Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Think She's Going To Work Out

Zoie has been here a couple of weeks. It was quickly apparent that she is a very sweet dog who came from a loving home.

She has been remarkably easy. No accidents, no barking, no destruction of property - no real issues at all. She has evolved into being my dog mainly, though she likes #2 son and The Saint That I Am Married To as well. 

Getting to know the territorial wiener dogs as been her main challenge, they made things a little tough on her but not too bad. They made life tough on me as well, giving me the cold shoulder for the first week or so that Zoie was here. Somehow, they knew that Zoie being here was my doing, not The Saint's.

Each day got a little better. Though there was only one real kerfuffle, there was plenty of posturing on both sides. Things have reached a point of stability, though I don't think the issue of dominance has really been resolved. I am sure it will be at some point, that's the way dogs roll.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying new dog. Her old owner has texted me a few times to see how she is doing. I think she is as happy as we are with the ease of the transition. I am sure that Zoie misses her old human. After all, she was with her for over three years. That's her entire childhood in dog years.

As the transition continues I am quite sure a few items may pop up, but I am equally as sure they will be minor and easily handled. Until then we will just enjoy the ride and enjoy sweet Zoie.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The chief's departure remains a topic that the local paper won't let go of. Yesterday, columnist Dan Bernstein wrote THIS PIECE, focusing on the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the assistant chief to the interim fire chief's post. It makes the whole series of events seem totally absurd.

In a nutshell, after the retiring chief's deal fell apart, a long retired assistant chief was contacted to act as interim chief until a permanent chief could be found. He agreed to do it at a significantly lower rate than the retiring chief was going to do it for and thought that it was a done deal.

A few days later, the long retired assistant received a phone call saying that his services were not required. If there was an explanation given, he didn't share it with me.

A few days after that, it was announced that the current assistant chief would be interim chief until a nationwide search for a replacement fire chief was conducted and a permanent chief named. It was also announced that the assistant chief had agreed not to apply for the fire chiefs job before being named as interim chief.

The logic given for the above arrangement, was that the city manager felt an interim chief would have an advantage in the competition for the permanent job and he didn't want give anyone a helping hand.

I smell bullshit. For a number of reasons that I won't go into here.

That the assistant chief agreed to it is a little surprising to me. I'm pretty sure that he would like to be the fire chief. I can only figure out two reasons why he would agree to the restriction.

One is that he feels the retiring chief had so thoroughly poisoned his chances for being appointed chief that he didn't stand a chance anyway - so why not serve as interim and enjoy it for a few months.

The second possible reason is that this story is going to continue to evolve and any agreement not to apply for the permanent position might be rescinded in the future. Bernstein's article seems to support this theory.

The big losers in this whole deal have to be the city manager and the assistant city manager who directly oversees the fire department. Each new article reduces their credibility. The department itself is definitely a loser, every few days another negative column or article appears with a negative spin on the agency.

All because someone with a "hooray for me, **ck you" life philosophy got a little too greedy and brought scrutiny on himself and others.

Karma can be a bitch. 

Greed - the gift that keeps on giving.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, January 17, 2014

Barking Wars

I couldn't help notice the similarity between in the atmosphere of where I was and that of the impound lot counter in the television show Parking Wars.  There was also a similarity to the DMV office. Not a pleasant hybrid if you ask me.

There were people there trying to get their property back, people trying to resolve minor legal issues, and people trying to comply with laws that seem to get more complicated every year. Each transaction had to be accompanied by paperwork that had to be completed in a certain fashion and by money. Sometimes a lot of money.

If it sounds like I have an axe to grind, I do. I hate the Animal Control licensing system and I resist complying with most of it's requirements. That I am writing about it can mean only one thing. I got caught.

My beef with the county animal control system started many years ago. Back then, I was a dutiful dog owner who licensed my dogs, though I never used any of the services that they provided. Then one day my, beloved whippet Boss escaped the Schmoe household.

After driving the 'hood numerous times and posting flyers, I called the local shelter and inquired if they might have possibly Boss in their possession. They told me that they did not provide that service, that there was no list available to give information over the phone. I then asked if they looked up the owners of licensed internees by getting the numbers off of the tags, cross checking the owners from the paperwork and notifying the owners. 

