Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fun and Games

The Po-Po plays their game, we play ours. Sometimes, our games are played at the same time and place as theirs, sometimes the game master feels that we need to play together. Usually that happens when we need something from their toy box or they need something from ours.

Recently, the game master opted for a joint venture and I was able to go along, as long as I stayed near our toy box. Trust me, I was OK with that.

Our moves began when Wall-E brought our folks something to play with.

Wall-E seems like a nice robot, but it's better not to screw with him. He is armed to the teeth! I've always been very suspicious of robots bearing gifts.

Our folks stood by while the Po-Po finished making their moves at a site a couple of hundred feet away.

Finally, it was our turn. It is a game of calculated moves with the right equipment and actions being carefully selected. After the risk factors were evaluated, it was determined that Level D PPE was appropriate, with structural PPE in case an ignition occurred.

The long walk.

A sample was taken.

The sample was taken to a table where some of our folks used some very sophisticated equipment to test the material and identify exactly what it was. Oddly enough, the P.D. had a similar device that actually came up with the result faster than ours.

Of course, after the substance was identified, everybody wanted to see the results.

It was determined that the material was only slightly hazardous and could be disposed of without too much strife. The coppers stayed on to play some more, the people on the big red trucks were cut loose.

I never did hear what the whole thing was about, honestly all I cared about was catching the haz-mat team in action. It is a rare event when I can do that, I was glad I was able to do it for this.

I was also glad it was only in the 90s when this went down, it's going to be in triple digits for the next several days. Hopefully I can get out with my camera and take some good photos. Time will tell on that.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stuff You Find On The Web

In a fit of vanity, I did an image search on my agency. As the overwhelming majority of my images are not captioned with my agency's name, very few show up. But I did find this photo that I didn't take:

That, for my non-hockey fan friends, is Lord Stanley's Cup which is awarded to the NHL champion each year. It is sitting on the front bumper of one of our engines. I don't know which engine ( I have an idea), but I'm pretty sure it was taken when the Stanley Cup made a tour through Riverside last month.

I found the photo on a local radio station web-site, I thought it was kind of cool to see it there. I also found it cool that they cropped the shot so that the unit couldn't be identified. We live in a horrifically paranoid time, you never know what you can get in trouble for.

I'm not a hockey fan, though #1 son is a rabid Ducks fan. He was texted that the cup was in town, but as he is so pissed that the Ducks didn't make the playoffs and he hates the Kings, he didn't bother to go see it. Meh.

Thanks to the L.A. Kings for bringing the cup to town, thanks to the unknown crew for allowing the shot and thanks to Kay Gee Gee Eye Radiooo 99.1 on the F.M. dial for posting the pic. That and hopefully not suing me for kyping it off their site.

Thanks to you for reading.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Downturn Vs. Windfall

One man's downturn often leads to another man's windfall. It's not that any decent person wants to take advantage of somebody's problems, it's just that sometimes fate presents you with an opportunity that is just too good to pass up.

I had heard about this deal a few weeks ago, but as I had jinxed the new Station 1 project with a post, I decided to keep quiet about this until it was a done deal.

Notice the apparatus in the center of the photo below. Observe how it is a little different shade of red and how it has a two-tone paint job - white over red. Also note that the lettering on it is that of a different department than the ones next to it.

Until yesterday afternoon, that piece of apparatus was Truck 412 from the Cathedral City Fire Dept. It is now (or will be after it gets back from the radio and lettering shop) Truck 2 of the City of Riverside Fire Dept.

It is a 2006 American La France/LTI  tractor-tiller ladder truck, equipped with a 100" ladder and a 1500 GPM pump. It has under 25000 miles and has been very well cared for. The fact that it was available for purchase is a sad statement to the economic challenges that many departments face in these screwed-up times.

It is my understanding that Cathedral City was forced to eliminate staffing on the truck and decided that it was too valuable an asset to allow to rot away in one of the stations. The influx of cash from it's sale would assist in taking care of some other issues and the truck would be put to good use with another agency.

