Friday, March 30, 2012

Don't be fooled by half naked women.

We knew Florence well. She was what we like to call a frequent flier. Florence had numerous problems and some of them were real. She had some sort of mental disorder bipolar or schizophrenia something that made her mind go off the rails from time to time.

She was never the one who called 911, that was generally the function of friends or neighbors. Flo would go off her meds or have an episode of whatever it was that she did and we would get the call to “check the welfare”.

Check the welfare was a catch all phrase dispatch used when they weren’t sure what the hell we were dealing with. The result of these checks ranged from no one was home to dead bodies. We just never knew which.

Every fire station has a small number of addresses that are just burned into your memory, as I sit here writing, about half a dozen addresses ran through my mind. Some of the places are large facilities like a homeless shelter or these huge complexes dedicated to the care of the elderly population.

Many are individual homes and the residents of those homes are well known to us. At the big facilities the call volume is related to the sheer number of people concentrated at the site, it’s a density issue. The single family dwelling that requires numerous visits is a situational problem.

So we knew Flo’s address by heart and when it came in we also knew it was going to be something different. On this particular summer day we were greeted by one of my favorite police officers Pizza. Pizza was a long time veteran patrol officer and I don’t think I ever saw Pizza get excited, not once, ever.

Dispatch always sent a cop with us to Flo’s house; we just never knew what resources were going to be needed.
“Hey guys.” Pizza said as he indicated we should follow him to the backyard.
Rock Chuck, my lieutenant, (we called him Rock Chuck because he was an instructor for our high angle rescue team and was always climbing rocks) asked Pizza what was going on with Flo today.
“Hell if I know Chuck.” We followed Pizza all the way to the backyard.
“Notice anything new guys?” Pizza waved his hand toward the house. It took a second but then we saw it. Flo had had some security bars installed over all the windows, big metal ones like you see on a pawn shop or a liquor store, not what you would expect to find in this upper-middle class neighborhood.

“Great” Rock Chuck muttered. Rock Chuck really didn’t like most aspects of the job outside of climbing around in the mountains all day, and these kinds of calls frustrated him to no end.
“Have you seen her in there Pizza?” I asked.
“Oh yeah she’s over here at the patio doors, and she’s dressed just for you again TimO.”
Flo had a habit when she went sideways of dressing in skimpy lingerie which would have been okay if it was something she looked good in, but unfortunately for her or us she didn’t, and the tiger print she was wearing today was especially disturbing.

She had her face pressed up against the glass of the patio doors and huge glass of red wine in her hand. She gave me a smile when I got to the glass.

“Hi Flo, you gonna open the door for me so we can check you out?” She smacked the glass hard with her free hand and yelled at me through the glass.
“You’re already checking me out TimO (yeah she called me TimO too, that’s how well we knew her). She ran her hands over her body in a sexy little dance. I almost tasted my lunch again for a second.

“Come on Flo, let us in.”

“No!” She hit the glass again.

“I see you put bars on your windows. Why’d you do that Flo?" She kissed the glass and left a smear of bright red lipstick all the way across it.

“To keep you out TimO, I know you want me.” She twirled and then just wandered off deeper into the house.

“Now what do we do?” Asked Rock Chuck.

“We gotta go in boss, we have to take off some of these bars or something.” I answered. Flo also had a history of numerous suicide attempts and since she was obviously under the influence we had to get to her.

While I was talking to Flo, Tommy (the Driver) and Denny (the other firefighter) had been checking out the bars. Tommy had an extensive background in construction and that was what he did on his days off.

“Forget the bars Lou. She didn’t go cheep on these, these babies are bullet proof.” Tommy said as he yanked hard on some of the bars.

We had been in this kind of situation many times before; our goal when breaking into a house was this, if we had to do damage do the least expensive damage. So a broken window is cheaper to repair than a broken door, breaking a little window was less expensive than breaking a picture window and so on.

Pizza had been snooping around and found that a small rear door was open. The door went into the house, but it went into more like a mudroom and there was another door we had to get through to get in. The good news was that the hinges on the interior door faced us. We could just pop the pins and go in.

We got the door open when Rock Chuck asked us to hold up.

“Don’t go in boys, I just saw her go by that window and she’s got a butcher knife in her hands.”

Now Flo was a tiny thing and very drunk so was she a real threat? That is what we had to consider. This was before the days of Tasers so Pizza couldn’t just shock her into submission. We were going to have to go in and disarm her by force.

