Thursday, November 29, 2012

SBD Tanker Base in Action

I was supposed to be getting ready for the Darwin trip. Maintenance on the Jeep, equipment checks and pre-loading stuff for the journey. That kind of stuff. I happened to be walking by the TV and heard the "BREAKING NEWS" jingle. I looked up and saw a BA-146 air tanker dropping retardant on a fire in the Cajon Pass.

I was interested, as I have never seen a BA-146 tanker before, in fact I hadn't seen a BA-146 anything for many, many years. Not since the Mid '80s when Air-Cal flew them around here in the Golden State.

I knew that several aerial firefighting contractors were working on BA-146 platforms, but I also knew that contract issues, complaints from othe contractors and the usual politico-bureaucratic morass had led to many delays in getting the BA-146 installed as the "next generation" air tanker. The drop I saw on TV was the first on that I had seen.

From the shot on the TV, it appeared to be burning pretty good. The talking head on the TV was saying that it was reported to be 200 acres or so, from what I could tell it looked bigger than that. I looked out my window and could see drift smoke from the fire as it worked it's way to the southwest. It was going to be burning for a while.

I really didn't feel like driving around the Cajon Pass to try and find a spot to shoot from, I-15 was closed as a result of the fire - the traffic mess would be humongous. I had a lot of stuff to do and a tight schedule. I decided to drive over to San Bernardino Intl. Airport and watch the air tankers load up at the U.S.F.S. Air Tanker base. They have an observation area, so I wouldn't waste a lot of time driving and scouting a vantage point. I could get a few practice shots (every shot is a practice shot for me) and be on my way. In the end, I'm kind of glad that I did.

When I first got there, some S-2Ts  were loading. We see them all of the time, they are based in Hemet which is not too far from where I worked.

 I have taken a few great shots of them in action and have actually been dropped on by them so it doesn't seem that unusual to see them around. These are owned and operated by the state (Cal-Fire) at various bases around the state. There were four of these assigned to this fire, two from Ramona ( in San Diego County) and two from Hemet - Ryan located about 50 miles from me in Riverside County.

The S-2Ts are kind of unique as they were built to hunt submarines during the cold war. They were originally equipped with radial piston engines, but were converted to turbo-prop power plants some time ago. They are pretty bad-ass and must be a hoot to fly. I think they look pretty snappy with the five bladed props too.

There were a couple of PV-2 Neptunes assigned to this fire as well. They are owned by contractors and are operated under contract to the Forest Service.

These aircraft were built about the same time I was and were operated as land-based maritime patrol aircraft and as anti-submarine aircraft. They were in service with our navy for many years and were also exported to other countries.Probably around a dozen or so remain serviceable as aerial firefighting tankers.

After a bit, the one I was waiting for showed up - the BA-146.

This one started life as an airliner in Hawaii back in 1989. It has spent time in Britain and France and is currently owned by Neptune Aviation.

These always intrigued me, I don't remember ever flying in one. There are several that have been converted into air tankers, it is hoped that they will become the mainstay of the fleet. The time, money, BS and red tape that is required to bring a new tanker on-line is immense. It is good to see these actually start to fly.

There was a Sikorsky Skycrane that flew in to refuel while I was there. These are Viet Nam war era heavy lift helicopters that have found a second career in the fire service.

I spent an hour or so at SBD and saw plenty to photograph. It was kind of a challenge however, as I was stuck on the wrong side of the fence. I need to work on that.

I will say that the Forest Service gets it, and provides a great viewing area for civilians to observe the loading operations. They provide bleachers and shade, both of which were welll used when I was there.

There were a few people there with small children. It brought back memories, both when I was a kid and when my kids were small. The practice of taking kids to watch airplanes is a dying activity, it's too bad about that.

There is also a monument in the viewing area, one memorializing aerial firefighters who have died in the line of duty. It is a poignant reminder how dangerous the job of aerial firefighting can be, one that is present while watching the operations.

I kept looking at my watch, knowing that I really had stuff to do. I took plenty of photos, a couple of which I actually liked. My favorite one was captured moments before I called it quits and headed back to my chores.

