So Colorado Springs has another fire burning just short of a year after the Waldo Canyon fire, the Black Forest fire is in its third day. Yesterday I spent over four hours just driving alongside the fire; I’d stop and watch or awhile then drive to the next vantage point and watch again.
I had many mixed feelings, as a retired fireman I wanted so bad to be part of the fire, working it, fighting it, drawn to it. At the same time I knew of at least 2 firefighters that had lost their homes and that my Ex’s home and her others homes were in the fire zone. My children are evacuated and I don’t know where they are I only know they are safe and that’s enough.
I have lived in Colorado my whole life and as a fireman I know that there is a trade off in having the natural beauty that is Colorado all around you and knowing that at any time that same beauty can become a nightmare, as it is right now. As I write this the morning air is so heavy with smoke I feel like I’m at the scene of a good worker.
My eyes are burning, my lungs feel a little heavy and my nose will not stop running. Feels good! Crazy right? But that is the mind of a firefighter we love this shit we live for it, and that is what makes me sad because all I can do is watch like a normal person and I don’t feel like a normal person under these conditions.
I saw a firefighter I used to work with and he told me my name had come up around the coffee table the other day.
“Oh great.” I said.
See my book got me on a lot of people’s shit list and I have been kicked around pretty good for it. So when I hear that my name came up at a fire station I think another game of kick TimO around has been played and that’s okay, but that isn’t what he had to say.
“No TimO we didn’t kick you around in fact I’m glad I ran into you because I wanted to tell you that actually we were taking about the fact that they don’t make firefighters like you anymore. That people remember you as one hell of a good fireman and you are missed.” He said. His house burned to the ground yesterday.
My heart was warmed by his statement. I loved being a fireman and I like to think I did it well and I like to think maybe I had something to share with the guys that came up behind me. His comment also reminded me how much the fire service has changed in just the few years I did it.
In the early days of my career after maybe 10 years or so in, the officer I worked with at that time was a good ole country boy from Kansas and Dave gave me a lot of rope, he didn’t hold my reins as tight as many others had, he let me lose. When we got a job a good worker we kind of knew what we both needed to do.
“Go to work!” was pretty much his favorite command.
God if an officer tried that one today they would be brought up on charges and demoted in most departments. Those were different days, but man did you learn some stuff that might be hard to come by today, a true test by fire.
Many times I acted alone, I remember fighting my way down into a basement fire, it was so freaking hot at the top of the staircase, but it got better at the first landing and then I stepped into knee deep water. It was hot enough that the copper water lines had melted and come apart and they were spraying water everywhere but on the fire.
I put out the fire followed my hoseline back to the staircase and got out. Dave asked if it was out I said yes and he said.
“Took you long enough. I thought I was gonna have to get in there and help and you and you know how I hate to have to do that.”
That was as close as Dave got to giving a compliment, but for you.
No way could a firefighter get away with that behavior today. Don’t get me wrong, there are many firefighters that can and probably do the exact same thing today. They just have to do it without any bugle knowing they did it or have an officer like Dave around and those are hard to find.
Maybe it was that kind of firefighting he was talking about I don’t know. But it was nice to hear anyway, thanks to whoever it was that remembered me and remembered I was a good fireman, that’s enough for today as I watch the smoke build up again and see the winds kicking up.
Everyone tells us to be safe out there, well my brothers and sisters I know you’ll be safe out there. I say have some fun out there, take a picture of two, burn it into your memories and maybe someday, somewhere a firefighter will tell you, they don’t make em like you anymore. God bless.