Sorry 1000 words. I’ll finish it tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Devil in the Chimney.

I looked at Stormy.
“Go get the pump can and a carryall.” Stormy hurried away as I turned my attention back to the man.
“Hey mister… I’m sorry I never got your name. What is your name?”
“Ronald, Ronald Jackson.”
“Well Mr. Jackson, can I ask you a question?” The screams now were combined with rough coughing and gagging as the fire began to grow. I edged closer.
“You stay put son.”
“Okay Mr. Jackson I’m staying. But doesn’t the devil live in hell?”
He raised his eyebrows.
“No he be living in my damn fireplace right now.” He held the poker up like a batter.
“Okay, but I would think the devil is used to fire and smoke by now wouldn’t you? I don’t think it would make him cough and scream like that, I think he’d like it.”
Mr. Jackson lowered the poker just a bit. Then we heard it.
“Please Uncle, Hep me.”
“Mr. Jackson do you have a nephew that lives here with you?” I asked as Stormy ran back in with the pump can and carryall.
“Yes I do.”
“Well the devil just called you uncle.”
Mr. Jackson dropped the poker and turned to the fire.
“Ronnie is that you up my chimney?”
“Hep me uncle I’m burning.”
Mr. Jackson tried to paw at the fire I pulled him back as Stormy and Tommy (the Driver of engine 8) quickly threw out the carryall in front of the fireplace.
Mr. Jackson struggled with me trying to break free from my grasp and help his nephew.
“Put the damn fire out my Ronnie’s burning up in there.” He was a handful.
“Mr. Jackson we have to pull the fire out of the fireplace, if we squirt water on it now it will make steam go up the chimney and burn your nephew worse. Just relax and let us help him.”
He continued to fight me as Stormy, Tommy and captain Tubby pulled the burning lumber out on to the carryall by hand. As soon as the firebox was almost empty they pulled the carryall away a few feet and Stormy sprayed it with water.
Ronnie’s screams faded into pleas for help. The fire went out quickly.
“If I let go of you Mr. Jackson you promise to stay out the way and let us help Ronnie?” He began to cry and sagged in my arms now.
“I killed Ronnie.”
“You didn’t kill anyone. Listen he’s still alive, hear him?”
Mr. Jackson collapsed, sobbing; I set him down in a chair.
Captain Tubby was now leaned over looking up the chimney with his flashlight as I go to him.
“Well Cap, what do we have?” I asked. Without looking away from the chimney he answered me.
“We got some scorched Nikes and now way out from this end.” Captain Tubby righted himself.
“We need to go to the roof. This fella is gonna have to come out the way he went in.”
“Should we call animal control Cap?”
He gave me a WTF look.
“For the reindeer, we’re gonna need someone to take care of the reindeer.”
“Get your ass on the roof TimO. Animal control? Funny.”
Stormy, Tommy and I dragged the smoldering carryall outside just in time to see Captain Tubby have a chat with the cops, he got real close to them.
“Either one of you assholes actually look in the fireplace?” They seemed dumbfounded at the question.
“No? I could tell by the stupid looks on your faces. Call your sergeant I’ll need to speak with him after we pull the real person out of the chimney that you didn’t look for while you were laughing at the poor old drunk starting the fire that probably burned the guy.” Tubby stomped away leaving the two cops frightened and still.

Captain Tubby was old school he let a lot of stuff slide that in the long run wasn’t important. But he didn’t suffer fools well, and those cops would find out the hard way when we were done and Tubby had spoken to their supervisor.
Two big eyes blinked at me from halfway down the chimney.
“Let me guess, you are Ronnie.”
“Yes sir I’m Ronnie.”
“You okay Ronnie, you burned or hurt?”
“I’m really hot sir, but I don’t think I’m burned. I’m just stuck really bad, when I slipped I kinda fell and now I’m stuck.”
“I know this is gonna sound stupid but why are you in the chimney?”
“Well sir, I was drinking with my uncle down at the bar and I wanted to go home and he wanted to stay. So I walked home and when I got here I remembered I didn’t have a key. So then it came to me, if Santa can do it maybe I could too.”
Tubby huff and puffed his way up next to me.
“F**ing cops smoking and joking. What if he’d got that fire going before we got here? I’m gonna have some ass. What do we got here TimO?”
“Well Cap, Ronnie here got locked out and tried the Santa routine to get in.”
“Can we pull him out?” the Cap was now peering down at Ronnie.
“Can you move kid?” Tubby asked.
“No sir, I’m stuck real good.”
Tubby straightened himself and slipped a little almost going down in the snow on the roof.
“We can’t pull him out and this roof is gonna get one of us killed.” Tubby thought awhile looking the whole situation over.
“Just take it apart TimO, you guys get some ropes and tie off, make sure you are secure and then just take it apart brick by brick. I’ll call truck 8 over here to help.”
The Truckies arrived at the same time as Chief Rip and the PD sergeant.
This was decidedly Truckie work, those guys can tear anything apart. The Truckies went to work and in minutes, and I mean minutes they had that chimney not only disassembled but neatly stacked on the roof and Ronnie was a free and unhurt man.

