Tuesday, July 30, 2013


My kids are pretty much grown. As a result, I don't see too many kids movies any more. Apparently, there is one out now titled Despicable Me 2. I haven't seen it, nor have I seen Despicable Me. (though it would be an appropriate title for my auto-biography)

Despicable Me is an animated movie and contain a set of characters known as minions. I have no idea what they do or what they are about other than they are minions.

 Photo kyped from www.fanpop.com

 Hitler had his minions,  Stalin had his. Apparently, someone in Despicable Me 2 has minions as well.

Now, the City of Yucaipa CA has been invaded by minions.

Photo by Rick Sforza, San Bernardino Sun Times

Some unknown artist has noticed that the physique of a minion is not unlike that of a fire hydrant and has dressed several hydrants in Yucaipa accordingly. Even I, uncreative and unobservant creature that I am, can see a resemblance.

According to The San Bernardino Sun, the reaction in the community has been mostly positive. Residents, the Po-Po and at least one fire captain were interviewed and all responded more or less the same - cute, as long as it doesn't interfere with operation during a fire.

A rep from the water district was a little more concerned, stating that the clothing used to turn the hydrants into minions might conceal the color coding painted on the hydrant to denote available water pressure.

I find that to be an odd statement, as none of the hydrants pictured in the Sun appeared to be color coded at all. Also, I would have though the rep from the water would have known that color coding on hydrants denotes flow (gpm) not pressure.

Personally, I think it is kind of cool, but I don't think the practice of placing anything on a hydrant is an especially good idea -it kind of sets a bad precedent.

Many agencies have a policy regarding the customization of hydrants, but there is usually a procedure to follow ensuring that the hydrant remains functional and properly marked. I'm just guessin' that gloves cable tied to the stems and caps wouldn't be within most policies.

For the full S.B. Sun article on the matter, CLICK HERE.

Now, I just want to find out how to get an army of my own minions. Of course they would only be used for good and not evil. Well, maybe for a little evil.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Images Of...

...sorrow, honor, respect and brotherhood. The images below are from the Ramp Ceremony for fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots Christopher MacKenzie and Kevin Woyjeck.

The two hotshots were returned to Southern California on July 10, 2013 via a California Air National Guard C-130J aircraft. MacKenzie and Woyjeck were two of nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed while fighting the Yarnell Fire in central Arizona on June 30, 2013.

The Ramp Ceremony was held at Los Alamitios Joint Forces Training Base in Southern California. It was attended by the families of the fallen, firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel from throughout California and by a grateful and grieving public.

Click on the images for higher quality photos.

Members of the City of Corona CA Fire Dept. Honor Guard prepare for the
Ramp Ceremony.

Honor Guard members from Fire Depts. throughout CA prepare for the
Ramp Ceremony.

 Honor Guard members from Fire Depts. throughout CA prepare for the
Ramp Ceremony.

 Honor Guard members from Fire Depts. throughout CA prepare for the
Ramp Ceremony.

 Lone Cub Scout In A Sea Of Blue

Firefighters, members of the Armed Forces and Honor Guards stand by to
receive the bodies of Christopher MacKenzie and Kevin Woyjeck.

 Honor Guard Members carry the casket of Christopher MacKenzie off of
the aircraft, past saluting aircrew members.
 Honor Guard members escort the casket of Christopher MacKenzie past the 
"Sea of Blue" during the Ramp Ceremony.

 Honor Guard Members carry the casket of Kevin Woyjeck off of
the aircraft, past saluting aircrew members.

  Honor Guard members escort the casket of Kevin Woyjeck past the 
"Sea of Blue" during the Ramp Ceremony.

Honor Guard members escort the casket of Kevin Woyjeck past members
of the Armed Forces during the Ramp Ceremony.

Patriot Guard Riders and other motorcycle organizations salute as the hearses
prepare to depart the Los Alamitos Joint Training Base.

Honor Guard member surveys the scene as the hearses prepare to depart the
Ramp Ceremony.


The Ramp Ceremony. It's not about politicians, speeches or proselytizing. It's about honoring the fallen, showing respect to the families of the fallen and honoring the traditions and sacrifices of those who have gone before us. Primarily a military ceremony, it was adapted for this occasion. The efforts of the military, the organizations involved and of honor guard members from throughout the state all came together to pull this off. It was a solemn ceremony that honored the two fallen firefighters perfectly.