The second of two Ramona based S2Ts, this was caught with a long lens either over the top of the fence or through it. There is just enough blur of the pavement and grass to give the impression of motion yet the aircraft was still pretty sharp. Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.


Sorry for the lack of posts this week, I have been fussing with Google/Picassa over posting photos on the blog. Apparently, I exceeded the amount of storage allowed on the free account yet and I couldn't access Picassa to delete some files. After som thought, I realized that deleting files from Picassa would delete them from the blog.

Google won, I now pay to have photos posted here. There is no free lunch I guess.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sorry Dude Desert Edition

This isn't a Jeep snob story or a yuppie hate rant. It is merely a tale of astonishment and of what happens when one attempts a task without the proper tools. Or even slightly effective tools.


The trail had been quite beautiful climbing out of Fargo Canyon, winding it's way up onto a ridge, then following it down to a small expanse of open desert. There were a few spots that were a little challenging, making me grateful that I had already shifted into four wheel drive low range. I had been through part of the Little San Bernardino range before, but a little farther to the west. This area was new to me.

The Saint I Am Married To may have said a bad word or two when the left front wheel lifted off of the ground a few feet. I hope her indiscretion does not affect her canonization, as the event was truly my fault. Being off of  the preferred line by a few inches and an overzealous application of throttle  had caused the corner of my jeep to launch skyward. The profanity followed, I was just glad that she did not strike me in the process - I believe that profanity may be less of a sin than physical assault.

 It appeared that the National Park Service had abandoned the trail some time ago, as there was no markers indicating the preferred route through the canyon. There were spots where the route was barely visible, washouts and rockfall conspiring to hide the trail. We had stopped several times to admire the view, pee and enjoy a beverage or two. Conversation is always an important part of these stops, the desert vistas always inspire deep thought regarding geology, history, bullshit and speculation all of which must be expressed.

After some time, we intersected a marked trail, one which pointed toward the Pinkham Canyon trail, our means of egress. After a bit, we made it down to the Pinkham and at the intersection, we found a spot suitable for lunch. Shade was an important factor as it was a hot, dry day - quite the contrast of our trip to Darwin two weeks ago.

We had consumed our lunch and were enjoying a delicious bourbon for dessert, when another jeep pulled up. We had a polite conversation, the driver explaining that he was exploring that part of the park before the expected arrival of some camping companions. He had a nice jeep, a well equipped  four-door Rubicon. I commented that if my kids were small or that if I had grand kids, a four-door jeep would likely be in my future.

It was about then when we heard another vehicle come down Pinkham Canyon. We were astonished to see that it was a brown Porsche Cayenne. We couldn't help but stare as he drove past the newcomer's Rubicon and down the canyon.

"What the hell is that doing here" someone asked. I figured that the road that he had come down wasn't that bad, as most of the roads and trails in Joshua Tree National Park are really easy dirt roads. It's only a few trails at the edges of the park where high clearance might be required.

As the Cayenne disappeared, we returned to our dessert and our conversation. Five minutes later, it returned.

It was driven by a man in his late twenties, a female passenger sat in the front. A dog or two occupied the rear seat. "I may have bitten off more than I can chew" the man said after stopping the car.

"No shit" was the only thought I could muster, the bourbon reducing the effectiveness of my filters. Fortunately, we are all quite civil by nature and did have the well being of the Cayenne at heart. We could have sent them down the trail we had just come up. That would have guaranteed them a night or two in their car, one I doubt they were prepared for.

The driver asked us if the route down canyon would get him to the interstate. He said that a ranger had told him that the road kind of curved to the left then entered a wash and finally ended up at the highway. He then asked us if he could make it down the road.

We honestly didn't know. Three of us had never been down that road and it had been a while for the other two. We told him that we didn't know. He then asked us if that was the shortest route to the interstate - we told him that it was. He thanked us then drove back down the canyon, we continued our chat.

