Friday, January 27, 2012
I have been nominated for a Shorty Award for this blog, so if you enjoy my blog please vote for me, you can vote as many times as you want as often as you want, so just a few hundred votes from each one of you could really make the difference for me. http://shortyawards.com/?category=blogger&screen_name=timothyocasey
On that note I need to ask a favor of you, a personal request so to speak. This blog has analytics that I can view and the information shows me that I get, to me at least an amazing amount of reads a day. Thank you for reading. The analytics also show that very few of my readers actually join my blog.
Why join? Joining first and foremost encourages me to continue with this little experiment; secondly joining helps me reach more people. How does that work? With more members I gain exposure in search engines. Keep in mind I am a retired fireman self educated on all this internet social media stuff and I wish it was more like a sick person or a fire, then I’d know what to do. But it’s not so I can’t stick a needle in it or spray water on it to make it better.
Okay, today a story from many years ago. On a terrible Colorado winter night we got a call for a possible suicide by gun. These kinds of calls are always tricky, if they have done the deed and were successful no big deal, wait for the cops and the corner, console the family get back in service.
But sometimes we got there too fast; we got there before the trigger got pulled. This meant we had a couple of options. First we had a chance to prevent it; second we had a chance to become part of the event and not in a good way. A confused suicidal (often drunk) person is not the easiest person to deal with.
On this freezing ass night all we knew was that there was a possible suicide involving a gun. Back then the fire trucks we rode on were not the cool Cadillacs you see on the streets today. This old piece of history was a real left over, a Ward brand name fire truck.
Open cab, which means the other firefighter and myself rode in the back seats, facing backwards, under a tiny bit of cowling. For the most part we were really just sitting outside next to the big Detroit diesel that propelled us down the icy streets.
There were no headsets then, hell there weren’t even ear protectors for noise. That meant as backseat jockeys we never got updates about the changing situation we were heading into. The driver and officer could hear the radio in the comfort and warmth of the cab but not us. The officer if he was on his game had a tiny sliding window behind his head he could slip open and yell an update to you through.
This night the officer was on his game, problem was he didn’t have any game. Poor old Penny was a rather distracted officer, his mind was always somewhere else, not that he was a bad officer, he was a fair captain, its just that the vacancy sign was always on at his mental motel.
So no update was available for myself and Wit the Twit, that was the other firefighter’s nickname. Which was okay we had become accustomed to just doing what was needed when the truck stopped, we baled off grabbed our gear and went to work. So we didn’t know that shots had been fired at the scene.
We were flying through the snow like it was Santa’s sleigh, Bob the driver (we called him Bob because he wasn’t cool enough for a nickname) knew how to get everything out of that truck in snow, rain, sleet, and the dead of night. He should have been a mailman in hindsight.
We sat there in a cloud of Colorado powder fat dumb and happy. The house we were responding to was on a steep slope heading south. Bob raced down the street, suicides had a way of making you go a little faster. As he pulled up the truck was oriented with its nose pointing downhill.
Before the truck actually stopped I was off it and ready, it was a little like bullfighting. You stepped off at your position and waited for the truck to brush past you, when it halted, if your timing was right, the appropriate equipment door on the engine was right in front of you. Took some skill.
I whipped open the compartment grabbed the medical boxes, Wit the Twit, the other fireman grabbed the oxygen and some other stuff and we turned and headed for the house.
At the very same moment captain Penny opened his door jumped off the still sliding truck. He didn’t want us going in because he knew that shots had been fired. In his effort to protect us he rushed and didn’t quit get his huge metal door on the engine shut.
Bob nailed the air brake with a loud “Pishhh”, Penny’s door swung foreword with great momentum, slapped the side of the BRT and snapped right off its hinges.
Now Penny is charging after me and the Twit trying to get us to stop and stay outside just as the 400 pound door hit the ground with a tremendous bang. Penny now left his feet in a spectacular superman leap, head first arms stretched for maximum aerodynamics and yelled at the top of his lungs, “They’re shooting at us boys.” He crashed into a nice snow drift piled alongside the shoveled walkway with a thud and spray of snow.