"Oh no Mr. Schmoe, we don't do that either. You need to come down and walk the kennels to see if we have your dog".  Of course I went down there and sadly, I never found Boss Whippet.

I  instantly realized that I was a sucker and resolved to never to license my dog again.

I don't know if you've ever walked the row atyour local shelter or not, but I can tell you it is a depressing experience. Most of the animals will be dead within a few days. If you were missing a dog, you had to go down there every day lest your dogs came in and then be disposed of.

In the following years, licensing requirements in my county were made stricter. The cost of licensing a non-spayed or non-neutered dog rose to $100 per year. Your dog must be micro-chipped before you can license it. Stuff like that.

I held my ground and though I always had my dogs vaccinated and sterilized, I opted not to give the county my money for the privilege.

The dog catchers came through the neighborhood a few times. They would pound on the door and if they heard a dog bark, the would leave a pre-citation notice on the door if no one answered. I threw them away. If I was home when they came, I just wouldn't answer the door.

Then, one fateful day last month, I answered the door without looking to see who was there. It was a county code compliance officer, one that the animal control people sent out to rustle up some money. It's pretty hard to deny being a dog owner when there are two yapping wiener dogs running around your feet.

The county sends the goon squad out to catch scofflaws like me and this time they succeeded. Fortunately I was able to provide proof of rabies vaccination and of altering so I only had to pay 25 bucks per dog as a late fee and regular licensing fees. As I am now on their radar, I decided to go ahead and register Zoie as well and maybe save myself some future grief.

I am told that as all licensed dogs have to be chipped, the shelter scans all dogs that they come to possess.  Sometimes, I am also told, the dog catcher scans in the field and returns the dog to it's owner without ever taking it to the shelter. I have my doubts.

Regardless, it appears that my original beef has run out of validity. The tactic of sending people door to door has succeeded in my case, the jangle of dog tags can once again be heard as the canines tear through the house. I have been brought back into line, though not without whining and gnashing of teeth.

I know animal control provides a valuable service and I know everybody was just doing their job. I just felt that the everyday Schmoe, the one paying the bills, should have been shown some love when it was needed. Just sayin'.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter Madness - Fire above Glendora

I awoke this morning staggered out to the kitchen and fired up the coffee maker. Out of habit, I turned on the TV and switched to the morning news. I was quite surprised to see images of flame, smoke and people fleeing an approaching flame front.

At first, I thought perhaps it was footage from an earlier incident, but it soon became apparent that there was a growing fire in the foothills above Glendora Ca.

Daaaamn Gina, It's freaking January!

I know we're in the middle of a drought and I know the winds are a dry, offshore flow, but still - January!

As Glendora is very near L.A. and it started just before 0600, there was a LOT of live TV coverage. At least 5 separate helicopters and several ground videographers were covering the fire on 6 TV channels.

The winds were causing embers to spread the fire, often hundreds of feet or more in front of the body of fire. Palm trees, may of which appeared to be poorly maintained, were igniting a quarter of a mile or more ahead of the fire. Needless to say, the crews were busy.

I was a little surprised at how fast the fire moved from the foothills into a few remote canyons with homes in them and then spotted into developed neighborhoods.

The news is reporting three or four homes lost, depending on which channel you are watching. As of 1000 hrs. the latest acreage estimates are in the 1700 range. Again, pretty impressive for January.

It appears that a lot of resources were pumped into the area and I think that they will get a handle on things today. Part of the fire is in LA county jurisdiction and part in the Angeles National Forest combined. Along with the mutual aid network, there should be sufficient people and equipment to get a handle on it.

Time will tell on that.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, January 13, 2014

Pain, Sweat and Grunts

Photos, at least the kind I like to take, are supposed to tell a story. Really good photographs need no words to get the message across.

Sometimes, circumstances do not allow the photographer to get the shot that he wants. The subject's face is not visible, the physical limitations of the scene restrict he photographer's movement, the unavailability of preferred equipment.  At other times, the photographer messes up and misses the definitive moment, the split second that defines the subject matter being photographed. Sometimes, all of the above conspire to require the addition of words to the story and the photos become supplemental to the story and the words become essential. 