As our Truck 2 is getting rather tired and we don't have a reserve truck, this became a great opportunity to solve some issues of our own at a reduced cost. Currently, if a Truck goes down for maintenance, Truck 3 is moved to the truckless station and is staffed by that crew. The Heavy Rescue is then placed in service at Station 3 as a reserve truck. While that has worked in keeping truck company coverage at a consistent level, Truck 3 and Rescue 3 have been taking a beating. No one loves a child more than their parents, the same can be said for fire apparatus.

When the new truck is back from the shop and placed in service, the current Truck 2 will become a reserve truck, easing it's life and that of Truck 3 and the Rescue. Win-win-win.

The truck was specked-out very well and is similar to our Truck 3. It was not a low-bid build and it appears that a lot of thought went into it's design.

It has slide-outs in many of the compartments and equipment boxes to keep stuff organized and in place.

It came with quite a bit of equipment as well, most of it stuff that is usually only carried on a truck or a Heavy Rescue. A tripod, Air-Shore system and a Rescue 42 stabilization system are few of the goodies that came with it, as well as an assortment of hand-held power tools.

There were some chainsaws and a rotary saw or two on it as well. They look well used, but I don't think anyone has really checked them out yet. If nothing else, they can be used for training purposes.

A couple of things that this truck has that none of our existing trucks have is a pump and a water tank.

I never really liked the idea of having pumps and tanks on ladder trucks or having aerials mounted on engines (as in telesquirts). While they have a purpose in some departments, time has proven that they really don't pencil out in many departments. Having said that, I really don't think that this configuration is going to change our operations all that much. It will be nice to have a pump and water on board if the truck comes across a fire of some sort or if extended water tower operations are required, though for most things, operations will likely stay the same.

Equipment placement will definitely be different as the place where we usually put our fans and the space where the fixed generator is located is now occupied by the pump and the water tank. I'm sure the crews at two's will figure it out and it will be all good.

I'm glad that someone had the idea to measure the new truck and measure the doorway at Station #2. As this truck is a little taller than the one it is replacing, it just barely fits.

It should fit at Station #1 OK, especially the new one. Sta. #3 is a bit of a problem, the station alerting speakers hang a bit, the tiller box will hit them for sure. The new truck was parked at 3's for the night yesterday. Though the cab cleared, the truck will have to be backed out to avoid damage.

That poses the twenty dollar question. Do we spend the money now to relocate the alerting speakers knowing that at sometime in the future someone will try to pull through the station or do we rely on signs, memory and awareness that Truck 2 won't fit in Sta. #3?

I say spend the money now and move the speakers. It will prevent heartache in the future.
As far as I know, this is the first time in the modern era that we have purchased used apparatus for use as front-line equipment.We inherited a an open cab La France pumper back in the early sixties when we annexed the Arlanza Fire Protection District. It was white in color and I have been told that we had it painted soon after we acquired it. 

I know that we have purchased a demo or two over the years,(way before my time) with mixed results. They were bought cheap and not well liked. Both were equipped with 6V71 engines which were high on noise and low on horsepower. They were dirty Gerties as well spewing oil and soot about as they howled through the neighborhood.

 If we ever did buy used before, it was likely pre-WWII, or maybe back in the horse-drawn days.

Regardless, I think this purchase was a good one. It provides some financial relief  for Cathedral City and a needed piece of equipment for us. I am sure that there are some firefighters in Cat City who are saddened by this transaction. They, as I, wish that they didn't have to sell it. Any words that I type here will not make it better for them, they have bigger problems than the sale of Truck 412.

The hard work that they put into the specifications, layout and care of this truck will not go unappreciated, it has been noted by those of us who have had the opportunity to go through it. The Cathedral City firefighters can rest assured that we will take good care of it and guve it the love and attention that it deserves.

My other regret is that I won't get to tiller it. Maybe I should have stuck around another year.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Schmoe The Jinxer

A few weeks ago, I published a post called Hope - Progress Report. In it, I related the progress being made towards the completion of our new headquarters station and the hope that the project might be completed by the end of the year.