He looked up like a Labrador that just found a ball in the snow. His face wet with snow, eyes bulging and still yelling. “Don’t go in” he called. The Twit and I slid to a halt, jolted by the bang and the sight of our captain air born. Truly one of the funniest things I ever saw at a call.
I think the guy inside thought a shot had been fired as well and surrendered to us to wait for the police and appropriate mental help.
Poor old Penny had to spend the rest of the night riding around with no door, we didn’t have replacement trucks you see. I’ll remember watching him sitting up there teeth chattering wearing all his firefighting gear for the rest of my life.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
My book, Dangers, Toils and Snares: Confessions of a Firefighter has caused me great joy and some mild remorse. Why remorse you may ask, I tell you why. For the duration of my career it would come up over and over again “Someone should write a book about this stuff.”
So I did. I wrote a book about adventures in firefighting. Not all the supposed heroic shit we do but stories of men and women at work. Our work is very different than most and our schedule very different than most. To this day after more than 30 years of firefighting my family is till baffled as to when I have my children. Because my ex is a firewoman our custody is still based of that damn firefighting shift work.
If you want to know the schedule ask my kids they know it well, “Are we with you next Friday daddy?” My youngest will ask and my son will instantaneously offer the answer.
So I wanted to tell these funny stories, I wanted the general public to understand that we or maybe I should say I, don’t consider what we do to be anything more than work. Really exciting, cool, awesome, and dangerous work, but it is work. We have front seats to the game of life. We stand inside the yellow tape that keeps you out.
When we aren’t doing that we train, some days endlessly, think of all the disciplines we have to know. Firefighting in all it incarnations from dumpsters to secret DOD facilities, medical responses from stubbed toes (and we get called for that) to mass shootings, hazmat, high angle rescue, urban rescue, water rescue, seasonal rescue from ice to heat, etc. etc. You have to keep those skills sharp at all times, because not doing so puts us as well as you at risk.
We are on duty 24 hours a day, we still need to eat, sleep, and have some down time. I told stories about down time, not in an effort to grind any preverbal axes as some of my co-workers assume. It was an effort of love and fondness for a profession I greatly respect and am proud to have been part of for so long.
My intention wasn’t to do harm, my intention was to entertain, and I have succeeded in that at least in the feedback I get. So why are there hurt feelings about a silly book about firefighters? I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on that question as I write two follow up books and I have come to a couple of conclusions.
First is, as the people I once worked with have read the book (or simply heard about and not read the book) they believe they have found themselves concealed inside the stories. I worked very hard to conceal the names of those involved in less than tasteful situations, so as not to damage anyone’s reputation. I didn’t want to harm anyone.
None the less they feel I have told tales out of the firehouse that should never have been told. Many of these events happened in the early 80’s and would get you fired today. But they happened and were hysterical at the time. As a writer I had to take some artistic license in the way stories are told. Some stories had to be combined into one to make a full and complete tale.
“It didn’t happen that way” one guy nearly yelled at me while balling up his fists, and on that day in that fire station my detractor was correct, it didn’t happen that way. But on two or three separate days it did all happen.
I get that the uneducated, untalented, and career oriented ladder climbers react hostilely to my work. Because they were there and they did some shit in the moment that they aren’t proud of today. But I didn’t make them do it; all I did was recount the events. The no sworn general public has no idea who the hell the characters in my book are. Doesn’t stop fans from asking, it does stop me from telling.
But if you have a guilty conscious about past actions I can’t help that and won’t restrain my pen to protect an ego. You see I am considered by many as an untalented uneducated hack. Throughout my career I always wrote, screenplays mostly and I had some success with that, a concept many couldn’t get their pee brains around.
How could Tim Casey sell movies? How could he know famous people? Not that guy, not him, I’m a way better and a more deserving person than him and there’s the rub.
I admit I didn’t throw myself into firefighting the way some do. I was good at it; I was a good medic and could be counted on in a fire. But I always had other plans, other goals, another life and that pisses off the less fortunate.