I dropped by the tower the other day, in hopes that I could catch an engine company out on drill. As luck would have it, I found an engine drilling a probationary employee. As luck would also have it, it appeared that the boot may not have been performing as well as some would have liked. The distraction of a photographer clicking away would not have been welcomed so I opted to wander over to the pile, a training prop used to train people in the fine art of structural collapse rescue.

A multi-agency drill was in progress. Part of a structural collapse certification course. Most of the class were from Cal/Fire - Riverside County FD, people I did not know. There were a few folks from my dept. and a few from the county that I knew from the FEMA USAR team. From them I was able to find the person in charge and get approval to shoot. For that, I am grateful.

Two crews were working on the pile, with two separate operations in progress. I picked one and went to work.

In our prop, you usually have to go up before you can go down. Everything has to be hauled to the access point, usually up a ladder. In this case, someone has determined that the atmosphere is potentially hazardous and has set up forced ventilation. Two people are standing by should something go wrong.

Most of the working areas of our prop have easier ways of access than the rescuers are allowed to use. This enables an easy escape route should something go wrong. It also works for me, I can get into the pile without affecting the scenario.

I gained access and entered the prop, finding the rescue well under way. At first, I am laying flat on my back,  shooting up at the ceiling.

The rescuer is on the left, the victim is Pops, a tenth generation dummy that has managed to retain the same name over the years, despite having been replaced at least a dozen times. The objective is lift Pops from the floor of the vault into the black pipe, then move him horizontally to a second vault from where he could be lifted to the surface. It's quite a bit of work, even when things are going well. When things are not going well it can be brutal. Most of the work is done dangling in the air. Leverage and stability decrease dramatically when not firmly planted on the floor.

There were some issues with this evolution, things were not going as well as the team had hoped. Due to the respiratory hazard, the rescuer is breathing off of SCBA with all of his breathing air on his back. This limits the amount of time that he can work before a bottle change is required. That turned out to be a factor and the plan had to be changed.

Even the act of leaving the work space is a lot of work. The rescuer lowered Pops back to the floor, then lifted himself back to the pipe using a Z-rig lift system. Many grunts ensued, the rescuer expending tremendous amounts of energy to remove himself from the area. That his SCBA hung up on the edge of the pipe as he was trying to get back in did not help matters. I felt for him.

After the first rescuer departed, a second appeared. This one was breathing air through an umbilical system and brought a ladder with him. An umbilical air system has it's advantages. A large supply of air and no bottle on your back are the main ones. The down side is that the air line itself along with the communication line can be a pain as well.

The ladder was a good idea, however it's length prevented it from being removed from the horizontal pipe. It had to be grunted back out to the surface, again with a large amount of work being done while dangling in the air. More sweat, more grunts.

Pops never complained about the delay.

The plan reverted back to #A, this time with the different rescuers. The Z rig and brute strength used to get Pops up in the air, the difficulty was in making the transition from the vertical lift into the horizontal pipe. The anchor point for the Z rig was not quite high enough so Pops had to be grunted up the last foot or so, then stuffed into the pipe.

The instructors began to take an interest, they were running out of day. Setting up for nights ops adds another component to the scenario, one that they. nor anyone had any interest in at that point.

The guy in the pipe is lifting, using brute strength. Grunting, pain and sweat ensues.

The guy dangling is pushing for all he is wort as well. More grunting, more pain, more sweat.

Still no word from Pops.

Finally, after much effort, Pops is in the pipe, on his way to the surface. As the main objective was met, the instructors called it. All that was left was picking up the toys.

All of the equipment used in the drill had to go back on the rigs and be ready for use as soon as the unit was back in service.

After all of the equipment is put away, the post action huddle is conducted. All of the effort was for the purpose of training. As everyone has a different perspective of the scenario, it is important to discuss the event, with all of the players participating. What worked, what didn't. What policies or procedures might have helped. How can the evolution be improved.

How can the job be done better. That is what this was all about.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. After all of the gear was stowed and the event discussed, Pops was left in a heap, uncomplaining unneeded until the next training session. Just like he has for ever.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's Been A Tough Week

Zoie has had a tough couple of days.