Apparently, I spoke (posted) too soon. I may have jinxed the endeavor, as work on the project has stopped.

Below is a photo taken on Aug. 24th.

This one was taken on Sept. 18th. Notice the differences?

Although some things having been moved around and the forms being set for a pad of some sort, not much has changed. The BIGGEST difference between the two shots is how many trucks are there.

There are six vehicle in the upper image and only one in the lower. That one pick-up in the lower pic belongs to the super, who will be remaining on site only until sometime next week.  After that the all work will cease, the building will be secured and hopefully a guard posted.

Apparently, there are issues with the bonding company and they have notified the city that they are stopping work on the project. I am sure that there is a story there, but I will never know what it is. I find it hard to believe a Surety Company can just walk away from something, they are paid very well to ensure that situations such as this do not occur.

I can guarantee you that our people are all over this and I am sure that the city's people are on it as well. However, as attorney are involved it may take some time to sort this all out.

All I know is that if I was still a captain at station #1, come December, I would start having the crews get ready for the annual station inspection.  The inspection usually occurs on the first Tuesday in January and it sure looks like they are still going to be in the old house.

The saga continues.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bane of Our Existance

If you were to poll our membership, I think that most of us would say that they have a dislike of fighting fire in the river bottom. I think the same could be said for the neighboring departments as well.

I was doing some work over at a property that my wife's family owns, getting it ready for some people to move in. I had a radio on as I often do when working over there by myself and heard a call come in for a reported brush fire in the river bottom.

Though it was hot out, there wasn't much wind and the RH was pretty high. I didn't think that it would turn out to be much so I kept working. The first in engine was still a mile or so away when he reported a large header visible. I put down my tools and grabbed my camera bag.

When I photograph fires in this area, I usually go to the dead end of a certain street and get a good look-see. It's up on the bluff and provides a good view of the area.  Then I can plan where best access will be and where staging and the command post will likely be. 

If you enlarge the above photo, you will see a couple of guy's heads sticking up through the weeds. They appear as yellow dots in the left, lower quadrant of the photo. The area is criss-crossed with footpaths and trails, there are quite a few people who call the river bottom home.

Conditions on fires down there can change rapidly. A wind shift of a few degrees can affect intensity as can the wide variation of fuels. You have to stay on your toes.

The long lens stuff got old quick, it was time to get my PPE on and head down the hill.

By then units were starting to roll in. This is E3 crew working an 1 1/2" on the right flank. This area usually burns dirty and access issues prevent you from starting a hose lay from a secure anchor point. Protection lines, escape routes and safety zones are a must.

The density of the fuel is a pain. It burns hot when it gets going and it impedes mobility.

When the river bottom gets going, everybody gets a chance to play.  The county came in with several engines, a couple of hand crews and a helicopter. The engine in the foreground is a county engine, the one in the background is a county engine. Both crews ended up working a hoseline pulled off of the city engine.

Broken hose blues. The composite crew works to replace a section of broken hose. Another reason to have an escape route in place, a lot of bad things can happen while waiting for a busted length to be replaced.

 Pull hose!

If you holler "Hey Cap" to anybody wearing a red helmet, odds are that they will turn around.  Just sayin', I still do.

I like the shot below, it shows that the lay has been extended as far as it can go and is about to be extended. The next length has already been dropped, unrolled and is ready to go. As soon as the nozzleman calls for it, the hose will then be clamped and the next length added on. It's magic when everybody works together.

Hot, humid, nasty day. These rarely happen on nice days. All I had to carry was a camera bag. My days of lugging a hose pack through the brush are over and I am grateful.

 The county helped out with their helicopter. It is an invaluable tool when fighting fire in places like this.

After working my way around to the left flank of the fire, I found these guys.

This is the helattack crew assigned to the helicopter in the picture above. They are assigned to the helicopter and flown in to remote areas to begin operations until ground resources can make access. Though I don't think that they were requested for this fire, they kind of came with the helicopter. Besides, there was plenty of work to go around.