I am honored just to have attended. 

Thanks for reading,


Monday, July 22, 2013

Stuck In Staging Blues

Stuck in staging. It's happened to most of us over the years. I know that I spent considerable time in staging over the years, back in the day when I rode the big red trucks. I thought my days in the purgatory like status were through, that is until last week.

I made arrangements to meet with a couple of chief officers who were assigned to the Mountain Fire, which has been burning in our county for the past week. These officers were assigned as Strike Team Leaders, (STLs) officers in charge of five engines that operate together as more or less as a unit.

The Mountain fire had gotten pretty big as far as fires around here go. It was at that time around 26,000 acres and had around 3000 firefighters assigned to it. I made arrangements to accompany the STLs as they supervised their engine company's during the shift.

As always, click on the image for better resolution.

 I ran into this crew on my way into base camp. They were happy
as they were beginning a rest period. They were headed to a 
motel in Hemet to get some much needed sleep.

My objective was to shoot the crews as they performed relatively low-risk operations such as overhaul and extinguishing any hot spots that may flare up near the control line. I called my contacts as I entered base and found out that they were in staging. I met up with them and then went to the Information Unit trailer.

There, I met with a deputy PIO and explained to her who I was and why I was there. After assuring her that I had the appropriate safety gear and that my instinct of self-preservation is very strong, she got me set up with an incident map and the current Incident Action Plan (IAP). I then walked back through camp to the strike team, which was still in staging.

Base, is kind of like a small city. It is a temporary facility designed to provide logistical support to the entire incident and usually provides command and control facilities as well. Everything that you do on a daily basis usually needs to be done on these major incidents as well.

 Mobile Shower Units. Hot water, soap and everything.

Sleeping, eating, showers, laundry, communications, sanitation/hygiene, tools and equipment and vehicle parking to name a few plus all of the incident command and control support functions. As I walked through camp, it reminded me of how though each camp is different, they are all the same.

 Three thousand people can generate a lot of trash.

Although there was activity in base camp, there wasn't as much as you would expect. The crews that were assigned were out working, the crews that were unavailable were resting, either at area hotels, in sleeping units or in tents. The units that were staged, were all hanging out by their units. Most of the visible activity was logistical in nature and being done by contractors or California Conservation Corps (CCC) members. I am quite sure that there was a great deal of activity going on in the various unit trailers and tents, but they were invisible to me.

 Verizon had this charging station set up. If the firefighters had
forgotten their chargers, they could get their phones charged here.

After making my way back to the staging area, I chatted with the STL that I was to be  with for the day. We caught up on some happenings and he showed me some Cel-Phone photos that he had gotten when they had first arrived at the fire. They were pretty impressive - real flames to the left, flames to the right kind of shots. Though I didn't expect any of those kind of shots on that day, I still wanted to get some shots of the crews working and of the STL being chiefly.

 Part of the staging area. The white Yukon and the first five
engines were where my hopes laid. Units were from March Air
Reserve Base, Riverside (2), Palm Springs and Corona. The 
blue tinted mountains in the background used to be green.

It was not to be. Much like the poor EMT students that used to get stuck at my station and not get a real call, my strike team didn't turn a wheel. We sat in staging all day, baking in the hot sun. I must admit that I still had a great time, there were two engines in the strike team from my agency and it was really nice visiting with the crews. The other three engines were from nearby agencies and although I didn't know them, we had friends and acquaintances in common and had common interests.

 The time spent in staging can be used to
go over some training items, catch up on
paperwork and maintain equipment.

Or, when you are caught up, get some much needed sleep. Hint -
when driving around base camp, always look out for people 
sleeping on the ground. It's always a good idea to look under
the rig before moving it as well. You just never know where people
are going to try to get come sleep.

It was not a bad way to spend the day. I found out that I had actually taken photos of one of the Palm Springs guys, he had been in the Honor Guard at Los Alamitos. Small world.