It started out with a car ride, an activity which Zoie usually enjoys. She got to ride shotgun, while the infant was relegated to a carrier in the back seat. It's not often that Zoie gets the preferred anything any more. Since the birth of the infant, her life had slid downhill from being the cherished child substitute to being just a dog.

Though the car ride was fun, it was longer than usual and ended up in Riverside, in a neighborhood which Zoie was unfamiliar with. It was also odd that a box filled with her toys, her bed and her feeding dish ended up in the back seat, though I don't think she noticed.

After she arrived at her destination, she was bet by a big, ugly red-headed man, who seemed friendly enough, but was in the company of two rather territorial wiener dogs. That she was left there was bewildering. That she didn't get a decent good-bye was shocking, not only to her but to the big ugly red-headed man as well.

The first few hours weren't too awful. The man was affectionate and did his best to make her feel at home. The wiener dogs, though territorial, were coldly civil. Zoie could not understand why her owner had left her there, frequent looks at the front door brought no sign that her owner was returning for her.

Things started to get worse when Zoie went with the man to Petco and was fitted for a shipping crate. Further deterioration occurred upon the return to the mans house. The wiener dogs did not appreciate that Zoie had gone somewhere and they had not.

As time progressed, the wiener dogs figured out that Zoie was not leaving any time soon. Zoie began to worry. Dinner time was approaching and her owner was nowhere to be found. A lesson in doggie door usage went well, but the increasing resentment of the wiener dogs placed further stress upon her.

It became dark. The doggie door was useful as it allowed Zoie to walk to the side gate, where she could see the driveway and the cars parked on it. Still no sign of her owner or her car. Whining didn't help her owner find her way back to pick her up. Loneliness along with darkness and cooling temperatures increased her misery.

When the man's wife came home from work, the wiener dogs became  even more territorial, their usually sweet dispositions vanishing in a snarl and a flash of teeth whenever the wife acknowledged Zoie's presence. Boundries were thrown up throughout the evening, territorial ones and emotional ones. The pack dynamic was challenging for Zoie to  learn.  And still, Zoies owner did not return for her.

As the evening wound down it became apparent that Zoie would be spending the night in the strange house. She found out what the crate was for when it was time for bed. Her bed was in the new crate, along with a blanket. Zoie wasn't happy about the crate, though she did not vocalize her displeasure when she was forced to spend the night in there. That she was quiet all  night made the big ugly red-headed man happy, for he placed a high value on sleep.

The next day was more of the same. Looking for an owner who never came back. Lessons in pack dynamics. Learning the details of a strange home. Zoie spent some time with #2 son, napping together in the kids bed.

The man was impressed with how trouble free Zoie seemed to be, though he wondered why someone could so easily get rid of such an easy dog. A second night with no noise coming from the crate added to the evidence that the decision to take Zoie in was the right one. It is, after all, a matter of adjustment.


I think that  things will work out. We will adjust, the territorial wiener dogs will adjust and Zoie will adjust.

Zoie and Buster are playing today, not for the first time, but for the first time it seems that they are playing for fun - not for the purpose of establishing dominance.

Back up to three dogs. I kinda liked having just two, but Zoie needed a home and well, I am a sucker for a pretty face on a small dog.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's Never Simple

There were two meetings yesterday, one of several important topics discussed at each was the arrangement of hiring the retiring chief back to mentor potential replacements and to administer a couple unfinished projects.

The first meeting was a firefighters union meeting. I  did not attend, but I did read an article on the local paper's web site which quoted Tim Strack, the union local president, in an open letter.

In the open letter, Strack wrote that bringing the chief back “is counterproductive for the future” of the department and “a poor use of public resources.” Three months is not long enough to develop a fire chief, and with the chief sticking around, the acting chiefs wouldn’t have the necessary autonomy to run the department, Strack wrote.

The second meeting was a city council meeting, which was held last night. Again I did not attend, but the city sent out a press release during the meeting which said that the subject of rehiring the fire chief had been revisited, and after receiving criticism from the public and the union, it had been decided not to rehire the retiring chief in any fashion.

As the press release appears to have been issued during the meeting, the matter was likely decided (re-decided?) in a closed door session prior to the public meeting.