Twenty minutes later, we packed it up and headed down canyon. The road turned into a rocky trail in a few places, ones I felt sure the Cayenne would have trouble getting through. I knew that the Cayenne was all wheel drive and that many are equipped with a fancy auto-matic traction control that the sales brochure says enables the Cayenne to conquer the roughest of terrains. Still, there were a few spots that I could tell someone had  had to make several attempts in getting through.

After each bend in the road, I expected to find the Cayenne stopped in it's tracks either stuck, broken down or stricken with a gashed tire. To my surprise, I did not.

As I was paying attention to what I was doing, I missed the fresh scrape marks on some rocks and the fresh drops of oil left behind. My friends caught it though, as well as a few places where the sand in the bottom of the wash had been leveled by a low slung vehicle forcing it's way over it.

I was actually relieved when we reached the I-10 and the pavement of it's construction. I would have felt an obligation to assist the stranded occupants of the Cayenne, despite their poor judgement. A simple snatch out of the sand would have been easy. While a tow or a pull off of some rocks would have been easy as well, both would have likely caused further damage. That would have produced another set of issues. Those concerns became irrelevant however, as the Cayenne had obviously reached the highway with minimal trouble.  

We pulled onto the interstate and headed west toward Indio. We decided to stop at a rest stop and air up. Our tires felt a little mushy at highway speed - the lower air pressure works good in the dirt, not so much at highway speed.

Our compressors made short work of filling our tires, while the ladies took advantage of the facilities. It wasn't until we were pulling out that I spotted the Cayenne.

It was parked over by the semi-trailer parking area. It's hood was up, a blanket was draped over the filthy front fender and the driver of the Cayenne was looking under the hood. As I was committed to the exit, I couldn't stop and see what the deal was. As I later found out, another member of our group did have the opportunity to speak with him.

An hour later we were sitting at the bar at Babes, a popular BBQ place in Palm Desert.  We were waiting for a table and we were discussing the fate of the Cayenne. When one of our party had spoken with the driver of the Cayenne at the rest stop, he said that it was overheating. Engines don't just overheat - especially newer ones and ones engineered as well as the Cayanne's. Something somewhere is broke. Maybe the driver knew what the deal was and was too embarrassed to tell my friend the truth or maybe he was clueless as to what was causing the car to overheat.

 I have to believe that either the engine ran out of oil due to a punctured oil pan or other component and overheated before it seized up completely or some component of the cooling system was compromised due to an impact with a rock. The fresh oil noted in the canyon leads me to believe that the former is a more likely option, though the leak must have been small enough to allow the engine to make it to the rest stop.

If the engine is cooked, the repair will be well over five grand and it is unlikely that it will ever be "right". The driver's decision to continue down the canyon despite his own misgivings will likely turn out to be a costly error in judgement. Though turning around and going back to the top of the canyon might have cost him a lot of time, it probably would have been well worth it.

Thankfully, the Cayenne made it to the rest stop where calls can be made, tow trucks can driven to and people can be found. I'm glad that worked out. Though I would have done it, I wouldn't have relished towing that guy out of the hills.

I hope the occupants of the Cayenne learned not to believe the sales brochure when they make claims about performance cars "conquering" the toughest terrain. I also hope they learned to avoid traveling solo when exploring the back roads of the mountains and desert. Finally, if they are enamored  with the desert and are committed to exploring it (as I am), I hope they buy a Jeep or other real four wheel drive and save the Cayenne for picking up half-caff mochas at Starbucks. I'm just sayin'.

Thanks for reading,

A self righteous Schmoe

Friday, November 16, 2012

Darwinism - Waltzing In A Minefield

As I said in my last post, the Darwin Hills are like Swiss cheese. There are holes everywhere. Silver and lead were the primary materials mined through the years, though gold, talc tungsten and other minerals were mined as well.

I have been trying to figure out what each of the mines we visited were named and what was mined there. I have had limited success, many of the mines haven't been worked for 70 years or more. Many have changed names, others have vague locations or descriptions in what little literature exists about them.

Despite my difficulty in researching them, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting and exploring them. Although most are heavily damaged and/or vandalized, there is more left intact than in other mining areas that I have visited. I suspect that is due to the remoteness of the Darwin area and it's distance from any population areas.