I think about that call every Christmas can’t help myself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Firefighters aren't the only Drunks.

I’ve been a little heavy as of late so today I’m gonna tell a funny story about alcohol.

Drunks find inspiration while under the influence sometimes helpful and sometimes not so much. One chilly winter night a few days before Christmas we were hanging out late in the evening at station number 8.

We had decided it would be fun to decorate the BRT with Christmas lights and other festive elements. Our officer Captain Tubby didn’t really care what the hell we were doing, he had been feed a salt free dinner and retired to his office to read his Louis L'Amour novels and eat tootsie rolls.

My crew was a little goofy and a pretty junior bunch, so the idea of decorating the BRT for the holiday sounded like a great way to kill some time. 8’s was the busiest house on the job and we ran 20 plus calls a shift. Going to bed before midnight on a weekend night during any holiday weekend was an exercise in futility.

We were trying to figure the best way to attach a Christmas wreath to the front of the truck without damaging the ancient old beast and making sure it wouldn’t be stolen at a scene. 8’s district was a pretty rough area of town and many times we had to leave a firefighter with the truck to make sure it wasn’t stripped while we were away from it.

So the wreath had to be well secured. Half way through attaching it we got the call. Dispatch informed us we were responding to a police call for assistance. P.D. was out with a possible psyche patient and need us to evaluate the person.

So in other words the cops had a nut case on their hands and didn’t know what to do with them. Now we didn’t know what to do with the crazies either, we would make a basic assessment about the general well being of the person to rule out poisonings, overdoses, or some kind of medical condition like diabetes. Diabetics when low on blood sugar can appear very strangely.

It was freaking cold out that night and Stormy my companion in the back seats and I wrapped ourselves up tight in our gear, because at that time the back seats were not enclosed we were exposed to the elements. By the way Stormy was called Stormy because his last name was Night, so because of a bit of a temper he had been labeled a dark and Stormy Night.

When we arrived a couple of cops greeted us outside.

“We don’t know what to do with this guy, he’s drunk for sure but he is in his house and not causing any trouble.”

“So why the hell are we here?” asked Stormy

“He called us because he thinks his chimney is haunted and he was gonna shot his gun up the chimney and kill the devil.”

The two cops were smiling at us like it’s not our problem now. You guys deal with the crazy guy. Cops love dropping stuff like that on us for some reason.

“Did you take the gun away?” asked Captain Tubby.

“Yeah we have the gun. He’s in there in the living room talking to the chimney.” Another cop grin.

We went inside and found a very drunk older man standing in front of his fire place trying to light a fire, he had the firebox loaded up with construction scraps, pieces of 2X4’s, plywood, and a ton of newspaper. He was so wobbly that each matches he struck went out before he could get it to the paper.

Tubby looked at me.

“This looks like a good one for you TimO.”

For some reason I was able my whole career to bond with the disturbed and mentally impaired, yeah I know birds of a feather.

“Hello mister? My name is Tim I’m with the fire department and the police asked us to come help you. What are you doing tonight?” 

I kept my distance you always wanted to be just out of reach in case they made a move for you.He turned and looked at me dumbfounded.

“You ain’t much of a fireman if you can’t tell what I’m doing here boy. I’m starting a fire, devils up in there and I’m gonna run him off.” He went back to his matches.

“What’s the devil doing in your fireplace?”

“Well hell if I know son, but he’s been talking to me ever since I got home, now I’m drunk and wanna go to sleep, so he got’s to go.”

“You hear him talking to you?” he just gave me a you’re a dumb shit look.

“Right now you hear him?” I asked.

