Thursday, June 13, 2013

#BlackForestFire what I saw out There.

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 or 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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is it Bull That Firefighters Might Die at Work on Any Day?

In light of the events in Arizona I thought I'd repost this one.

Over the course of my career and post retirement I have had more people than I can name ask me or imply that yes firefighting is a dangerous job, but you were never really at risk of death or that the idea a firefighter can die any day they go to work is kind of bull shit.

A part of me wants to agree with them. I know I only had a handful of times where I was in a close call. I had a hand gun shoved under my chin; I had a double barrel shotgun shoved in my guts by a drunk and crazed man in his underwear. I fell through a floor one time and was only saved by my airpack catching on a floor joist and a fellow firefighter that pulled me out of the hole.

My closest call was when a 15 foot tall stucco chimney fell over and crashed through the ceiling of a room I was working in. I had just enough time to push a junior firefighter out of the room and then was knocked unconscious by the falling debris.

I came to sitting on the tailboard of the ladder truck I was assigned to. I had no idea how I got there, but the driver informed me that I had emerged from the fire and he had talked me down a three story stair case. Three other brothers were also injured and we all got off pretty well intact.

I had my face piece knocked off by the impact and was unconscious for an unknown amount of time in the fire. I took a load of smoke and suffer from COPD today as a result (my smoking doesn’t help either).

So was I at risk every day? The simple answer is hell yes we are at risk every single time the bell goes off. So far this year 37 firefighters have died in the line of duty (LODD) and 83 died last year in the line of duty. I bet not one of them went to work on the day of their death thinking “Well today is the day I die”. They went to work just like every other day, probably loving that they got to go be a firefighter and thinking more about the fun they were going to have and hoping they were going to a good “Worker” that day.

Nothing better than a good working fire, a multiple alarm fire with all kinds of challenges and rescues, it doesn’t get better than that for us. I know it is sick that we call a fire “A good fire” when in fact there is no good fire for the people affected. But for us it is a good fire because we get to do “It”, we get to do what we train endlessly for, we get to fight fire.

The 37 deaths this year are varied in the many ways we die; from the 4 God bless them, their families, and their departments all, firefighters in Houston who burned to death in a collapse, 4 in West Texas blown up in an explosion and 2 more in Bryan Texas from collapse.

Firefighters have died from heart attacks while at work and the victims of this type of death range in age from 26 to 71. They have died in motor vehicle accidents, been hit by vehicles, and some just found dead in their beds from unknown causes. They range in age and experience from.

Probationary firefighter Anne M. Sullivan 24 years old and on the job for 4 months.

Captain George A. Turner, Jr.  60 with 30+ years on the job.

The last form of death and the one with very little coverage is at their own hands. Firefighters are killing themselves at alarming rates in America and no one really knows why.

Below is a list of the brave men and women who have died this year in service to their communities and to their fellow man. There is no doubt this list will grow not only for the rest of this year, but for as long as firefighters answer the bell.

God bless them all and thanks.

To date, 37 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2013 as a result of incidents that occurred so far in 2013.

Name:   Robert Bebee                        
Rank: Engineer Operator
Age: 41                                                  Name:   Matthew Renaud
                                                              Rank: Captain
                                                              Age: 35
Name:   Robert H. Garner
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 29
                                                              Name:   Anne M. Sullivan
                                                              Rank:   Probationary Firefighter
                                                              Age: 24
Name: Stanley A. Wilson
Rank: Fire Rescue Officer
Age: 51
                                                              Name: Albert A. Nejmeh
                                                              Rank: Firefighter
                                                              Age: 59
Name: Brian Woehlke
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 29
                                                               Name: Daniel Davidson
                                                               Rank: Firefighter
                                                               Age: 26
Name: Stanley Martin Jr.
Rank: Assistant Fire Chief
Age: 71
                                                                Name: Gene Kirchner
                                                                Rank: Firefighter
                                                                Age: 24
Name: Dale Scott Queen
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 37
                                                                 Name: Morris Bridges
                                                                 Rank: Firefighter
                                                                 Age: 41
Name: Cody Dragoo
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 50
                                                                 Name: Joseph Pustejousky
                                                                 Rank: Firefighter
                                                                 Age: Pending
Name: Douglas Snokhous
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 50
                                                                Name: Robert Snokhous
                                                                Rank: Firefighter
                                                                Age: 48
Name: Lawrence “Lance” A. Stone
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 37
                                                                Name: James B. Clark
                                                                Rank: Lieutenant
                                                                Age: 56
Name: Harold Hollingsworth
Rank: Assistant Fire Chief
Age: 47
                                                                Michael R. Goodwin, Sr.
                                                                Age: 53
Name: John M. Janos
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 57
                                                                 Name: Michael L. Broz
                                                                 Rank: Firefighter
                                                                 Age: 58
Name: George A. Turner, Jr.
Rank: Captain
Age: 60
                                                                 Name: Lonnie Nutt
                                                                 Rank: Firefighter Engineer
                                                                 Age: 49
Name: Donald Mize
Rank: Firefighter Cadet
Age: 62
                                                                 Name: Christopher Brown
                                                                   Rank: Firefighter
                                                                   Age: 39
Name: Nate Fruin
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 22
                                                                   Name: David Schnepp
                                                                   Rank: Firefighter
                                                                   Age: 43
Name: Claudia Sokol
Rank: Fire Police Officer
Age: 55
                                                                   Name: Jonathan Wayne Burgess
                                                                   Rank: Firefighter
                                                                   Age: 33