Around dinner time, I decided that It was time to move on. I said goodby to the crews and headed up to Lake Hemet, a nearby resort. I wanted to get some photos of the helicopters snorkeling water out of the lake and of the smoke plume drifting into the west. I'm glad I did, it gave me an opportunity to take photos, the real reason for my trip into the forest.

 The guy with the Mic is Chuck Henry. He anchored the 5 and
6 PM news from the fire. Chuck is with the L.A. NBC affiliate.
I watched for a while, the guy is the consummate pro. He has 
been with KNBC for ever. 

There was a bunch of media all parked in front of the entrance to Lake Hemet. I stopped to take a few pictures of the media in action, though I try not to use flash. I found out the hard way once, it pisses them off. However, if they are on the fire side of the rigs, flash is on. 

The smoke was drifting to the west, eventually passing in front of the sun. It gave everything a golden tint.

The helicopters had been working all day, though none close enough to base camp for me to take any interesting photos. The larger helicopters were loading water from the lake, I was able to get close enough for some images.

A Sikorsky Skycrane approaches Lake Hemet in front of
a smoke obscured sun.

I wasn't the only one there to observe the loading operations,
These kids really enjoyed the show.

Although I have seen these Viet Nam war era helicopters work 
many times, I am still fascinated by them. It takes them around
 a minute to load 2600 gallons of water.

As the sun got lower, the smoke thickened and the colors changed to a more reddish tint. I wonder if the pilot noticed the beauty of the smoke induced hues. I know I did.

 From an action photography standpoint, the day was kind of a bust. I did get to take some pictures though, I really enjoyed my time at Lake Hemet with the color, families and the helicopters. I also got to spend some time with people I don't get to see that often and I met some new people.  So though I was stuck in staging, it was a pretty damn good day.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 19, 2013

Photo of the Week

Taken at the Ramp Ceremony for fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots Chris Mackenzie and Kevin Woyjeck. The Ramp Ceremony was held at Los Alamitos Joint Training Base on July 10, 2013.

Click to enlarge, pay attention to the center of the photograph.

Lone Cub Scout In A Sea Of Blue

The paradox of this image, a son accompanying his firefighter father (my assumption), to a ceremony where two other firefighter fathers were accompanying their fallen sons  home, kills me. 

Maybe you had to be there, looking through a long lens at the anguished faces of two grieving fathers, to find hope in this somber image. Maybe not.

I know I hugged my two boys when I got home that night. I am very lucky that I was able to do so.

 I wish I could say that I waited a long time, holding for the right composition before getting on the shutter. I wish I could say that I wandered all of the way around this group of people, selecting the perfect angle to capture the definitive moment. Neither of these are what happened.

I didn't even know he was in the image, I was tunneled in on the flags, the banners of color flowing in the breeze. It wasn't until I reviewed the image a few days later that I noticed the scout, standing earnestly with the contingent from L.A. County F.D. Obviously, it changed the meaning of the photo, as well as the composition.

Even though it was an accident, I find this a very compelling photo. One that gives me hope. Hope that the Mackenzie and Woyjeck families can somehow recover from this tragedy. Hope for the scout and his father. Hope for all of us.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mountain Fire - Update

Monday night, I shared with you some information on a little fire that we had going here in Riverside County - The Mountain Fire. When I wrote that post, I had a feeling that it could be a problem child. It would appear that my impressions were correct. It has become a real pain for the USFS and for all of the other participators.

As of 2100 last night, it has burned almost 20,000 acres. Six residences and a commercial building have been destroyed, numerous outbuildings have burned as well.

Almost 3000 personnel are assigned to this fire, including 228 engines, 21 water tenders (tankers for you east coasters), 15 dozers, 17 helicopters, 10 fixed-wing aircraft including a DC-10.

Image courtesy of Tanker10 web-site

Numerous hamlets and communities have been evacuated, most of the town of Idyllwild  is under evacuation as is Fern Valley. I have to believe that a whole bunch more resources will be ordered if the fire moves into Idyllwild, I think the plan called for 50 strike teams to protect the town.

There is a strong possibility that the fire will burn over the mountain into the south end of the Palm Springs area. That has not happened in long, long while.

A friend of mine sent me this photo yesterday, I believe it was taken yesterday afternoon.