Do us both a favor and click on the images to view a larger format.

The above hopper is located in the canyon just below our camp. I literally stumble upon it while going for a photo walk on morning before breakfast.

I am a real sissy when it comes to messing around old mines. They are inherently dangerous, occasionally so dangerous that people have been left to die in them as there was no safe way to accomplish a rescue. Thus, it has to appear to be really bombproof before I will enter a mine.

Some tunnels are just straight holes into a side of a hill. I suspect that these are prospect holes, ones just looking to see what minerals are contained in the mountain.

The photo below was taken from inside one such tunnel.  It went straight in for about 200 feet. The opening was almost large enough to drive in, though it narrowed down pretty quick. My friend and his dog went with me into the tunnel, our wives stayed  in my jeep as it was only in the forties.

A lot of times, we don't get anywhere near the adit because it is sealed up, too dangerous or a pain to get to. Interesting structures and remains can still be found though, presenting many photo opportunities.

Some openings are vertical shafts that go down for hundreds of feet. These types of mines have claimed a few lives over the years, swallowing unsuspecting hikers and dirt bikers.

Sometimes there is nothing left of the operation, just tailings. Whether it's the setting, the view, the trip or the fun of exploring new areas with friends, it's still a great time.

You never know what you will find either. Rumor has it that Jimmy Hoffa went into the witness protection program and got a job driving a school bus for the Inyo County School District. One day he didn't return from his route after dropping all of the kids off. They found the bus, but they never found him. There is a lot of old mine shafts nearby maybe he is at the bottom of one of them. I'm just sayin'.

We explored the headworks of a mine on our way back to camp. The stop provided a couple of surprises. The first was the sun setting on a ridge several miles away.

The other was what we found on the back side of an equipment shack left on the claim.

At first I thought that someone had gone crazy with a paintball gun. It turned out that someone had just gone crazy with some cans of paint. Out of place as it was, it was also kind of fitting.

The next morning, we set out again and went to a large mine complex located on the east side of the Darwin Hills.

Note two things. First, the plank flooring. Second, the light at the end of the tunnel.

I saw the planking and didn't like what I saw. There was a spot where an access hole had been removed. The view sent a shiver down my spine.

That's looking straight down, farther than my flash can light it up. Although most of the shoring system appeared to be intact, a small section of it appears to be damaged. That was enough for me, out I went. One of my friends is pretty familiar with this mine, he has been coming here for years. He was comfortable with walking out to the end, keeping to the left of the tunnel where a ledge of rock was left to support the planks. I was not.

Remember the light at the end of the tunnel? Look where it comes out.

The larger of the two visible holes is the light visible at the end of the tunnel in the photo above. The photo below is of the same hole, only zoomed out to give a better perspective of the immense size of this pit.

My lens wouldn't widen enough to get it all and the terrain wouldn't allow me to get any farther back - the pit is just that big.

The other part of this mine was stable rock, fairly level and relatively safe. Perfect for exploring.

There were several other levels, ones that we had no way to access. Who knows what artifacts exist down there?

As it was, there was plenty to see.

Even though the tunnels were relatively stable, there was still quite a bit of wood underground. Even if some knucklehead doesn't burn it down, someday it will collapse, permanently closing off part of the mine.

This was one of the better mines that I have been in. It made for a great morning.

Thanks to Eric for showing us around the mine, thanks to you for reading.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


All too quickly, the weekend passed and our time in the Darwin area came to an end. The town of Darwin was everything that I expected and less. The area around Darwin was everything that I expected and more. Much more.

We drove through town late in the afternoon on Thursday, on our way to a campsite located just east of town. The town itself is literally an inhabited ghost town, one that is home to 43 people according to the 2010 census. The number of abandoned dwellings outnumber occupied homes, I suspect there are more that a few people living in the myriad of old trailers and campers that are parked throughout the town.

Our campsite ended up being on a level area buried in the Darwin Hills. It overlooked a wash which dropped into a canyon that led into the Darwin wash. One had to be careful when staggering out to pee in the dark. The first step was a long one. Of course we could have walked to the south and peed in relative safety. What fun is there in that?