My life away from the red brick buildings was so different that it was misunderstood. I believe it was viewed by some as lack of dedication to the one thing in their lives that defined them.
I always knew I would stop being a fireman someday. That brings me to my second point, my book and efforts to have a second life has shoved a mirror in the faces of those that don’t know that. Being a firefighter is who they are, it is their life and some day that will be taken away.
Think about how that feels to the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighting. One day you will get a party, nice things will be said about you (hopefully) you’ll get a gold badge and then you will be shown the door. You won’t get inside the yellow tape again, your front seat has been given to someone else.
And here is a really sad thing, you will be forgotten, all that you did, all the lives you saved, all the times you were in the shit, doing the job will vaporize. The new guys have no idea who you were, what you did, the most important part of your whole damn life will be in a dust bin. That’s hard news to take.
For awhile you will linger, those that knew you that are still working my mention you from time to time. But in the end your contribution to the world will be erased from the dry marker board just like an unused phone number.
But in my books there is a chance you won’t be forgotten and some day sitting around the nursing home while nurse Cratchet locks the wheels on your chair to keep you out of trouble you might grab that book and remember. Because I won’t forget you guys I love you all.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I am an alcoholic, have been for most of my life and am much acquainted with the disease. I know firsthand the destruction it can bring. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t beat my kids or wives, never got a DUI, never got arrested, none the less my disease had terrible consequences.
As a firefighter I was also well acquainted with the malady out in the real world. Off the top of my head I would venture to guess that fully 50% or more of my work as a paramedic was a direct result of alcoholism. From car wrecks to domestic violence, fist fights to rapes, and then the devious effects of the ailment on the bodies of drunks.
True misery is generated not only for the alcoholic but any and everyone we touch. What I want to focus on is not my disease, but I want to compare and contrast marijuana and booze in my experience as a medic/firefighter.
Alcohol can be found pretty much anywhere, from the garages of home brewers to the slopes of Aspen. Marijuana outside of some progressive states has to be procured in nefarious ways, illegal back street deals or so we are told.
Booze is socially acceptable from birthday parties to presidential dinners. Marijuana must be hidden and smoked in secret. Liquor has fancy names and millions of dollars are spent to promote its consumption, just ask the “Most Interesting Man in the world”. Mary Jane has some cools names and is promoted as a gateway drug, spark up a fatty one day, shoot smack the next.
Well in my considerable experience on the streets with diggety dank I have seen virtually no adverse consequences to pot. As a side note I DO NOT use weed, in fact I have an allergy to the stuff, and I am not promoting the use of cannabis, I am only sharing my expert opinion from the real world on what I saw as the effects on my job as a fireman.
I do not recall any cases of domestic violence perpetrated by a stoner that was only stoned. As another disclaimer I will limit this opinion to purely giggle weed, if a stoner adds booze, coke, heroin whatever, to the circumstances then all bets are off.
The only violence I saw at the hands of dopers was on snack foods and if fisticuffs did arise for Bogarting a joint a manikin could have avoided any punch thrown.
For the most part when dealing with dope zombies they were mellow, polite, and cooperative. They answered questions truthfully if slowly and many times the question had to be repeated as their attention did wander or because spontaneous laughter had broken out.
Traffic violations for the ganja impaired generally were in the category of impeding traffic, the wrecks associated with them were the result of the impatient people stuck in traffic behind their Pintos.
I’m sure there are homeless dopers but I am also sure that weed isn’t their only stand-alone problem. Dopers seemed to be employed most of the time. They weren’t building defense weapons as far as I knew, although I’ll bet there is someone out there building bombs that smokes.
They tend to hold jobs complimentary to the peaceful state they exist in. A career that keeps them in weed, in possession of ample snacks, a warm home, and out of trouble. They do a lot of jobs that require a numb mind and would drive an overly active mind to, well pot.
I’ll bet their lungs are in shit shape and running long distances isn’t for them, but there is a world full of shit lungs from legal sources. They don’t seem to suffer the ravages that booze brings. I never ran on a bong bandit that was in the end stages of liver failure or that was vomiting blood because pot had eroded the blood vessels in their throat to the point of rupture.