The nature of the river bottom also mandates that despite everyone's best efforts, an ember will get across the control line and smolder for a while before flaring up and causing a stir. It's just the way it is. That is why units were on scene overnight and into the next day.

The chiefs had their hands full as well. Not only these chiefs, but the ones arranging station coverage, call-backs, logistical support and future planning.

We have several of these river bottom fires a year. I don't miss them at all, though I must admit they CAN photograph well. 

Everybody worked their tail off, a couple to the point of injury. As miserable as the day was, it may have been a blessing. The Santa Ana winds are due in a few weeks and the fuel has been cooking all summer. As much as the burning river bottom is hated now, it is hated more with a 30 MPH wind pushing it. Whatever burns now can't burn then.

Sorry for the long post, but I was able to get a lot of pictures. Apologies to the Saint I Am Married To for not getting that lighting issue resolved. Thanks to you for reading.


Monday, September 10, 2012

I Really Thought...

I Really Thought...

...that if there was one Fire Dept. that could put those fires out, it was FDNY.

Sadly, I was mistaken.

To the 343, the Coppers, the Heroes of  the Battle of Shanksville, the people who performed their mission at the pentagon and the unassuming heroes like the man in the red bandanna, I salute you and I mourn.


I had a whole bunch of important stuff to do today, some of it time sensitive.

As you can see, I didn't get very much of it done. More photos and a story to follow.

I'm in trouble. Grovelling to follow as well.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 7, 2012

Hope - Progress Report

For almost a year and a half, I have been documenting the construction of our new headquarters fire station. Every few days (more or less) I have been making the trek downtown, climbing up the hose tower to the roof of the old station, standing at the exact same spot and snapping a photo of the new building.

Day 2 of construction. The site was a parking lot that was
created by A shift (I think) way way back in the day.
That the station is being built is a minor miracle in itself. Years were spent deciding on a location, A bond was issued, funding the construction of three other stations, a training facility and EOC.  It was hoped that the bond would fund this building as well, but it wasn't enough. Federal stimulus money came through and saved the project, which includes the station and administrative offices located on the top floor.

Fussing over construction details led to a significant delays mid-project, followed by the primary contractor suffering some sort of business crisis and stopping work on the project. Fortunately, the city requires that a performance bond be purchased by the contractor as part of the contract. Thus, when situations arise like this, the bonding company steps in and ensures that the work is performed and that everybody gets paid.

Holding Pattern - The new station spent many weeks looking
pretty much like this. Needless to say, I didn't take a lot of
photos during the pause.

Since the bonding company stepped in, work has been proceeding like gangbusters. Though I don't think things are completely back on schedule, tremendous progress has been made. They wisely kept the project super on board and I think they kept they subs. Regardless, work is progressing nicely.

This was taken a couple of weeks ago. The stucco, brickwork
and trim is complete, thus the scaffolding came down. The 
interior changes are equally as dramatic.

They, them, those people are talking about the station being ready to occupy by the end of the year. While I have no way to know whether that is a realistic deadline or not, I do know that things are moving along well.

As I never thought I'd see this building built, it is refreshing to see it coming along. I would have liked to work in it a shift or two as I spent quite a few years in the existing station #1. Obviously, that isn't going to happen so I will have to be content attending the grand opening ceremony when that occurs. That should be an exiting event.

I hope to have all of the photos put together like a time-lapse slide show, hopefully it can be shown at the grand opening.

As work progresses, it shows that hopes can be fulfilled if enough people work hard to persevere.  That and funding becomes available.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 3, 2012

50 Weeks

I made it 50 weeks without having to put a uniform on. I didn't think about it much when I took mine off after working my last shift - I just assumed that I wouldn't have to wear one until I was buried in my hated class "A". 50 weeks is a long time, the longest I had gone without wearing a uniform since I was 20 years old.

I didn't think about wearing it to other people's funerals, the idea of it just skipped my mind. That is until two weeks ago, when I learned that Bob, a guy I had worked with in the early stages of my career, had passed unexpectedly while puttering around at home.