We were camped at the 4800 ft. level and a cold front was passing through. It was cold and windy. The temperature was in the mid thirties as we set up camp, the wind was howling.

Looking at the sun going down, I was sure glad that I was sleeping in an RV, rather that in a tent.


The Darwin Hills are much like Swiss cheese, there are holes everywhere. You kind of have to watch where you walk.

 Along with the holes come the remains of the mining operations, it's obvious that restoration and reclamation were words not in the vocabulary in early 20th century mining.

Places like the Darwin Hills appeal to me on several levels. The landscape presents color and texture found very few other places. The vastness of the open desert, the beauty of the space and the historic component all add up to present an interesting photographic palette.

The military competes with us for space in the desert. Three huge military complexes take up vast amounts of space, much of it historic, most of it beautiful. Sadly, they want to take up more of it.

The desert has it's own kind of diversity. Elevation, micro-climate and water change the desert vastly over relatively small distances.

It's amazing what a difference a little water makes.

I am not sure, but I am pretty sure that these are the toughest goldfish in the world. I have heard several different stories on how they came to live in China Garden Spring, by a friend of mine has been seeing them in here since the early '70s.


Again, either you like the desert or you don't. I didn't learn to appreciate it until my mid '20s or so. Dirt bikes and jeeps have allowed me to see parts of it that I would never have seen otherwise. For that I am grateful.

I have many more images from this trip. My next post will be about some of the mines that we explored and the images of them.

Thanks for reading,

A refreshed Schmoe

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Damn Nice Day

It was so nice today. The phone only rang twice, neither one was a robo-caller telling me how to vote.  For the first time in weeks months my mailbox wasn't stuffed with glossy print ads espousing one candidate, ballot initiative or another. Many of my friends are disappointed, and a few are happy.

Me I'm disappointed, but not enough to slash my wrists or sell my Occidental Petroleum stock. I do think that it's put up or shut up time, the same would have been true if the republicans had won.

Last night, I was dining with a group of friends, all of whom are very conservative, a few severely so. The returns were on the bar TV and we were watching when it was announced that Pres. Obama had been reelected. The disdain was evident and the comments started flying. Eric, held up his glass and said "This is to Mike, he would have been happy". We all raised our glasses to Mike.

Mike was the only openly liberal member of this group, one that had taken a few good natured jabs about it over the years. Mike passed away a few weeks ago, I'm sure he would have been happy that the incumbent won. I also think he might have enjoyed firing a few jabs back at his friends about his victory as well.

I'm just glad it's over, though I know both parties are already gearing up for the mid-terms and even for the 2016 elections. At least for a while they will keep the process to themselves.


I spent the day loading up the trailer, truck and jeep as we are headed out for a few days. We are headed for Darwin (not the Darwin that you are thinking of) where we will spend the next four days jeeping and socializing with the group of friends that we dined with last night.

Darwin is an old mining town, nearly dead and not getting any better. Around 50-60 people live there, many retired or disabled none getting rich by living there. There is no commerce in Darwin, no business, no cel-service or sewers. The only occupied non-residential building in Darwin is the post office, which is open for a couple of hours a day. The USPS wants to shut it down and the residents are pissed about it. They would have to drive forty miles or so to get their mail.

There is no gas, no ice or no available water so we have to pack all that stuff in when we go. The jeeping will be great, though the temperature is only supposed to be in the '40s on Fri and Sat. For us, that is cold. I'm glad we have a jeep rather than a side by side.

I'm really looking forward to taking some pictures, we will surely find some interesting subjects. Who knows, I may have to get all artsy-fartsy and photo something that I never have shot before.

Regardless, we will have a great time. We won't get back till Monday or Tuesday, I'll let you know how it went then.

Hope you have a great weekend, thanks for reading,


Monday, November 5, 2012

Somewhere Out There

Somewhere out there, is a twelve to fifteen year old LTI aerial platform that used to belong to the City of Riverside Fire Dept. (Calif.)