Didn’t see a bud fatty switch from marijuana to antifreeze to get high or smoke carpet fibers hoping there was a little bud in there. Were their homes the cleanest? No, but I have three kids don’t drink or smoke weed and my house is a wreck many days.
I never saw a Gunney sacker OD on weed, never had to jam big needles in their arms, and push hardcore meds into their IVs just to get a heatbeat back. Had to wake them up, had to be patient with them, but never took extreme measures to save their lives.
So I guess my point is that marijuana may be a bad thing for some just as alcohol, cigarettes, and saturated fats are. But as a paramedic/firefighter I really never worried about what would happen to me if I took care of them in the streets. I had druggies and drunks swing on me, pull knives on me and point guns at me. But never a stoner.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Today will be an ask a Fireman day. Because we share such a great reputation as problem solvers in the real world, we get asked question about how we would solve a common problem everyone experiences.
First off though I would like to answer some common questions I have received over the years about firefighting. A frequent question was, do you really get cats out of trees? In a word, NO! We do not get cats out of trees, how many cat skeletons have you seen in trees?
Think about it, if cats couldn’t get down on their own wouldn’t most trees look like a macabre Christmas trees decorated with the remains of Fluffy in various states of decomposition? I can just see it, a pleasant walk in the park with a beautiful woman, holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes, and then a hunk of rotting feline falls on her head.
So don’t ask me about that again I’ve given my answer. Next up, are the firetrucks at car wrecks in case the cars explode? Again, NO! This one I blame on Hollywood, I don’t believe I have ever seen a movie car crash where the car doesn’t explode at some point.
Either immediately because the occupant needs to die, or shortly after a rescue is affected so a hero can be produced and drama enhanced. So why are we there you may ask? Well, because we are highly trained professional rescuers, EMT’s, paramedics, and we know what to do to save lives.
Do cars explode when they crash? Yes sometimes, but my experience has been that they do it soon after impact or not at all, so if the traffic is all jammed up and you are cursing the delay while waiting your turn to gape open mouthed at the crash scene. We are there for rescue and scene control.
While I’m on the subject on open mouthed gazing at crashes, can I ask you a favor? Don’t do it you vultures. Drive on by, slow down to keep the firefighters and other rescue workers safe, but please stop the ritual rubber-necking and pass by.
I get the curiosity factor, I do, but think about it what are you looking for? Are you really hoping to see something gruesome? Dismembered bodies, guts, decapitations, and blood? What are you looking for? Ask yourself that.
Because I have seen the list above and many many worse horrors, you don’t wanna know and trust me you don’t wanna see it either because it will haunt you for forever. Sorry I’ll get off the soapbox now, for at least the next paragraph.
Is it really hot in fires? Hell yes it’s hot in fires. Sometimes it got so friggin hot I watched as the bright yellow reflective stripes on my sleeves began to melt and drip, that’s hot. Here’s another one, we have all seen video of wildland fires, forest fires, and brush fires. The video can be very impressive.
I’m sure you have seen the air tankers fly over the fire and release that beautiful red mist of fire retardant on a fire. By the way it’s colored so the pilot knows where he has already been.
The idea behind dropping retardant on a fire isn't to actually put the fires out. Retardant creates a barrier that will slow fire enough to allow firefighters to attack it directly. The slurry is sticky enough to cling to whatever it is dropped on. The coated fuel doesn't burn well, so the fire slows.
An air tanker can drop ten tons of retardant on a fire in one pass. Guess what you don’t want to be under it, I have seen it flatten a tree like it was a daisy. The heat in this environment is absolutely astounding, if you have sat around a camp fire you know how the radiant heat of a fire can drive you away from those romantic flames, now times that by oh let’s say a million.
Notice I said the slurry slows the fire so the firefighters can put it out, they put it out by hand, with shovels, axes, pulaski and water if they have it. We have our own little badges of honor that only we know about, that only firefighters respect because they know what it means.