“Do you hear him?” the man asked me.


“Then neither do I, he speaks out loud to me not in my head. I ain’t crazy son, when he speaks again you’ll hear him too, especially when this fire commences to licking his ass up in there.”

He got the fire going finally. We all just kind of stood there staring at each other waiting to hear if the devil was gonna start talking.

Then we heard it. Screams started coming out of the fire place, real screams.

“Hep me, hep me. Oh please hep me.”

We all just about jumped out of our skin. It wasn’t a devilish voice it was more of a young southern male voice, a now terrified voice.

“Wholly shit.” Yelled Captain Tubby.

“Put that damn fire out boys.”

Easier said than done, we hadn’t brought any kind of firefighting gear with us. We were all standing around with medical boxes and oxygen stuff.

The good news is because of the cold me and Stormy at least had our big coats and gloves on. We ran over to the fireplace, but now the older man we were there to evaluate grabbed the fire poker like a weapon. He yelled at us and held the poker overhead.

“Stay back, that devil is gonna wish he hadn’t come to my house on this sacred holiday, he gonna learn a lesson about the power of Christ right now. You just go on and stay back while he commences to burn.”

There it is again 1000 words, sorry and see you tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tiger Woods won and I didn't.

I didn’t win fire blog of the year I learned today. I also found out my book Dangers, Toils and Snares: Confessions of a Firefighter failed to win the Colorado book of 2011 in the biography category. My ex-wife emailed me wanting money (It is the only time I ever hear from her is when she wants money), and I had a disagreement with my best friend and brother.

My big sister just returned from a trip to visit our parents and I wish I could have gone and seen those two dear people. My children are with and home for spring break and as always I’m broke and can’t afford to do the things with them they are asking to do.

The fledgling company I have started for mixed martial arts clothing is at risk as I find the difficulties of managing a company and dealing with my partners taxing. A very good friend relapsed with alcohol after many years sober and will suffer massive consequences as a result of a one day bender. Another friend had his best friend from childhood die as a result of his addiction this weekend.

I don’t have a partner in life anymore and to be honest I don’t know if I was offered that chance again I’d take it.

This all sounds rather pitiful I am sure. But I assure it isn’t. I chair a Sunday morning AA meeting every week and truly enjoy it because it isn’t a standard AA meeting, it is a spiritual meeting. The topic is about our relationship with a God of our understanding.

Over the past few weeks I focused the discussion on one of AA’s favorite prayers, the Serenity prayer.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change;
Courage to change the things I can and;
Wisdom to know the difference.

This Sunday the topic was the last notion; Wisdom to know the Difference. I wondered where wisdom came from, I hear all the time in AA meetings that the rooms of AA are filled with wisdom. I also know that we all enter AA at, to say the least a low spot in our lives.

I came in a very sick man, and in my opinion absent of wisdom, I don’t believe trying to kill yourself can be considered a wise decision. So these many years later have in fact achieved any wisdom?

If I accept that wisdom is applied knowledge then I can say I have been the benefactor of some hard got knowledge. The list above of petty complaints is just that, petty. We all have stuff, life persists and it is my duty to God to find the lessons in the tests.
So my blog didn’t win here is a list of the other nominees.
The Rest of the Nominated Blogs:
I was a finalist, top ten and I restarted this blog on January 3 of 2012. Some of the above have been around for years and have been pouring their respective contributions in to the world of Heroes out of a shared common love for the men and women that do that job.

My hats off to you all and to the finalists and winners.
Fire Blogs Shortlist for Voting and Judges Blogs Shortlist for Voting and Judges

They should all be thanked for their efforts to improve and educate the lives of our profession.

As for the rest of my petty list. I was proud to be a nominee and thanks to all who voted for me. I have my entire family with me. My mother and father will be married 65 years soon. My sister and confidant got to spend time with them, my brother and I will talk soon.

I pray for my friends that have had go through their low spots and I know God will be with them.

I took the kids for a two hour hike and we found some cool stuff (the carcass of a dead cow, so cool) and saw some cool stuff (my oldest daughter is a Bigfoot fanatic as am I and we found a Bigfoot track) and had a great time exploring on a beautiful Colorado afternoon.

I am truly blessed. I am surrounded by amazing family and friends. I am a sober father and sober man. So today the notion of a drink to make it “better” hasn’t crossed my mind. God is great whether you know it or not. Do I have nay wisdom? Hell I don’t know.