Friday, March 16, 2012

Supervising Alcoholic Firefighters is hard work cont.

Don't forget tomorrow you can get a free copy of Dangers, Toils and Snares: Confessions of a Firefighter on Amazon for Saint Patrick's day.

I really was grateful to Chief Tommy at that moment. But at the moment he jerked me off the truck and called Chief Roger I wasn’t and neither were the boys at 8’s.

Following my departure I have heard that Chief Tommy began to take the subtle flack that firefighters are so good at delivering and it is subtle. Most of the time no one comes right up and gets in your face. It’s a shunning.

Pissed firefighters are a little like cockroaches in that you can’t find them to start with or when you do find them they scurry away quickly. So when you walk into a kitchen in the morning to get a cup and hang out with the crew you will find yourself all alone in just a matter of seconds.

One by one they move off or in groups of two or three. Nothing overt, no one announces “Hey I’m not drinking coffee with this ass, let’s go.” No, they just drift away and there you sit.

I heard from a friend that worked a shift with my ex (she is a lieutenant) that it got so bad for her one day when he worked with her, that he felt sorry for her and sat down and talked to her for awhile and he knew all the details of our divorce battle. He’s a nice man.

So how does this pertain to Chief Tommy? Well he might be a chief, but in the firehouse the chief officer is still just a man one of the guys. They must be respected for their rank and responded to professionally but you don’t as a firefighter have to keep them company during down time.

If you are being shunned you know it and it is a very uncomfortable 24 hours or 48 or 72 hours however long the punishment lasts. A chief is mobile and can just get in their fire SUV and go somewhere else, but this was a big event, maybe the first time a guy had been yanked out of a station and disappeared. So wherever Chief Tommy went he got it.

At first I thought right on, serves him right. You may wonder why he was getting treated badly for what he had done, well this all happened during a time of migration for the fire department. Migration from old school to the world of political correctness and law suits.

In days past if I guy showed up hung over it was no big deal. Let him get something to eat have a nap and by lunch he was right as rain. Or if a guy showed up in real bad shape like I had, you just sent him home and put him off sick.

The results of my blood alcohol test that day showed I was at a .02 that isn’t even considered under the influence, you won’t even get a ticket for driving with that level of alcohol. So why not send me home?

Okay let’s say that is what Chief Tommy had decided to do, send me home. On the way home I am involved in a wreck, no big deal I wasn’t under the influence. But the accident is my fault and the cops test me, .02 I’m cool.

But this becomes evidence in a court action and guess what else becomes evidence? Yeah I had just been sent home from the fire station. So the city and Chief Tommy and the whole department gets sued and it becomes a national news story and careers and lives get destroyed, because that is what alcoholics do, we screw up.

So it was on me to try and let people know what Chief Tommy did was a good thing. Not in the sense of avoiding possible legal action down the road. No in that what he did saved my life and they needed to know that, they needed to understand how far out of control I had gotten.

I stopped by 8’s and had a cup with the boys. I couldn’t just say hey get off the chief’s back; I had to weave it into the conversation, I had to take it back on me. It was my actions that day that put this thing in motion, not his.

I told how drunk I had gotten the night before and how I had debated just calling off sick myself. I wanted to be a cautionary tale. My father had always said you can still serve as a good example by being a bad example and that I had done in style.

The result of all this was I had to go to a meeting with THE Chief, the Big. The man that had tried to get me help all those years ago at 1’s, the guy that had given me a last chance contract six years earlier following my suicide attempt. A guy a really liked and still do.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous puts it this way about what we do when drinking.

"The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, "Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'?" -- "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book) Chapter 6, 'Into Action,' pg. 82

I really didn’t want to meet with this man, not out of fear; I knew my career hung in the balance that was accepted. I knew how much disappointment I was going to see in him, how much of a tornado I had been for him and his department. Was I going to be worth it to him to keep around? That I didn’t know.

Next time the meeting with The Big Chief.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Supervising Alcoholic Firefighters is hard work cont.

I watched through the window of the station as Chief Roger’s fire SUV rolled in the parking lot. The only thought bouncing around on the hamster wheel in my head was, not this man, not this man. I was almost in tears, but you don’t cry in a fire station.

Word had spread quickly through the house that I was being yanked off the truck and taking for testing. I don’t know if the officer I was working for that day even really knew what was going down; his link in the chain of command had been skipped.

I waited on the apparatus floor away from the crew for Chief Roger to come in. He hit the back door wearing dark sunglasses and stepped in. “You ready?” was all he said. I moved toward him and he just spun on his heels and went right back outside.