It was taken from base camp, located at Lake Hemet. It is looking north, and is of one of two major fire fronts that were blazing away yesterday. The photo was taken by Alan, one of my friends employees. Many photos like this were snapped yesterday, the power of this fire is impressing many.

The winds are expected to shift a little today, who knows what that will bring. I'll have to check and see if I have any friends on the fire, the odds are high. If so, they will be there for days - this isn't going away any time soon.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Guess His Luck Ran Out

A few weeks ago, I posted about a guy who was pretty lucky for an unlucky guy. Yesterday, I stopped by Sta. #3 to pick up a radio and was told that the gentleman's luck had run out and he had passed.

Apparently, he did not make it too much longer after reaching the hospital. I talked to a few of the guys who had assisted in rescuing the man, even the most jaded of us agreed that being trapped anywhere for several days would not be a pleasant way to go. At least he was aware that he had been rescued before he passed, hopefully he knew that somebody had made an effort to save his life.

The news of his death didn't make the paper. Apparently the hospital didn't think it newsworthy enough to let the paper know, or perhaps the paper didn't think anyone cared enough to publish it. Transient (assuming he was a transient) deaths are a dime a dozen, one more dying under bizarre circumstances is not worth a column inch or two of space in the paper.

I was kind of hoping that this event might have been an opportunity for the guy to turn his life around, kind of a rebirth. Apparently, this was not to be. He had put his fate in the hands of lady luck. She let him down.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, July 15, 2013

Mountain Fire

A fire broke out this afternoon on the San Bernardino National Forest (BDF), near the community of Mountain Center. The fire was reported at 13:43 this afternoon as has alreday burned over 1000 acres. It is being run under a unified command with BDF and Cal-Fire (RRU).

Evacuations have been ordered for several small communities in the area, including a large animal sanctuary and numerous ranches.

Stan Lim, a photographer for the Press Enterprise, was in the area this afternoon and put together a gallery of images. It can be found here.

Strike teams from throughout the state have been ordered for this fire, my agency has sent at least one engine as part of strike team. Reading some of the posts on Wildland Fire.com, the area hasn't burned in a long while and is known for extreme fire behavior.

Good luck with this one, be aware.

I'll keep you updated,


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Men of Honor

Ramp Ceremony Detail - City of Riverside Fire Department Honor Guard.

Taken at Los Alamitos Joint Training Base on July 10, 2013. Game faces on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm glad I'm Beat

I have to tell you, it's been a grueling couple of days. Myself and two comrades made the trek to Prescott AZ yesterday, to attend the memorial service for the nineteen fallen Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Our journey started at 0330 yesterday and ended about midnight last night. It was a solemn, sobering experience and a grinding drive, but I, and the two firefighters that I went with felt it was worth the effort.

As I went as a firefighter and not a photographer I took very few pictures. The ones that I did take are not very good and are still in my camera.

This morning, I rose early and drove to Los Alamitos Joint Training Facility, located in Orange County. There, I photographed the arrival of a California Air National Guard C-130 transport aircraft and the unloading of it's cargo, the bodies of two of the young men whose memorial I attended the day before.

As I attended today's ceremony as a photographer, I took many images of the proceedings and of it's participants. They may or may not be any good and are still in my camera. There is a possibility that some may never be seen. Sometimes intimacy is a sacred concept that should not be violated by the likes of me.

Today's event, was for me, a far more intimate event and despite my purpose there, I may have had an allergy attack. The sight of a family bringing their boy home for the last time is a heart wrenching vision, one that occurs all to often these days.

It is going to be a little while before I get the images processed and cataloged for these two ceremonies.  Images and posts of them are to follow, I just need a little time to get my thoughts and my photos in order.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Have I Ever Told You How Much I Hate Funerals?

Yeah I know, I have. Numerous times in fact. Well, despite my hatred of them, I and a few members of the department are going to drive to Prescott AZ on Tuesday for the memorial service memorializing the 19 Granite Mountain Hot Shot Firefighters who lost their lives last week.

As we all have time constraints, we are going to do a turn-around trip. We'll leave here around 0400 and hopefully return by 2100 or so. It's going to be a long day, but I feel a need to show support to the wild-land firefighting community and to let them know that we pavement protectors feel a sincere sense of loss, that we know what they do is important and that we realize how dangerous and difficult their mission is.