I had mentioned Bob briefly a few times on this blog, most recently in July when I was reminiscing how unpleasant it is to lay on a garage floor underneath a 200 lb. dead guy. Bob taught me a few other things as well, some relevant to my career, some just to life.

While at the reception after Bob's funeral, I was speaking with Dan, one of the legend firefighters from my dept. We were discussing Jim, another retired member who had been rumored not to be doing well. No one knew any details, but Jim was reported to be ill and was keeping his status close to his chest.

Last week, we received word that Jim had passed away after losing a battle with cancer. Though I knew he was ill, I don't think anyone knew that he was that ill.

Jim, like Bob, Dan and numerous other firefighters had taught me the survival skills necessary to make it on the KBFPD. Not only the firefighting skills, but the cultural skills required to succeed.

Jim was my senior firefighter for the first year of my career with the KBFPD, As such he had to endure all of the repetitive drills, the boring company schools, the memorization drills and the tedium that training a new guy entails. He did so without complaint (mostly) and spent extra time with me, covering a few things that I was having difficulty with.

Jim was also on my first crew when I promoted to captain. He was my junior firefighter at  49 years old, a few years younger than the other members - Queen, and Curtis who were both past fifty. It was easy supervising that crew, all were experienced, old school guys who did their jobs well. I appreciated their efforts, they tolerated mine. Young captains can be a challenge to an old school crew, we handled each other well.

Jim also taught me how to pour concrete - how to lay out a job, set forms, pour mud and how to finish. I worked for him for a few years after coming off of probation, back when overtime was rare and almost every fireman had a second job. I learned a lot, skills that I still use occasionally, though thankfully not out of necessity.

Today, I am pulling my despised "A" out of it's bag, making sure that it is presentable after wearing it to Bob's funeral. I have to pick up my dress shirt from the cleaner in the morning, don it and head to the church. The services are at ten, followed by a reception after. With any luck, I'll be rid of the uniform by three, and it will be bagged by three thirty. Depending on my mood, I may be bagged by five.

Hopefully, it will be longer that 50 weeks before I have to wear it again, though I hear another one of us old Battalion 2 - B shift boys isn't doing well. Time will tell on that.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Would You Buy A Lens From This Man?

It's Saturday, the Nebraska game is on TV and I'm kind of busy editing photographs. I am also trying to sell a lens which I just do not use any more. I sent the photos below to a perspective buyer.

All of the photographs were shot using the same Canon 28-135 lens which came with my camera. As I  usually keep my 15-85 on my camera, this lens has been sitting on a shelf for most of it's life. All were taken on Thursday at the F.D. maintenance facility and at the training tower.

It was kind of a goofy lighting day, we were under the anvil of a nearby dissipating thunderstorm. Halfway through the shoot, a dust storm came through, a result of the nearby downpour.

These were taken to showcase the capabilities of the lens, I think it helps.

The two images below were taken from the same spot, a few seconds apart.

Ya gotaa love the versatility of zoom lenses when shooting action/street/documentary photographs.

Though I really like this lens, it really doesn't meet most of my photographic needs. Thus, it has to go.

Our training facility is located right next to a very busy railroad. It's located right at the point where the trains have to sound their horn for a nearby crossing. I can't tell you how many times over the years that the class I was attending has been interrupted by a passing train.  The new classroom is very well insulated, the trains can hardly be heard.

I am not sure that this probationary firefighter likes having his picture taken, especially while sweating his ass off at the tower. He'll get used to it, especially when he learns to trust me and trust that I won't publish pictures of him doing something silly. Trust is very important in this career field.

I hear good things about this one,  that's not always the case. We have had to let a few boots go over the past months, a situation which is never pleasant.

I hope these photos help sell this lens, buying a lens used is always a risk, especially if you don't know the seller. It could be stolen, abused, have mildew, dust or other issues. That isn't the case with this one, it has been hardly used and has been babied.

Shallow depth of field, poor lighting, motion, distance and different types of subjects were addressed in these shots, hopefully they work and a buyer trusts that they are getting a good product.

Besides, how evil can a guy named Schmoe be?

Thanks for reading,