I followed him to his SUV and got in. I was a wreck; my mind was spinning, thoughts of the end of my career filled my head. What a way to go out, I had always, as I am sure many of my brothers do, thought I’d go out better. Maybe even get lucky and die in a fire, but not hung over and at the hands of an enemy.

We road in silence, he never spoke or removed his glasses. He had both hands on the wheel and eyes straight forward. I waited for him to smile, to gloat, to enjoy this sweet moment he had all to himself. Finally the great TimO was on his knees, head squarely on the block and he held the axe of his redemption over my neck.

I imagined he had already called my ex to share the great news.

“Hey wanted to give you a quick call. You will never guess what just happened. Tim showed up at 8’s drunk… I’m serious, I’m going to get him right now and have him tested… Yeah it is great news… I let you know what happens… Oh yeah he’s done you won’t have to worry about that bastard anymore.”

I could see my ex doing a little dance around her kitchen and my children asking her why she was so happy.

“You know when all this went down, when you kicked me out 12’s and treated me like a problem and not a friend. That really hurt, but what hurt worse was you never once asked me how I was doing, not once. You knew I was in the deepest shit of my life and my friend never asked me how you doing Tim, how you holding up, can I help you, hey you wanna grab a cup and talk? Nothing that’s what I got from my dear friend”

I couldn’t help it; I couldn’t hold the tears or my tongue. What the hell I was done anyway and I was never known for my ability to restrain myself.

Then I saw it, a tear ran out from under his deep dark sunglasses. That white shirt and gold badge did in fact cover the body of a man and not a machine. He still didn’t look at me.

“What was I supposed to do TimO? I knew you hated me for what I had done, what I felt I had to do. If I asked you how you were doing you really think I would have gotten a serious answer out of YOU? You would have sliced me up like lunch meat and probably in front of your crew.”

His hands gripped the wheel with great force, his knuckles turned white.

“And then what? I am a chief officer for the damn fire department for Christ sake. You would have been insubordinate and in more trouble. So I let hate me, it was easier than dealing with you. You know why I’m your chief? Because anyone else would have you fired, all the other chiefs won’t deal with you. You are a damn good firefighter and probably the best medic we got. Hell TimO I’ve been in fires with you I know the work you do, and if someone I love was hurt or sick, you are the guy I want working on them.”

Now he looked at me.

“But damn it TimO, you are a pain in the ass, you take up too much of an officer’s time, managing you is a nightmare. Your abilities are beginning to be out weighted by your liabilities.”

We had arrived at the testing facility.

“Get your shit together TimO, I am your friend and that is why you are here. We are going to get you the help you need, and then maybe someday we will have that cup of coffee, as friends.”

He got out of the car and walked away. Only now years later with sobriety firmly under my belt, do I have the full awareness to see what had happened.

Not only had this man gone out on a limb for me and accepted my hatred, but that in fact many had joined him on that slender branch. For some unknown reason they saw in me what I didn’t. That I was a good fireman, a good medic, and most importantly that I was a good man.

Tortured, abrasive, disrespectful, insubordinate, and above all damaged. They did in fact care for me, not as a co-worker, but as a person as a friend.

I have made my amends to most of them as I have worked my way through the 12 steps of AA, as I have been taught. But there is one that stands above the rest. Chief Tommy.

I pulled into the parking lot of the fire department admin building and got out of my car. As I turned toward the building there in mid stride in the driveway was Chief Tommy.

I saw it in his eyes, he quickly looked for an exit, some escape from me as I walked toward him. Now understand this is one huge man, he looks as if he were carved by Michelangelo, so I’m not saying I physically intimidated and wouldn’t have wanted to.

I stuck out my hand.

“Hey Chief.”

He took it.

“Hey TimO”

“Chief I need to tell you something. Thank you for saving my life. I’d be dead if not for you and you should know that. I know you have taken a lot of grief from the guys for what happened that day and I’ll try my best to let people know I admire you for what you did. Thank you truly.”

I watched as that burden lifted off his shoulders, right in front of eyes he grew a few inches, his chin came up and his eyes softened.

“Thank you TimO. I have doubted that decision every day. Did I do the right thing?”

“Without question Chief. I mean it you saved my life. You are a good man and I’ll say that to any man that wants to know.”

I’m way over here today on my count trying not to leave you guys hanging, but there is more, sorry.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I have been nominated for blog of the year.

Please if you have a moment vote for my blog, I have been nominated for 2012 Fire Blog of the year. I am so humbled.