In the wildland environment, if you return to base camp with slurry on you or your helmet is slightly melted, damn you got my respect because you been in the shit. In the structure fire world a melted helmet still holds prestige as well as having melted your reflective stripes.
So I’m sorry I didn’t answer reader questions about how a fireman would handle a clogged drain or a bed wetting child, but feel free to ask, my advice is worth exactly what you pay for it as my father would say.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Okay I call this blog “I never wanted to be a FireMAN” for a reason. First it pisses off some people if you use the politically incorrect term fireman. Second it makes some people laugh and third because I’m a fireman (retired).
Quién realmente da una mierda. That’s Spanish for who really gives a shit. The name doesn’t change the job, the person changes the job. The decision to use the term fireman does have real world implications above and beyond causing blood to leak from the delicate eyes of the politically correct.
It messes with your search results on the internet. People don’t search for that word anymore, and if they do, it is coupled with “wooden stake through the heart of an old out dated sexiest word that should be found in the grave yard with words like policeman, mailman, milkman, and congressman.” Wait they still use congressman, strange.
Anyway, people only or mostly search for firefighter, so my stuff gets missed, I lose readers and with only a handful of readers (thank you all) my very important words aren’t disseminated to the world, shame about that.
Do you care what your rescuer is called or do you care to be rescued? Now I’m trying to start a fight over words, I love words. But changing a word; man to fighter changes nothing but letters. The question is who is doing the job?
The first woman hired by my job was in 1984 and I was in the recruit academy with Ann. Ann was and still is, a great woman. She blazed a trail into the unknown and any woman working on the job that doesn’t know Ann or her history on the job is losing out.
She was young, strong, fit, attractive (unfortunate), and sorry Ann, a bit naïve. I always wished Ann had worked as cocktail waitressing or been to a strip club, some manly place where men acted more base. A place where under the influence of liquor men reveled their true selves. See I believe if Ann had had that kind of exposure to men being assholes, she would have been better prepared for the reception she got.
Keep in mind the time 1984, NYC transit fare rises from 75 cents to 90 cents, ATT had just broken up, Denver Nuggets 163, San Antonio Spurs 155-highest-scoring NBA game, Supreme Court (5-4): city may use public money for Nativity scene, Madonna's "Like a Virgin," single goes #1 for 6 weeks, Hepatitis virus is discovered, body of assassinated Indian PM Indira Gandhi cremated, Joan Benoit (US) wins 1st Olympic marathon for women (2:24:52), "Miami Vice" premieres, and Geraldine A Ferraro, (Rep-D-NY), wins Democratic VP nomination.
My department had 12 stations, none designed for two sexes, and we had our first woman on the job. Needless to say some were not very happy at the prospect. The job was no place for a woman. As I remember there were three kinds of reactions, one was run her off save our way of life and if it happens again we’ll run that one off too. Then there were the realists, they didn’t necessarily embrace their new co-worker, but tried to remain neutral as best they could. The administration had a slightly different take, get used to it this is how it is and how it’s gonna be.
Me I had been through the recruit academy with her, I had given her my fair share of abuse but I abused everyone equally. So to me no big deal. It never was a big deal to me, my reaction to new firefighters was can you do the job? Can I put my life in your hands and will you be there when it turns to shit?
I worked with all kinds and I’m sure you can find as many opinions on me as I can give you about them. Some people I just couldn’t stand in anyway other than the fire ground and I’m sure the same holds true for me. It is just work after all, who gets along with every co-worker and is good at their job? Nobody.
So you learned to deal, how to adjust, as long as when you jumped on the BRT you knew you could count on that other firefighter. Ann was a hard worker as far as I knew I never worked shifts with her but never heard any horror stories about her not doing her job. I did horror stories about other firefighters doing poorly.
The job won, they managed to wear her down until leaving was her best option. I begged her to stay and fight or at least sue the bastards and make it hurt. She refused and went on to other greatness. It got easier and easier on the women that followed, not the job, but the attitudes on the job shifted.
I left with respect for almost all my co-workers, almost all.