We bought it new around the turn of the century, used it for a couple of years, then traded it in for the current Truck 3. a tillered aerial. It wasn't that the platform was a bad truck, it was just that our program was kind of centered around tiller trucks, the maneuverability being a big asset for us.

It was our first ladder truck equipped with a pump, which added several more systems to an already system laden vehicle. It was a huge beast that had a floating rear tag axle which was supposed to allow it to swing out automatically when making a sharp (for it) turn. The problem was that the rear end would occasionally swap lanes under certain braking situations. It's size. lack of a tillerman and  that tag axle plus the vast amount of systems kept the unit in the shop a little more than we would have liked.

Someone ran the numbers on it, we were spending twice the money on maintenance for it than we were on the other ladder trucks in the fleet.We contacted La-France and worked out a trade-in. The new Truck 3 has been a delight and more importantly it better suits our needs and our culture.

I only worked on it a few times, I remember it being an immense wallowing vehicle, probably because I was used to Truck 1, a 100' tiller that handled very well. Frankly, I had forgotten about it until we bought that used truck from Cathedral City. Though the sale of the platform and the purchase of Cat City's Tiller were under different circumstances, I still find some irony in the latest transaction.

I recently asked the training chief what ever happened to the platform. He said that La France had sold it to a department back east somewhere and that he had heard nothing about it since.

I know where there is a photo of it, possibly a delivery photo. I'll have to snake it and scan it - then post it on the blog. I'll bet somebody will recognize it and the mystery will be solved.

Some department somewhere got a nice, slightly used elevated platform for a good price. I hope that it has performed well for them and that it has many good years left.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 4, 2012

So Long Suckah...

...It's been good to know ya!

Click to Enlarge

Oh! Dear Blackberry, how you have disappointed me. At first you were grand, allowing me the pleasure of organizing my harried life on your soul of silicon. The simple joy of accessing the web from the palm of my hand was nearly too much to bear. The games were marvelous and the applications were spiffy too!

Alas, as time wore on, my infatuation with you waned as you failed to evolve and keep up with your upstart peers. Each software update proved to be a bigger disappointment, your commands and interface becoming less natural in feel until I felt completely isolated and digitally alone. You became boring and mundane and you wouldn't change, not even for me.

Fortunately, I have found something to replace you. Something more fun, more exotic and yes, even more beautiful. She fits my hand and sees to my every digital need. She makes me feel connected again.  She is so useful, her apps are fun and she has so much more to offer.

Fare the well my former friend. For you, the end will be quick - it will only ache for a moment then shattered glass, splattered silicon and a black screen.


For you Blackberry users who are thinking of making a change, go ahead and dump it, it's a turd . You will realize it when you start using your new I-Phone 5 or Galaxy S-3. Don't shoot your old phone in the back yard though, the neighbors might complain.

Thanks for reading,


The Fine Print
No electronic devices were harmed in the making of this blog post, nor were any laws violated, neighbors angered or dogs frightened. Do not try this at home, photo was taken on a closed course by a highly trained professional.  Author apologizes to Corey for the hole in his fence, wall and refrigerator. Honest, I thought it was loaded with snake-shot.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dear Mayor Bloomberg... pompous elitist. It has come to my attention that the Super PAC you created and likely control, Independence USA, has just spent $2.3 MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS on T.V. advertising to influence a congressional election in a neighboring district.This is on top of the approx. $365,000 that your PAC spent on direct mailings for the same race.

While I acknowledge your right to express your opinion and to support political candidates that might further your personal agenda, I resent your attempt to influence who represents Southern California in the U.S. House of Representatives. You see Mr. Bloomberg, we live in the Inland Empire, which I am sure you are aware is just about as far as you can get from New York City, without getting on an airplane or a boat and still staying within the U.S. Our congressman should represent us and our interests, not you.

I'm just guessin' that the donations which made the PAC's purchase possible occurred very late in the election cycle. If true, Independence USA will not have to disclose the source of their funding until after the election. I am quite sure that is by design. As the amount of money you are throwing around is quite large, I am also confident that you and maybe a few other multi-bajillionares  are the main funding sources for the PAC. So much for transparency.