Supervising Alcoholic Firefighters is hard work

Dangers, Toils, and Snares: Confessions of a Firefighter, my new book will be free on Amazon in celebration of Saint Patrick's day.

I had started drinking once again. It was a Friday night and I had gone to a sports bar just a few blocks from my house, a safe drive if I got bombed again.

I was lonely and told myself, as all real alcoholics do, that I’d just get something to eat have a couple of drinks and see what was shaking on a Friday night.

The little bar was run by friends, of course when you drink like me every bartender is a friend after the first couple of drinks. I’m very outgoing and make friends easily wherever I go. I sat at the bar ordered a double and a beer and perused the crowd.

A pretty little blond was sitting a few stools down and it didn’t take long before we were friends. I liked her she could keep up. We talked drank and began playing pool and soon it was closing time. I managed to one-eye it on the short drive home and passed out very quickly once home.

The alarm sounded and as I snoozed it, I briefly thought, man you should call in sick today. I knew I was still under the influence; no way could my body process that much booze in the few hours since my last drink.

Here is one of the strange quirks of firefighters; we don’t use our sick leave. I believe it’s a combination of things, one being responsible to the job and our crew, two there is always a chance we will have a slow shift and being sick won’t really be noticed, and third, it’s just too much damn fun going to work.

I didn’t want call off sick that day for two reasons. First calling in sick on a Saturday morning can lead to questions and a request for a doctor’s note, when you are Tim Casey well known drunk, and second I thought I could pull it off. I’d done it many times before. Just get to work and lay low for the morning, avoid the guys, pretend to be busy and isolate.

My crew left me alone on days like this. They probably knew I was hung over and knew I’d pull through it by afternoon. I had never let them down in that way, the being there when the horn went off way. I’m sure I had let them down in many other ways, but not that one.

So I went. I got to the station on time and began my morning routine when my Lou called me.

“Hey Timo I need to ship you to 8’s for the morning, 8’s is out at the airport on some big exercise and 5’s is covering and they need a medic down there, so…”

Freddy looked me over, “You be alright with that? You good?”

“Yeah Fred I’ll be cool. I’ll get my stuff and head down there.”

8’s was my first house years ago and was a real shithole, but not this 8’s, this was new and improved 8’s, a brand new station and a real temple to firefighting and firefighters. It was also the base station for a newly promoted chief.

I got to 8’s, put my stuff on the truck and got reacquainted with some guys I hadn’t worked with in years. I was very nervous; I knew I reeked of liquor I had to. I tried to talk softly as not to propel my breath too far into the atmosphere.

Things were alright and I scrounged the fridges to find some sort of morning sponge I could throw in my gut to soak up the left over booze. I managed to eat and drink some coffee and was thinking I could get away with this one, when I walked past the brand new office of the new chief.

“Hey TimO, give me a hand here.” He waved me into the tiny office; he was rearranging the furniture and need some help. I was screwed right then. Chief Tommy was a clean liver, a huge man, a good Christian, proud father and husband.

I went in to help, and as we moved furniture around he stopped, looked dead at me and asked it.

“You out drinking last night TimO?”

“Yeah chief I had a few last night. Why?” He shook his head.

“Cause you smell of liquor, bad.”

“Sorry chief, I’ll go brush my teeth and clean up a bit.”

I nearly ran from his office and to the locker room. I was shaking and terrified. Why didn’t you call off sick was all I could think. I gulped toothpaste and slopped in some more eye drops. That’s when the intercom popped and I heard the chief’s voice. “TimO come to the chief’s office.”

I stuck my head in his door. “Yeah Chief.”

“Come in Tim, shut the door.”

My heart raced.

“I need you to take your gear off the truck Tim and chief Roger is on his way to come pick you up. I’m gonna have you tested for alcohol Tim.”

TimO was gone, it was Tim now, he was the boss and I was an employee, a troubled employee.

“You should see if you can get a union rep on this as soon as possible Tim. I’m sorry man.” His face said it all, he didn’t enjoy this, he didn’t want this, and I think he truly wished it was some other chief I had landed on.

“Not chief Roger, please Tommy. Can’t you do this?”

“I can’t and Jim (My real chief) is stuck at the airport with 8’s, it has to be Chief Roger. Go get your stuff, I’ll have the boys take care of your stuff, we’ll get your car home.”

I left his office panicked and in some way a little relieved to be caught. I wasn’t going to stop, not without help.

Chief Roger was an old friend we had been in the recruit academy together and even been roommates briefly following our coinciding divorces. He was also the guy that had stabbed me in the back during my divorce and sided with my second wife in having me removed from my station to promote harmony.

