murder, second degree murder or acquittal. Both options carry the possibility of a special circumstance - the murder of a police officer.

The first degree conviction will result in a penalty trial, one that will determine the defendant's fate. Death, life without parole or life in prison are the options there. The second degree conviction will result in a life in prison without parole sentence and of course an acquittal means that the defendant walks.  As the defendant's attorney had admitted that her client is a killer, acquittal is unlikely.

From a matter of practicality, life without parole is OK with me. The killer is off of the street and will not be able to kill an innocent again. The mostly law abiding citizen in me wants a sentence of death, it is my opinion that he killer deserves it and the victim's family deserves to see it done. It is not up to me, it is up to the jury and is a big responsibility for them to shoulder.

The supreme court of our state is opposed to the death penalty, though the citizens support it. As a result, it is far more likely that the defendant will die of natural causes in prison rather than being executed. Either way, if convicted it is unlikely that he will ever breathe any of my air again.

I know many of the principals of this case, some of the cops who responded, all of the fire and ems personnel who responded and even some of the people from the D.A.'s office. I have also met the slain officer's family a few times and I can tell that the murder of their son has tragically altered their lives. For their sake, I hope that justice is done and that the killer is justly punished.

I don't think rehabilitation is a viable option.

If you desire information on this case, just google Ryan Bonaminio, the details will come up.

Pray for Ryan's family and his friends, prayers never hurt and they could sure use them.

Thanks for reading,