And people are upset that unions donate money to candidates.

I am told that the main reason for your interference in our congressional race is your personal opposition to the private ownership and use of firearms. Again, as misguided as your personal  beliefs are, you have a right to them. However, your actions prove to me that as you have a nearly unlimited supply of money you feel that you should make the rules, screw everybody else.

Due to our states quirky election laws, both of the viable candidates in the 35th are members of the Democratic Party. Gun control appears to be the main issue separating the two candidates, you have chosen to support the candidate who favors more restrictions on my right to defend myself than the other. Why else would you support a candidate from a district all the way across the country?

Should you ever want to discuss this important issue or discuss your motivation to why you want to buy our election, please feel free to drop by. You can contact me through this BLOG. While I can pretty much guarantee you won't change my mind, or I yours, I can definitely guarantee that you will get a good meal out of the deal, civil conversation and a good brew or two. Who knows, I may even break out the good Canadian Whiskey.

Then, we could really talk.

Tepid regards,



Sorry for the rant, but I am fired up. when I first saw the TV ads, I wondered why so much money was being spent on the LA TV market when the 35th CA Congressional district only covers part of the Inland Empire and the Pomona Valley. Now I know - they had it to spend.

Thanks for enduring,


Thursday, November 1, 2012

What the Crews Saw..

...when they arrived on scene:

As you can see, a well established fire in the attached garage of a mini-mansion. The fire had probably extended into the attic prior to FD arrival, a real worker for sure.

I wish I could have been there when the above shot was taken, but I was at a car show across town. I don't know who took this either, but I am guessin' it was a firefighter with a camera phone. I noticed the smoke at some point later as I was getting gas and stopped by on my way back to the Schmoe palace.

This is what I saw when I arrived:

Ladder pipes, monitors and hand lines. Definitely not what anyone likes to see, especially on a single family dwelling. ( no matter how big it is)

I used to work in this district, this neighborhood is composed of large wood-frame houses most in the 5000 sq. ft range. They get even bigger a little farther up the hill. Depending on when they were built, most are sprinkled as this one was.

It still amazes me that we require people to sprinkle the house, but don't require that the garage (statistically the second most common area where residential fires start) or the attic be sprinkled. I digress.

Most of the mini-mansions in this area have lightweight engineered truss roof systems and tile roofs, combined with complex attic spaces. This gives fire plenty of places to hide - you have to get into the attic quickly bcause you don't have a lot of time before it goes bad.

I wasn't there when the decision was made and I don't know what the timeline was but at some point it was determined that interior attack was no longer a reasonably safe option and the attack shifted to defensive. As the roof had collapsed in several places after they went defensive, the concerns were well founded. Still, no one likes defensive fire attack objectives.

As one who takes pictures of fires rather than fighting them. I prefer to be there when the objectives  transition from offensive to defensive. It's a time that make for exciting photography. Obviously I wasn't present when that occurred, so I decided to focus on the people involved in the firefight.

Even though engineers are known as knuckle-dragging knob turners and vine-swinging lever pullers, the reality is that they still enjoy flowing water. Lots of water.

Going defensive means that plans have to change. Sometimes RIC has to move as well.

Bottles still need to be changed. I've often described that 10 second period when your breather is rid of the empty cylinder and the full one not yet installed as the most heavenly time in firefighting. The older I got, the better it felt.

Even though they went defensive, they were still working their asses off. It was over 90, plenty warm to be slaying unruly dragons.

When I was on the job, I preferred face to face communication. That way, I knew we were both picking up what we both were laying down. 

At some point, things usually die down somewhat and close-in operations can resume. I like the photo opportunities that arise from that.

Even though I missed the peak of the fire activity, I am still glad I took the time to shoot this. I wasn't the only one who focused on the people at this fire, Terry, a photographer for the local paper published several photos of this fire. I couldn't help but notice that the majority of his shots focused on the firefighters, not the apparatus or the fire itself.

 Focusing on the firefighters reminded me what the primary requirement is for a successful organization. It's the people.

Thanks for reading,