We had never had a conversation since he had removed from that station, even though he was my direct supervisor. I was sure he was going to enjoy getting another chance to shine his boots on my corpse.

More tomorrow about my ride of shame trapped in a car with man.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


This looks like an awesome new social media platform check it out.

Please give the firetruck some room.

I will be giving away Kindle versions of my book Dangers, Toils and Snares: Confessions of a Firefighter, for free on Amazon on Saint Patrick's day, I am Irish after all. Please help spread the word.

I have been asked what it is like to ride in a firetruck many times and all I can say is; it’s freaking cool, one of the coolest things I have ever done. Not the riding around doing the mundane activities of getting from point A to B.

No I’m talking about red lights and sirens balls to the walls blasting down a three lane road going against traffic at 50 miles per hour stuff. What a thrill, and you know what makes it so thrilling?

You the general public, yes you people make it more exciting sometimes than the emergency we are trying to get to. The absolutely amazing things you do in front of us adds an incredible edge of terror for us. Thank you.

I know that to receive a driving license a test must be taken and upon successful completion of said test a license is awarded. I also know that there is at least one question on the exam that asks the test taker what to do when they encounter an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency.

And I know the correct answer to that question is “B” (Don’t tell anyone I gave you that answer I don’t want to get in trouble) pull as far to the right side of the road as possible and come to a stop until the firetruck, police car or ambulance passes you.

Now that I have given you the answer there are no more excuses for improper conduct on the roadways, right? Let me expand this answer to cover what might, under duress seem to be a better thing to do, trust me your thoughts on alternate driving options are wrong.

Keep in mind the man or woman driving the BRT has gone through hours of training and class instruction just to get the privilege of dealing with you. Even with their high level of instruction and professionalism they can be surprised by your movements. Also remember the BRT always wins when it impacts your car.

Option number one, seen frequently by the Driver/Engineer is the “Slam”. The slam is just what it implies, slamming on the brakes right in front of the BRT. The Slam is especially disturbing to us as it gives us very few options other than crushing your car. Please don’t do it.

The other thing with the Slam is that it’s hard on the firefighters as well. The inside of the truck is full of not only people but many heavy and unrestrained objects that tend to be set in motion by the sudden breaking of the Driver. Not only do flying objects get damaged, they do damage.

What might seem like another viable option is just pull to the left. What’s the big deal? Left, right, who cares I’m getting out of the way. Here’s the thing if everyone else goes right (a good thing) and you go left and we get a Slammer, guess what we have nowhere to go other than into the Slammer.

I know you just have to make that next left turn and it’s only a block away and after all there is a whole turn lane up there and then I’ll be out of the way. I mean you have to get that cup coffee right, or get to the store and if you pull over to the right you will never make that turn and be stuck in the traffic jam we just caused? You have things to do and places to be. We understand that.

Next time you have the urge to out run us and get in that left turn lane (where more than likely we will still be right behind you) think about where we are going and what kind of emergency are we going to. Someone needs us and that someone or something might be a part of your life, just saying. And you are slowing us down because what difference do a few seconds make.

I remember a driver like that one time. She was obviously in a real hurry and couldn’t be bothered by a firetruck. She say us coming and we saw her. It was late at night, she was driving a bright red sports car. We went around her and though a red light. Seconds later she lapped us like Jimmy Johnson.

“What the hell?” said Hatchet he was behind the wheel. We watched as her tail lights faded in front of us, then her brakes flashed as she hit a red light and stopped. Once again we went through the light and once again as soon as she got her green she caught us and passed us.

This went on for five red lights, by the third light not only was Hatchet pissed but so were all of us.

“Get her Hatchet.” I yelled from the backseat. The Lou had a better plan, at the next light he told all of us to get her license plate number as we went by.

We all leaned out our windows as Hatchet slowed down and indicated our disappointment with her conduct by waving politely and pointing at her. She was a real looker and simply gave us a broad sexy smile as she screamed past us again.

We were collectively dumbfounded. We were powerless over this woman and that pissed us off (truth is we were powerless over all women and that pissed us off too). We were a firetruck by God and she had to heed our commands.

And then she was gone. We got her plate number, a car dealer’s plate. The next day another emergency worker a cop listened to our tale. He ran the license and found it belonged to a nearby car dealer.

About an hour later the cop stopped back by the firehouse. He had found her at work, she was a very successful car saleslady and rather shocked to realize she could be cited the next day for the previous night’s bad behavior.

So make it easy on yourself, just pull to the right for sirens and lights, pretty please.