Monday, December 31, 2012

Dump The House: The Shoes.....

It’s a colorful expression for getting all the apparatus out the door.  It’s more and more difficult these days of limited manpower, both volunteer and career. 
Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Station 15--Burtonsville
What I like best about this picture, though, is the shoes. The empty leather shows the tenuous nature of the work.  It’s late evening, after ten.  One minute, everything is calm.  There is laughter someplace—inevitably in a fire house.  The television is on with a small audience.  Others have turned in for the night.  The bays are filled with the engine, ladder truck, and heavy rescue squad.  A minute later, all that remains is…..the shoes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Christmas Excerpt.....

It was the Friday night before Christmas, a crisp  starlit evening.  We were cruising the township roadways with Santa Claus on the rescue.  It was an annual event, much enjoyed by many of the smaller members of the community and, truth be told, by many of the bigger ones as well.   

The lights were flashing, the siren screaming, the air horn blasting and regular sounds of “Ho Ho Ho” were echoing in the night air from behind me.  I rode the officer’s seat in the cab, just enjoying the atmosphere and the smiling children we encountered on our slow tour.  My fun was broken by a radio call. 

 Comm Center to Chief 36,” the radio query came.  After I responded, the dispatcher asked, “You wouldn’t happen to be out with Santa Claus by chance, would you, Chief?” 

 “Affirmative,” I answered. 

“Can you call in by phone?” the dispatcher asked. 

I didn’t have a good feeling as I reached for the cell phone mounted on the dash.  Was some scrooge upset by the siren noise, I wondered.  When I got the dispatcher on the line, it was nothing like that. 

“Hey, Chief, we just had a call from a grandma on Greenfield Road.  She was upset ‘cause she had been out when you went by and her grandchildren just missed Santa.”

"Please tell me she didn’t call in on 911?” I asked the dispatcher, almost dreading his response.  The 911 emergency line is certainly not the proper method to obtain a visit by Santa Claus. 

  “Oh yeah, she did,” he said with a laugh. 

  “Sorry about that, we’ll take another run down that road.”  We have to take care of a grandma like that, I thought to myself. 

 “Thanks, Chief, and Merry Christmas,” the dispatcher answered, as we both disconnected the line. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Backyard “Training” or What the Burn Barrel Can Teach

The ubiquitous burn barrel isn’t just the source of springtime brush fires when oblivious residents decide to light them when the wind is gusting at forty—so much so that it probably took them five matches to get the stuff going.  It can actually be an opportunity to turn the mundane task of burning trash into a learning experience. 

The backyard burn barrel can be a firefighter’s small scale research lab for fire behavior.  Vertical and horizontal spread and smoke development can all be “studied” in an admittedly limited but still beneficial way while completing a line on the honey-do list.  Try to extrapolate in your mind how these materials, put in a room, would similarly react to this small ignition source.  Notice how the physical configuration; vertical or horizontal, affects the speed of development.  The differences observed from ordinary combustibles when the occasional piece of plastic sneaks into the barrel by “accident” is telling as well. 

An unusual method?  Maybe, but don’t waste a single opportunity to learn from a fire.  The routine job of disposing of papers and boxes can be your own mini training session on fire behavior. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heredity Versus Environment: Or Why Does Junior Like Fire Trucks?

Heredity versus environment; the debate has gone on for years.  Now why in the world would this be of interest to the fire service?  Primarily because there are so many multi-generational members in the “family” business.  It is an easier question to examine from the desk than from the jumpseat or chief’s car. 
The premise is based on the theory (I don’t think it’s a theory.  I think its damn well a fact) that only a limited number of people in the population possess the innate ability to go into burning buildings.  Accepting that, why then, are so many of them from the same families?
Exposure to the business through visits to the fire station as a kid can certainly enhance the interest level.  That alone doesn’t provide the ability necessary to make the push through the door. 
I’ve seen many second or third generation firefighters—at least they start out to be one—that were total disasters.  So it isn’t something that is automatically passed from generation to generation.  However, the number of times it does happen argues for more than statistical anomaly.
One of the messages from this is that we should look not just externally, but internally as well for recruiting.  Having my son become a firefighter kept me active many more years than I likely would have been otherwise, so it works for retention as well. 
So the answer to the original question of heredity versus environment is…..don’t know—but it is fun to think about.