It's not going to be a pleasant experience, but my sorrow and discomfort is trivial when compared to what the families and friends of the fallen are going through. I wish there was some magic words that I could type to make things easier for those who are left behind, but it just doesn't seem to work that way.

If a family member of the fallen should ever stumble across this, I just hope they realize that the words expressed here are sincere, and though we can never understand exactly what they are going through, all of us in the fire service feel a sense of loss in their loved ones passing.

I'll let you know how it went when I get back.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, July 5, 2013


Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire has announced that Fire Apparatus Engineer Christopher Douglas was killed in the line of duty this morning in Riverside County California. He was 41 years old and leaves behind a wife and son.

Chris was an eight year veteran of Cal Fire and resided in Temecula Calif.

Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the Douglas Family in this time of terrible tragedy.

Another Goddam Tragedy

The local newspaper is reporting that a Cal Fire/Riverside County Firefighter was struck and killed by a pick up truck this morning. The firefighter was assigned to Engine 35, which serves the city of Thousand Palms, located near Palm Springs here in Riverside County.

The incident occurred on the Monterey Ave  on-ramp of Interstate 10 at about 0940 this morning. The as yet unidentified firefighter was standing on or near the on-ramp when the pick-up struck him and the fire engine.

The injured firefighter was transported to Desert Regional Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries.

The engine had been responding to a reported traffic accident, but is unclear at this time whether it was still assigned to the incident or why it was parked on the on-ramp.

The driver of the pick-up truck stopped at the scene and is cooperating with law enforcement. He reportedly consented to a blood test, but law enforcement stated that drugs or alcohol initially do not appear to be a factor in the accident.

I have often said that working the freeway was not the most dangerous thing I ever did in my career, but it was certainly the most dangerous thing that I did every day.

To the friends and family of the fallen, my deepest condolences. To my formerly green brothers, I feel your pain at the loss of your brother.

July 4th 2013

I hope everybody had a great Independence Day. It happens to be my favorite holiday - no cards, no gifts, no drama or pressure. For us, it's just gathering with friends and family, good food and fireworks.

Not everyone around here enjoyed the day as much as I did. Some of my friends were busy yesterday - very busy.

The B.C. was busy, he was herding cats until the Fire Marshall showed up to give him a hand.

The engine crews were busy. They had to tool up and hoof it into the fire. It looked as if hand tool work would be able to hold it. The arrival of the westerly wind altered that plan.


Helitack 301was busy. They choppered in and went to work on the left flank. It was hand tools for them as well.

After the crew was off-loaded, Helicopter 301 got busy, it went to work slowing down the right flank. They were using a pond at a local golf course for a water supply, their turn-around time was a little over three minutes.

The Division Supervisors were busy. This one had the left flank, from the gazebo west. Several hand crews, several engine companies and the supporting water tenders kept his hands full.

The PIO was busy. Several print and television outlets were requesting his services.

The inmate hand crews were busy, they always are. The amount of work these guys do is amazing, they are the ones who usually end up completing the control line around the fire. A few minutes after this photo was taken, the fire intensified and they had to back off from the direct attack until things calmed a bit.

Tanker 73 was busy for a few minutes. It put some pink line down between the fire and some buildings. I was hoping for a better shot, but the smoke would not cooperate.

This engineer was busy, finding a yard hydrant and using the monitor to take care of some issues over the perimeter wall. I could have had some real fun with this, but the spray was going to wreak havoc with my gear, so I opted for the safe shot.

Me? I wasn't all that busy. I snapped a few pics, then left my former comrades and headed home for some grilling, cocktails and a fireworks show. The folks were a little miffed that I was late getting back to the crib, but I'm guessin' they'll get over it. Or they won't.

Either way, it was a pretty golly gosh darn good day. I turned the radio on after we got home from the fireworks show, it sounded like the whole city was hopping. There were still resources committed to the Sycamore Incident, the usual calls were still going on and the partying and fireworks were adding to the din.

I unloaded the truck, went to bed and slept like a baby. I thought about the poor bastards overhauling the fire, but not for long.

Thanks for reading,