Also in the press release, the city manager was quoted as saying that a retired fire chief or other high ranking city official would be hired as an interim chief while a nationwide search was conducted for a permanent replacement.

I find the above statement curious. Does that mean the city manager is going outside, for even the interim chief? It sure sounds like it to me. The city manager is also quoted in the newspaper as saying that his choice to try the three-chief arrangement did not mean he thought no one in the department was qualified to become chief. Maybe so, but then publicly saying that he is planning to go outside, even for the interim job sure does.

We have gone outside before - it was a disaster. I'm not saying it would be again, but there are a few folks inside that I think would do a fine job . I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Regardless, the retiring chief is actually going to do so, the rotating acting chief idea is out the window and the gadfly/malcontent city hall watchers have another six months of fodder to make snarky comments about.

All at the expense of a group of people who want to help people, do their jobs and not read headlines about the political circus performing above their heads.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Kerfuffle in River City

The thing that really annoys me about this is that it brings negativity to my beloved RFD. Let me start by saying I know all of the players, most very well. I have my opinions about their strengths, their weaknesses, their personalities and their overall capabilities. Let me also say that these guys play the game at a higher level than I ever did. They know stuff that I don't, they know things about each other that I don't. That's fine by me, I don't need to know anymore.

It all started when the Fire Chief announced that he was retiring at the end of last year. That was quickly (or simultaneously) followed by a statement that he would be hired back as a Fire Administrator on a part time basis. The fire administrator position is one that appears to have been created for the chief, as we have never had one in the thirty plus years that I have been associated with the department.

The duties of the administrator will include mentoring the three announced possible successors and the administering of a contract with a private ambulance company to provided 911 transport within the city. It reportedly pays $100 per hour with no bennies, significantly less that the buck and a quarter plus benefits that he was making while chief.

He will be collecting his full pension while serving as administrator and will be limited to 960 hrs per yr. under state pension rules. There is some question as to whether the deal is allowable under the rules - the laws changed a few years ago and they appear to have different interpretations.

The three possible successors will each serve as acting chief for a three month period. All are currently division chiefs within the department. One is the ops/deputy chief, the second is the fire marshal and the third is the USAR chief. All are capable men who have been around for a long while. I consider all three to be "professional friends" and have worked with all of them.

The local paper wrote an article about the situation and the details were not well received by some of the public. The usual gadfly-malcontents are raising hell - that is to be expected. There are plenty of others who are less than thrilled as well.This article, as well as a satire/opinion column generated a significant number of responses, none supporting the deal.

That the issue has legs and will not be going away soon was proven by a second satirical/op-ed piece, one that was published this morning. I'm just guessin' that some of the city council's phones will be ringing off the hook before this is over.

The council has been strangely silent about the issue over the weekend, though I know they are aware of it. I am sure it will be discussed at the weekly meeting tomorrow night.

The union is going to discuss it at their monthly meeting later this week. Hopefully their position will be made public. The issue is too important to not take a stand.

Frankly, I find the whole deal distasteful. I don't have a problem with the idea of working after retirement - provided the rules are followed, the organization has a legitimate need and the retiree isn't merely getting a sweetheart deal to further enhance their income. In this case, I am not sure that all of these conditions are being met.

I don't like that the department will have a divided leadership for the next nine months. Each of the aspiring chiefs will not be able to set a course for the agency as their time in the hot seat will be limited. In addition, the retiring chief is a high control guy, one who excels at providing direction. I think it might be hard for him to see a course set that perhaps did not have the same destination that he had set.

That there is an uproar among the public regarding this arrangement is understandable. The numbers make it appear that the retiring chief will be getting over 300k combined pension and wages per year for working 20 hrs a week. I understand their ire. While my checking account would love a similar arrangement, I don't posses the skill set to make it happen nor would my ethos allow it.

While it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, the fall out from it hurts. It puts a black mark on the department and the men and women who serve it. They don't deserve the negative attention.

It is my hope that this arrangement is abandoned and that after a selection process , the City Manager selects one interim chief - who if does an acceptable job, will be kept on in a permanent position. I think that is best for my beloved RFD.

Maybe I am naive, maybe I am too much of a boy scout. Regardless I don't think this is a good thing for us, the taxpayers either.

Thanks for reading,